Posts Tagged ‘swedish presidency’


We have taken on the challenge


The end of the Swedish Presidency is approaching, and Prime Minister Reinfeldt is attending the European Parliament’s session today to sum up the past months. The outcome of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen is still uncertain, but nevertheless, I feel proud over our achievements these six months.

We must not forget that Sweden has led the European Union under very particular circumstances. When we took over in July, Europe went through the deepest economic crisis in 70 years. It was also clear that we had to act decisively in the climate field. It may be a challenge to adapt to a climate-smart economy and lifestyle, but I dare to say that this is the most important issue of our time.

The preconditions were somewhat shaky: the newly elected Parliament had barely been formed, the fate of the Lisbon Treaty was uncertain and the Commission was about to leave.

Out of our six priorities, we have nevertheless made important and considerable progress in each area, and the Lisbon Treaty, the Stockholm Programme and the Baltic Sea Strategy have been adopted.

The economic crisis
The ambition of the presidency was that Europe must emerge as a stronger actor after the crisis. New, more effective rules governing the financial markets are about to enter into force, but also new rules about bonuses and bank capital coverage. Thereby, Europe will be better prepared for the future.

But we have also set up explicit principles for an exit strategy, to phase out temporary measures and to return to sound public finances. And we have paved the way for a new strategy for growth and jobs, with a view to to strengthening the EU until 2020.

The climate issue
We do not yet know what to expect from the conference in Copenhagen, but we know that the EU has arrived at the negotiations with a strong mandate. The EU is to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases with 20 percent until 2020, and by 30 percent if other industrialised countries agree to make comparable reductions and the developing countries contribute as much as possible.

The EU has also agreed on the estimate that 100 billion euro per year will be needed until 2020, and 5-7 billion euro per year 2010-2012 in a so called ”fast start” financing. The EU will be contributing with 2,4 out of the 5-7 billions. It is important that the developing countries are given the opportunity for mitigation and adaptation. The EU has also agreed on a long-term goal for emission reductions: 80-95 percent until 2050.

The Lisbon Treaty
The road to the Lisbon Treaty has been long and winding, but I am pleased that it finally could enter into force by the 1 december. It provides us with modern rules for a more open, effective and democratic union. The Treaty also led to the appointment of Herman van Rompuy as the new Permanent President of the European Council, and Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. Both these new positions are constructed to guarantee better continuity and more coherent EU policies.
Following the entry into force of the Treaty, a new Commission is also expected to be appointed by late January.

The Baltic Sea Strategy
As readers of this blog may be aware, the Baltic Sea Strategy is an issue on which I have been working intensively, and I am glad that we adopted a strategy for the region during the autumn. The idea is that the eight EU Member States in the Baltic Sea region should work more closely together for a cleaner sea and a more economically dynamic region. The Baltic Sea Strategy is a new way of working in the EU, where we try to look at the region from the perspective that many policy areas are connected, and I know that other regions within the EU are following the development with great interest.

The Stockholm Programme
The Stockholm Programme is the new strategic work programme in the area of justice and home affairs. It will direct the EU’s judicial, police and migration cooperation for the coming five years. The ambition is to create a safer and more open Europe that safeguards the rights of the individual, where we strive to guarantee individual integrity and strengthen legal certainty while also stepping up cooperation in the fight against trafficking, smuggling and other forms of organized crime. The Stockholm Programme also carries the ambition to create a common asylum system, and I am pleased that the European Council was able to adopt it last week.

Enlargement/The EU’s global role
We have made progress in the negotiations with both Croatia and Turkey, and applications from Iceland, Albania and Montenegro are now being reviewed by the Commission. We have also decided on visa liberalisation for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. It is also positive that the work with the Eastern Partnership is going well.

We have of course dealt with many other important issues, and to discuss each and every of them would make an long blog post even heavier to read. Let me just give a couple of examples: The deal recently closed on a European patent (a negotiation that has been going on for decades) and the Telecom package are both of great value for Europe. Personally, I also want to promote our efforts to connect equality and growth and how the insight about the interaction between the two can strengthen our common work in Europe.


15 years since the magical yes vote


Today, it’s exactly fifteen years since Swedes voted in favour of Sweden joining the European Union. Those of us who campaigned for a yes vote finally succeeded in convincing a majority of the population to put the ’yes’ ballot in the box. It’s hard to forget the joy of victory in the evening of 13 November 1994, when the final results appeared on the TV screen.

The referendum followed on a long and quite aggressive campaign, paved by exaggerated rumours from the no side, claiming how Sweden would be hit by EU membership. Hormon-treated beef was to invade supermarkets, the right to walk freely in our forests would be banned, Germans were to buy up each and every summer house in the country and democracy would come to an end. Did this actually happen?

Of course not. It’s true, however, that EU membership has brought substantial and positive changes to the Swedish society. Today, we share a Common Foreign and Security Policy with 26 other Member States, we are part of a single market with nearly half a billion consumers. We have tough, common regulations on environment and a common policy on asylum and migration will soon be in place. After fifteen years of membership, the European Union has become an integral part of Swedish democracy.

The government is committed to standing up for Europe back home, by showing the added value of EU membership, tell citizens what the government does in Brussels and engage in a dialogue on EU related issues.

The result? Well, since a number of years, a majority of Swedes support membership in the EU and consider the European Union as a good thing. This support is constantly growing.


Baltic Sea Strategy brought to reality


Yesterday at the General Affairs Council, we adopted conclusions bringing the Baltic Sea Strategy to reality. Thereby, the Swedish Presidency has achieved one of its top priorities.

Our work is not finished by this. The next task is to make the strategy work in practice in order to meet the challenges the region is facing. The political will of the Baltic Sea countries is crucial.

Thanks to the Baltic Sea Strategy I believe that we in ten years time will have a cleaner sea, more companies that are better integrated and more competitive, a better maritime surveillance system and a more effective cooperation between rescue services in the region.

This is a success for the Baltic Sea Region, for the EU and for the Swedish Presidency.


Cecilia Malmström on the upcoming week


How can we avoid a future crisis?


The Finance Ministers from all Member States have been gathering in Göteborg. Chaired by Minister of Finance Anders Borg and the Minister for Financial Markets, Mats Odell, they have been discussing highly topical issues. I am carefully optimistic that we have seen the worst part of the crisis is now behind us, and this make it possible to raise the eyes and discuss structural forward-looking measures. How can we restore balance in national budgets? What should be done in order to avoid persistent unemployment? And how can the fiscal framework be improved so that we avoid a financial crisis in the future?

The fourth issue is about the Swedish Presidency’s other main priority, climate change, and more specifically funding for international climate action. While ministers have been meeting in Göteborg, UN climate negotiations at technical level have started in Bangkok. We hear some positive signs from there, but we really need to speed up negotiations to actually reach a global in Copenhagen.


Cecilia Malmström on the upcoming week


Towards a democratic Afghanistan


Today, the population of Afghanistan go to the polls to elect the country’s president and members of provincial councils. These first Afghan-led elections since the 1970’s have been held under circumstances that are particularly difficult, given the insecure situation in the country.

Still, the campaign period has been remarkable, with a vital and professional political debate extensively covered by domestic media. Hopefully, this will contribute to a large proportion of Afghan citizens using their right to vote before polling stations close this evening.

There is, however, serious risk that turnout in certain areas will be low, as the Taliban insurgency is doing everything it can to put voters under threat. The ISAF security forces, with troops from just about all EU Member States, are maintaining high vigilance and work to isolate attempts of disruption.

The importance of credible elections, leading to a result that will be accepted by the Afghan people, cannot be stressed enough. Only a true democratic election, where both men and women are able to cast their votes freely and with fraud kept at the lowest possible level, is what could eventually pave the way towards a democratic, stable and secure Afghanistan.

The European Union commits full support to the Afghan Independent Election Commission in conducting the elections. The Union also shows its commitment through its election observation mission. Headed by my former collegue from the European Parliament, French General Philippe Morillon, it will play an important role in providing an independent and impartial assessment of the election process.