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 Full text 
Wednesday, 3 April 2019 - Brussels Revised edition

Debate with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, on the Future of Europe (debate)

  Dennis de Jong, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – Mr President, I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of Sweden. I think many of the things you said took me also back to what you said as a reaction to the outcome of the British referendum on Brexit. You said in particular that we need a Europe that works and delivers and focuses on the issues where people expect us to deliver results. That includes, among other things, joint responsibility for refugees and, not least, to create jobs and do it with decent wages and conditions.

On behalf of my Group, I couldn’t agree more with you. At the same time, if you look back over these past three years, Europe hasn’t been very successful in these respects. Guy Verhofstadt already referred to the negotiations on the reform of the Dublin system for the responsibility of asylum applications, and it’s not Parliament that’s blocking them – it’s in the Council that we see that no progress is being made. My question to you, Mr Prime Minister, is: what does Sweden do to unblock the situation? If I look at the national legislation in Sweden, I see that you have actually a Swedish act temporarily restricting the possibility to obtain residence permits in Sweden. Is that a helpful way forward to a joint responsibility system for asylum? Parliament is waiting: waiting for you, waiting for the Council.

As far as creating jobs with decent wages and conditions is concerned, I read in your statement of government policy of 21 January that the Swedish labour market must be characterised by security and flexibility. Well, we all know how the concept of flexicurity worked out in the EU. I dare say that the rise of the extreme right-wing populism in many EU Member States – unfortunately also in Sweden – can at least be party attributed to this concept. People who are uncertain about their jobs or have to combine various precarious jobs to make a living are easy prey for populism. Unfortunately, the EU doesn’t help very much in this respect.

Let’s have a look at the internal market together. For years we have been asking, together with European trade unions, for a social progress protocol. Whenever there is a conflict between the rules of the internal market and social rights, the latter should prevail. And you could ask then: what are the social rights? You yourself mentioned the European social pillar; but in practice the Council made this into purely political commitments. Fortunately, we also have legally-binding instruments like the European Social Charter, the ILO conventions, and it shouldn’t be too difficult to develop a framework to really put all EU legislation to the test. Is it advancing social rights? Is it really contributing to people feeling secure and protected? Such a social progress protocol is more urgent than ever before – also because, and you mentioned this, Mr Prime Minister, workers from various Member States are made to compete with each other. Look at the tedious discussions we are having and the votes we are probably having tomorrow on the so-called mobility package.

Mr Prime Minister, what is your detailed vision about creating jobs and doing it with decent wages and conditions at European level? Do you agree that a social progress protocol is indispensable, and what initiatives can we expect?

A few words on the militarisation of the European project. Sweden has indeed a longstanding tradition when it comes to the protection and promotion of human rights globally, and I would say Sweden’s international diplomacy in this area used to be famous. These days, however, the Swedish Prime Minister is strongly encouraging the arms build-up in the EU. Does that mean that, instead of relying on multilateralism, instead of relying on your diplomats, also Sweden is now relying more on force and violence? Shouldn’t the question be how we can avoid an endless arms race instead of participating in this project?

Finally, I think business and human rights is another area that Sweden could be very active on. I shall be short, because I am running out of time, but the UN is working on a binding instrument, and can we expect some initiatives also from Sweden, given its tradition, to unblock the situation? Because the EU hasn’t done anything yet in that respect.

Last updated: 26 June 2019Legal notice