Sweden took the helm of the Council of the EU for the third time on 1 January. What do Swedish MEPs expect from the coming six months?
The Swedish presidency is the last in the current presidency trio, following France and the Czech Republic, and marks the last chapter for the common 18-month presidency programme. But each presidency also has its own priorities.
On 17 January, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson discussed the priorities and activities of the presidency with MEPs during the plenary session in Strasbourg. He emphasised that they aim to make the EU greener, safer and freer and highlighted that European institutions should continue to support Ukraine against Russia’s aggression.
The four priorities of the Swedish presidency are:
- Security – unity
- Resilience – competitiveness
- Prosperity – green and energy transition
- Democratic values and the rule of law – our foundation
Learn more about the Swedish presidency priorities.
What Swedish MEPs expect from the presidency
Energy is an important challenge for MEPs. Tomas Tobé (EPP) says security and energy will be key issues during the Swedish presidency. “We need to keep Europe together and increase our support for Ukraine to tackle the security policy situation.”
He also has high expectations that Sweden will make the EU more competitive. “There should be a clear EU agenda to raise competitiveness, strengthen growth and increase trade. Sweden should use the presidency to move in this direction. More action to fight organised crime will also be important, as well as moving forward with the Migration Pact.”
Helene Fritzon (S&D) said democracy, climate and equality are areas where Sweden traditionally has a great reputation, but that she has doubts about the newly-elected Swedish centre-right government, in particular in times of crises and war in Europe. “It demands a leadership with political courage and responsibility for the future. I am very concerned about how the conservative government will live up to this. The policies on climate and equality have already been dismantled and democracy issues are deprioritised,” she said, adding: “I would like to see EU in the lead for a green and fair transition.”
Abir Al-Sahlani (Renew) has high hopes the Swedish presidency will defend the rule of law, transparency and economic liberalism. “That they ensure the EU has a strong voice in the world – while also contributing to a lively EU-debate, where the media coverage of EU affairs are boosted,” she said. Al-Sahlani said climate, energy and migration will be the most important issues during the presidency: “The government’s restrictive migration policy domestically is a red flag to say the least."
Alice Kuhnke (Greens/EFA) said she has low expectations: “The Swedish government has already lowered ambitions in dealing with the climate crisis... We don’t have time to wait, the climate crisis is here and now and that’s why the Swedish presidency should contribute to significantly raising EU ambitions.”
Charlie Weimers (ECR) said in addition to strengthening competitiveness and increased trade, he would like to see the presidency continue the work of the French and Czech on stricter EU financing rules. “We know the EU would never approve giving millions to far-right organisations whose leaders have made anti-Semitic, misogynistic or homophobic statements. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to all extremism. To change the rules for EU funding to not favouring Islamists should be an important goal for the Swedish presidency.”
Malin Björk (the Left) expressed concern about the new government taking the EU lead. “I know many that just like m, feel worried about Sweden now taking over the EU presidency. But I hope it will surprise me and clearly take a stand for democracy and the rule of law in countries like Poland and Hungary, and work for an ambitious climate policy and a humane migration policy.”
Spain will take over the EU presidency in the second half of 2023, forming the next presidency trio with Belgium and Hungary.