Cecilia Malmström, the MEP who organised a petition to relocate the European Parliament permanently to Brussels, has been appointed European affairs minister in the new Swedish government.
The Swedish MEP comes to her new role as part of the centre-right coalition that ousted the Social Democrats in last month’s elections. The four-party bloc won 48% of votes compared with 46.2% for Göran Persson and the parties behind the Social Democrats.
Malmström collected one million signatures to end the monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg. Upon handing in the petition she said that she hoped the matter would soon be dealt with as part of discussions on the EU’s future institutional arrangements. The action was premised on the so-called ‘citizens initiative’, a provision on participatory democracy that was part of the proposed EU Constiutional Treaty. She and her supporters argued that the dispersion of Parliament’s activities between three working places – Brussels for the daily Parliamentary work, Luxembourg for administration and Strasbourg for the plenary sessions – “has a negative impact on time and cost-effectiveness and the overall image of the European Union”.
France has signalled strong objections to any mooted move. Joseph Daul MEP said that the idea of moving the Parliament from Strasbourg was a ‘false issue’. However, he did not rule out discussion of the question. “If the treaties have to be renegotiated, then we renegotiate the whole [of the institutional arrangements], not just the Parliament’s seat.”
Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister 1991 to 1994, has been named foreign minister. Bildt is also a former U.N. envoy, but has been out of Swedish politics for several years. The new Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has named Bildt in spite of earlier rivalry between the two men.