During a visit to Paris, Swedish Minister for European Affairs Cecilia Malmström outlined her country’s priorities for its EU chairmanship in the second half of 2009. EURACTIV France contributed to this report from the French capital.
Talks to set out a joint programme for the next three EU presidencies, to be held by France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, are still ongoing. A final document is to be released in June, before the French Presidency takes office, said Malmström while visiting students at the Paris Political Science Institute on 21 April.
“We shall concentrate on the major issues we agree upon,” indicated the minister, saying they will focus on consensual issues. Although the three states “more or less agree on the main priorities,” they are a long way from sharing the same opinion on all dossiers.
Sweden’s favourable position towards Turkey’s EU membership and its “open” view of free trade are examples of issues that divide the French and the Swedes.
France is also keen to preserve the common agricultural policy – a bone of contention for Sweden, which is not willing to concede over 40% of the EU budget to this area. This dossier is of major importance given that the debates on the budget allocated after 2013 will be held during the Swedish Presidency in the second half of 2009. “We aim to reinforce the budget and modernise it,” said Malmström.
The minister also outlined other priorities of Sweden’s EU presidency.
Climate, environment and energy
Reaching agreement on a post-Kyoto framework at Copenhagen’s international conference “really is our top priority,” underlined Malmström.
In this regard she welcomed the EU’s leading role in the fight against global warming. “We must be united in order to convince other actors such as the United States or China,” she said.
The Swedish minister believes the energy package presented by the Commission last January constitutes an essential element of this policy. “The EU must set constraining objectives to reduce gas emissions and must develop an ecologic policy for energy,” she said.
Employment, competitiveness and economic growth
With the Lisbon Strategy ending in 2010, these will be at the centre of the Swedish Presidency’s programme. Even though it “may be a bit premature to assess what the new objectives and means will be” to improve economic growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe, Sweden considers it important to “say ‘yes’ to free trade and open the market,” she said. A report drafted by French lawyer Laurent Cohen-Tanugi and handed to France’s Economy Minister Christine Lagarde last week calls for reflection on the post-2010 strategy.
A more secure and open Europe
The fight against criminality and immigration is crucial for both French and Swedish Presidencies, Malmström indicated, citing the “demographic deficit, which makes it necessary to have labour immigration”.
Finally, improving the EU’s commitment to the Baltic Sea and tackling transnational challenges posed by environmental threats will constitute one of the priorities of the future Swedish Presidency, she said.