Weakened principles, weakened voice, Swedish PM tells MEPs

Debate with Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, on the Future of Europe. [Geert VANDEN WIJNGAERT/EP]

The EU can only be a strong voice for democracy in the world if all 28 member states stand up for the principles of democracy at home, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said on Wednesday (3 April) in front of EU lawmakers in Brussels.

“We must step up and defend our fundamental values in the EU. And the best way is to deliver when it comes to jobs, security, migration and climate change, and thus create hope for the future,” Löfven told MEPs.

As multilateralism and free trade are being increasingly contested globally, the EU should “stand up for common principle-based solutions and a world order where might does not come before right.”

“We can only be a credible player in the Middle East if we fight anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in our home countries. We can only support free media and the rule of law in our neighbourhood if we have free media and independent courts in our union,” the Swedish PM said.

“For every democratic principle that is weakened in the EU, the EU’s voice in the world will be equally weakened,” he said in a sideswipe towards Hungary, Poland and Romania.

Löfven added that he will propose to lawmakers in the Riksdag that Sweden agrees to be party to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to contribute to the fight against corruption and the embezzlement of EU funds.

Sweden is one of the few countries that have opted out of the EPPO, which is primarily focused on financial crime with EU funds.

MEPs and EU government representatives failed to reach an agreement on the appointment of the first chief prosecutor last week, following disagreements over the potential hiring of Romania’s former anti-corruption chief Laura Codruţa Kövesi.

The Romanian candidate has been marred by fierce opposition and obstruction from her own country’s government.

“We also support the Belgian proposal, or something similar to establish the peer review of adherence to the rule of law,” said Löfven.

In mid-March, Germany and Belgium put forward a joint proposal for a new mechanism designed to be applied in parallel to the already existing Article 7 procedure enshrined in the treaties.

On Wednesday (3 April), the European Commission launched a reflection process about whether member states would agree to be supervised on possible breaches of rule of law, with Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans stating that it is now up to the capitals to decide if they want to “bite the bullet”.

In his speech, the Swedish PM emphasised that one of the options for an orderly migration policy was to establish effective cooperation with non-EU countries, including the countries of origin or transit of migration, in order to force less to leave their country and not to develop new migration crises.

Löfven also addressed the ongoing negotiations on the EU’s future long-term budget, and thanked the EU Commission for its work on the EU’s “Social Pillar”. “No worker should thank us until all 20 points have been implemented throughout the EU,” he said.

In a tribute to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student, Löfven said he is “proud” of the series of Friday demonstrations for more climate protection she kicked-off around Europe, but “it’s not up to your generation to solve the climate crisis, it’s up to us.”

He reminded MEPs that it is not only morally, but also economically sound to reduce the emission of climate-damaging CO2. The Paris Agreement must be implemented “without any ifs and buts”, Löfven concluded.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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