Snart får EU möta ett helt nytt Sverige
Euractivs Charles Szumski rapporterar idag om att det är ett helt nytt Sverige som snart tar över ordförandeklubban i EU och som de andra EU-länderna aldrig har mött tidigare. Inom EU (liksom på en global nivå) har Sverige nämligen fram tills valet den 11 september 2022 alltid framstått som bäst i klassen vad gäller att inta en progressiv hållning inom nästan alla politikområden men så är inte längre fallet.
Förra gången Sverige höll i ordförandeklubban (2009) styrdes Sverige av en regering som uppvisade EU:s mest generösa migrationspolitik och mest progressiva klimat- och miljöpolitik men idag är det precis tvärtom – numera styrs Sverige av en regering som ”tack vare” SD tävlar med länder som Ungern och Polen om att föra EU:s mest restriktiva migrationspolitik och som (återigen ”tack vare” SD) satsar på att slopa klimatmålen.
”As 2022 and the last days of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council draw to a close, Stockholm prepares to replace Prague at the Council’s rotating helm. However, experts warn that the far-right Sweden Democrats party’s domestic political sway may influence the next EU Presidency’s work on a broad range of topics, from pesticide use and climate to migration.”
Leading the charge for the first time since 2009, Stockholm will head up negotiations and compromises with the EU Parliament on key pieces of legislation. The Presidency’s priorities, as EURACTIV previously reported, will be on security, resilience, green transition and democratic values in the EU.
September’s Swedish parliamentary elections changed the country’s political landscape, which looks set to have an impact at the EU level as the far-right Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) gained considerable power in the Scandinavian kingdom.
“The Swedish government has this agreement now [with the far-right], and it has to honour it. Because otherwise, the Sweden Democrats will basically make the government fall. They are like hostages,” Karlstad University Professor Tobias Hübinette told EURACTIV.
The elections saw the right-wing bloc take power after eight years of Social Democratic rule, with the leading centre-right Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals forming a coalition.
But according to the coalition agreement, the far-right SD party, which got a historical 20% at the elections, was left out of government despite being the second party in Parliament after the now-opposition Social Democrats. In exchange, SD got large parts of its tough migration policy through and is consulted on predefined topics, including energy and EU affairs.
“[The Sweden Democrats] have full and equal influence on topics covered by the cooperation programme in the same way as parties in government,” the agreement reads, including namely the “EU matters affecting the issues covered by the cooperation work”.
For Hübinette, migration is a prime example of a policy area that reflects the far-right’s new influence.
“Sweden will now join the other countries within the European Union who are basically against refugees and migration”, he said, citing Italy, Poland and Hungary.
While the SD party has voting patterns akin to other populist groups in the European Parliament, it is unknown exactly how these patterns will be concretely reflected in the Council’s work, Hübinette said.
According to the program of the Swedish presidency, security and migration will become a key focus, particularly the advancement of the EU’s new Pact on Migration and Asylum.
The Sweden Democrats’ influence on the workings of the EU Presidency is likely to be broader than previously anticipated, according to an unpublished appendix to the coalition agreement, revealedby the Swedish media Altinget last month and seen by EURACTIV.
According to the document, the far-right party will be consulted on EU matters beyond those directly agreed upon in the coalition agreement, such as the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR) and the Nature Restoration proposal, which aims to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2030.
There is a paradox here, Niels Paarup-Petersen, Swedish MP and Centre Party spokesperson for digital and cyber, told EURACTIV. Traditionally closer to the right-wing block, his party supported a left-wing coalition during the September elections in protest against the Moderates’ announced collaboration with the far-right.
“It is no secret that Sweden Democrats are far from wanting to implement an ambitious climate policy,” he said, adding that there is not even a clear climate policy in the coalition agreement as the far-right party is not “big on climate”.
For Hübinette, the EU’s environment policy will feel the effects of the Swedish government’s shift to the right.
“The Sweden Democrats are very critical towards what they call ‘climate alarmists’. They don’t really believe in climate change,” he said, adding that for the SD party, any attempt to develop a green economy within the European Union amounts to the bloc “wanting to have more power”.
Yet, one of the four priorities of the Swedish EU Presidency is the implementation of a green transition as a response to the “global climate challenge”, which Hübinette called “a paradox difficult to explain”.
The SD party has a history of denying climate change, with its leader Jimmie Åkesson declaring on TV that there was no scientific proof of a climate crisis, which he called a “new religion”.
“One of the big issues domestically is the reduction of the price of fuels,” Paarup-Petersen said, adding that SD could push for changes in that area, with counterproductive effects on climate change.
“It will be very, very interesting to see what they will actually deliver,” he said.
Sweden will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January 2023 until 30 June, when it will be handed to Madrid.”