On 01 January 2023, Sweden took over the rotating Presidency of the Council which will run until 31 June 2023 and concludes the work of the current eighteen-month programme of the Trio Presidency for 2022-2023, jointly drafted with France and the Czech Republic.
The Swedish Government established its concrete political priorities for its term and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson presented the work programme on 14 December 2022 to the Riksdag (Sweden’s highest decision-making assembly). During the presentation, parliamentarians displayed highly fragmented views, largely stemming from the fact that the general elections held on 11 September 2022 resulted in a government formed on a minority of three centre-right parties (Christian Democrats, Liberals, and the Moderate Party) with support from the far-right Sweden Democrats. The Sweden Democrats have been building support slowly and steadily over the last decade, mirroring the success of similar anti-immigration parties within the Danish and Finnish Governments. In Sweden, the Democrats have clearly established crime and immigration as the party’s top priorities, and their campaign period which coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Sweden’s accession to NATO, as well as challenges such as energy and the economy has further boosted their position.
Sweden’s fragmented domestic politics will likely influence its work and the outcomes of its Presidency at the EU level. Indeed, concerns have been raised regarding whether it will be able to maintain a consistent line and bring the required resolve to progress critical files, especially during this time of crisis. In the next months we can expect difficult discussions on areas where consensus among Member States will not be easy to find and where the Presidency will need to play a crucial role in bringing a common position to bear – for example, the EU’s response to the US Inflation Reduction Act, the renewal of sanctions against Russia and in particular refined oil products, funding to Ukraine and the continued energy crisis to name a few.
Nevertheless, the Swedish Prime Minister responded to worries by pointing out that the Government’s aim for the Presidency should be to ensure agreement on the files in progress without arguing in the Swedish parliament on individual issues. In this context, he called for more unity and expressed the need to put domestic politics aside.
Sweden’s EU priorities are divided into the following four categories:
- Security – unity
Sweden has indicated that it will devote its political attention to the war in Ukraine and its development and consequences. As such, the Presidency will prioritise the continuation of economic and military support for Ukraine, its reconstruction, and its path to becoming a Member State of the Union. Sweden has also pledged to fight cross-border organised crime to safeguard international law and internal security.
- Resilience – competitiveness
Sweden will work on strengthening the EU’s competitiveness and economic growth, closely linked to the single market and global trade opportunities. The Presidency will strive to deliver favourable conditions for an open economy based on private investment, free competition, digitalisation, and better regulations for European industry.
- Prosperity – green & energy transition
The Presidency will continue efforts to tackle high and unpredictable energy prices while addressing energy-market reform and delivering on climate goals. To do so, Sweden will put Fit for 55 into action. In addition, they will jointly advance towards independence from fossil fuels and Russia to help drive the transition towards a circular economy. Therefore, Sweden strives to work on reaching a recourse-efficient and fossil-free future.
- Democratic values and the rule of law
During its Presidency, Sweden intends to achieve its priorities by respecting the EU’s values and principles of the rule of law and fundamental rights.
In addition to these four priorities, the Swedish Presidency presented a work programme that includes key areas covering all Council configurations, such as general affairs, economic and financial affairs, justice and home affairs, consumer affairs, competitiveness, transport, telecommunications and energy, agriculture, and environment.
Among key areas of the Presidency’s work programme are:
The Presidency will seek to continue the fight against international crime by advancing the efforts to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism. This will involve advancing the negotiations on establishing a new EU body in this area and on the ‘rulebook’. The Presidency will also work to strengthen the internal market and bolster the green transition. It is crucial to ensure continued high consumer and investor protection and help ensure transparency and sustainability in the capital market. For this reason, the Presidency will continue the work on regulatory frameworks for funds and financial instrument markets and a European single access point for financial and non-financial information. Financial stability efforts will continue, including through progress in banking and insurance concerning enhanced resilience, the implementation of international standards, and crisis management. The Presidency is also ready to initiate discussions on new proposals presented by the Commission during the first half of the year, including the digital euro and consumer protection.
Sweden will initiate negotiations with the European Parliament on Artificial Intelligence and advance them as far as possible, as well as on an electronic ID and digital wallet systems. The Presidency intends to take over work on the Data Act in the Council, initiate negotiations with the European Parliament and advance these negotiations as far as possible. The Presidency will, in addition, begin the Council’s work on the Connectivity Infrastructure Act. Finally, the Presidency’s objective is to advance the Council’s negotiations on the Cyber Resilience Act as far as possible.
The most pressing challenges arise from the current energy crisis, where the Presidency will monitor developments in the energy market. They aim to conclude any negotiations left on the Fit for 55 package, including the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. In addition, the Presidency will advance the work on the proposals in the hydrogen and decarbonised gas market package and reducing methane emissions in the energy sector.
Environmental and Climate
Environment and climate issues will be high on the EU agenda. The Presidency’s ambition is to take forward the proposed legislation on carbon removal certification and prioritise revising the Industrial Emissions Directive, as well as work on regulatory frameworks that promote a circular economy.