The first full working week of the Swedish EU presidency starts today, with an informal meeting of health ministers from the 27 member states and a visit to Stockholm by the leaders of the different political groups in the European Parliament, the outgoing President of the Parliament, Hans-Gert Potttering and 40 other Euro-parliamentary representatives. The Conference of Presidents — as the collective of group leaders is known in rather ponderous Euro-jargon — is having meetings with the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, and the Speaker of the Riksdag (Parliament), Per Westerberg, to discuss the Swedish presidency’s priorities. As the Lisbon Treaty is in limbo, awaiting the rerun of the Irish referendum, the EU is still operating under a six-month rotating presidency — an absurd system which is nonetheless in tried and safe hands with the Swedes.
Interestingly, the Swedish presidency’s priorities mirror exactly the main themes on which the British Liberal Democrats campaigned in last month’s Euro-elections: closer ‘horizontal’ cooeration across the EU to emerge stronger from the economic recession, joint action to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges, and enhancing cooperation to promote security while protecting human rights and individual freedoms. On the last of these three goals, the Swedish government has declared, ‘The EU must continue to develop towards a more secure and open Europe. The Presidency wants to develop cooperation across borders to protect democratic values and the rights of individuals, and to meet the challenge facing Europe. Joint efforts are necessary to combat international crime. The EU needs to establish a more efficient asylum and migration policy. The Presidency aims to develop cooperati0n in the field of justice and home affairs via the Stockholm Programme which will be adopted in the autumn.’ Watch this space!