Sweden which takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency in July has been setting out its programme for its six month stint.
On the mixed agenda is the question of the bloc’s enlargement and in particular the controversial subject of Turkey’s membership. The recent European elections threw light on just how divisive the issue is but Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bilt says his government is determined to press ahead with Ankara’s accession talks. “There were parties that explicitly campaigned against enlargement, explicitly campaigned against Turkey, in somes cases explicitly campaign against Muslims in different European countries. We all are democracies, it is one of the strength of the European Union, enlargement is an issue which needs also public debate. I certainly don’t share some of the views that have been expressed but that is in the nature of things,” said Bilt. But French President Nicholas Sarkozy is known for his firm opposition to Turkey’s full admission into the EU. Ankara’s human rights history and the need for political reforms is a barrier. Sarkozy believes full membership could destabilise the bloc’s future by enlarging its borders into the fragile Middle East. For Sweden there are two further issues – the finalisation of the EU’s strategy to improve cooperation between EU members and the Baltic Sea region and of course the climate summit in Denmark which aims to replace the Kyoto protocol.