From January 2023, Sweden will take the presidency of the European Union. The last time that happened was in 2009, and a lot has changed in the European Union dynamics and in the world since then.
Euronews spoke to the Minister of European Affairs of Sweden Jessica Roswall to discuss the proposals for the next six months.
Support for Ukraine
Many problems have hit the European Union in recent years, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine created a complex web of problems. What will be your approach during the presidency, some concrete measures and actions that you might take regarding this?
“For the Swedish presidency, it will be a priority to keep the unity and to keep supporting Ukraine with all kinds of measures," said Roswall. "Concretely, it's economic, military, humanitarian, and also political help to handle this hard time. Also, of course, we have to keep up with the sanctions and so forth against Russia."
Will the European Union be able to have the resources for that military (support) and for financial assistance in the reconstruction, as soon is possible?
“I think we have to (because) the Ukrainians are not only fighting for their freedom, they're also fighting for our freedom.”
Security and unity. You mentioned that these are important topics for the Swedish presidency and the prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has mentioned them several times. When do you foresee that Sweden, as well as Finland, will join NATO, especially considering Turkey's obstacles to that?
“I don't have an answer to that, but as soon as possible is our hope. Of course, we are doing this in close cooperation with Finland because this is a security issue for both of us. But I think that also the war in Ukraine has symbolised, or showed, that the security for Europe depends on staying together and we have to keep the unity in Europe.”
_The EU is now sanctioning Russia. It has another package underway. How far should you go with this strategy, considering the EU's own interests and goals in terms of supporting Ukraine?
“Well, when it comes to Russia, I think the EU has shown really good unity by putting forward all these sanctions packages. And now we are discussing the ninth package. I think it's important to put that in place and move forward as long as it takes. We have to move forward when it comes to sanctions and other pressures that we can make. And we also see high inflation. We have a lot of crises in parallel, in the EU and in the world. But we have to keep up the support to Ukraine and also to keep up the pressure on Russia.”
_What is the price that European Union citizens are willing to pay, considering there are so many economic problems, that are mentioned a lot of times via strikes and demonstrations?
“All of our governments in all the member states are struggling to help their households and also the companies, to handle this winter and also to be prepared for the next winter. It will be, of course, of high importance for the Swedish presidency to handle all these questions. And so I think we have to do a lot of things, both when it comes to national arrangements. It has to be on a national level, not only at the EU level.”
So there's all this discussion about capping prices, about joint procurement. What do you consider to be the easiest way to build consensus in terms of having a supply of affordable energy? I know, for instance, that you are also very keen on nuclear, but it's not the same in all European Union countries.
“Well, energy is, for me, something very closely linked with the green transition, which is another priority for Sweden. I think that we need to talk about energy together with the green transition, but also to remember that energy is also connected to security. So we have these two legs to stand on when it comes to energy.”
_The green deal is the motivation to support a sustainable future. But within the current crisis, how ambitious can the European Union be? Will it be able to compete with massive investments in energy transition, like the US or China are doing?
“So, the EU is putting a lot of money and effort into the green transition and I think that our industries are very good and at the forefront. I see that a lot in Sweden, and we can combine both green transitions with competitiveness and innovation. But we also have a lot of different measures within the EU: we have the Recovery Fund, we have the RepowerEU, that can actually help both people and companies to do this transition.”
Your coalition government has the support of an extreme-right party that, as in many other countries, defends a kind of "European fortress" model. What are your proposals in terms of border management and also processing the cases of people that want to enter the EU, with respect to human rights?
“I think that most parties in Sweden think that we need to have the (EU) Migration Asylum Pact in place. So, for the Swedish presidency, it's important to move the negotiations forward. This is a hard negotiation because there are a lot of member states that think differently about this. So this will be a difficult (topic) to negotiate. But we have to and our ambition is to move forward in a lot of those different (legislative) acts that are combined in the migration pact.”
Rule of Law
_Despite the new compromise this week, Hungary still has some EU funds frozen until it implements some judicial and anticorruption reforms. Will this be a good strategy in terms of having those two countries, and maybe others, come to the liberal democratic style of governing?
“For me, the EU values and rule of law are of (high) importance. These are fundamental values that we need. That's the reason why we are a Union that people in other countries want to connect to because we have these values. So, we have to defend them every day. During the Swedish presidency, and every presidency, we have to defend them. We have different tools in the toolbox. And now we see that one of them, the conditionality mechanism, was actually put into force. And that is a very good sign. I think that is the strategy to move forward, we should continue using the different tools in the toolbox.”
_So you think that the European Commission is doing good work in using this mechanism as a central tool for having the rule of law respected within the union borders?
“Yes, exactly. I think that we can see that we actually can use these different tools that we have.”
_My last question before finishing. What do you think of the corruption scandal that is involving the European Parliament? Is this an isolated case or maybe the tip of the iceberg in terms of other institutions that are in the European Union?
“I cannot answer that. I think it's a serious accusation, but we need to see the investigations (conclusions). But we always need to discuss corruption and how we can work against corruption.”
To watch the full interview please click on the player icon above.