Until 30 June, Sweden holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The six-month rotating Presidency will provide Sweden with the opportunity to set and steer the EU’s agenda, find a compromise with the other 26 Member States, advance the Council’s work on legislation, and liaise between the Council and other EU institutions.
Welcoming the Swedish Presidency
Sweden takes over the rotating Council Presidency with a year-and-a-half left until the next European election. Normally at this point in the five-year election cycle, the EU’s legislative timetable is busy but quite predictable. However, this is not the case following the severe energy crises the EU had and still must deal with.
The priorities of the Swedish Presidency were presented by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in a speech in the parliament. The four core priorities of the Swedish Presidency are as important on the global level as ever:
- Strengthen the security of the EU by reinforcing its unity.
- Integrate more resilience in the economic future of the EU by increasing European competitiveness.
- Accelerate the green and energy transition, stating that European companies that provide green solutions will be in high global demand and can help drive the transition towards a circular economy.
- Promote European democratic values and the rule of law as part of the foundation of the EU.
What is the role of the private sector?
Regarding the current energy crisis and the nascent energy transition, the Presidency wants to prioritize the transition to a resource-efficient, fossil-free future by providing the right regulatory framework and policies to attract investments.
In this regard, the Presidency stresses the important role of the private sector. The Swedes are also determined to drive rapid negotiations on energy files and a clean industry transition.
EU Member States will therefore also work on a joint industrial policy. This presents companies with an important window of opportunity to secure their business goals in the coming period. On top of that, the Presidency also vows to implement major reforms and investments under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, considering the REPowerEU plan.
Are the Swedes green?
The Swedes will continue with negotiations on the remaining parts of the “Fit for 55” high-ambition package in the Environment Council. In this context, the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) will play an important role.
The Presidency will continue organizing several international negotiations, most notably on a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution. The Presidency will also work on the EU regulatory frameworks that promote non-toxic material cycles, increased use of high-quality recycled materials in products, and other business models that promote a circular economy. The Swedes will also intend to advance the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.
Transport and CO² standards
On transport, there is still a multitude of proposals underway. This includes the Commission adoption of the new truck CO² standards and plans to increase the capacity on the EU’s rail tracks, a revision of the rules on vehicle weights and dimensions and an initiative on greening corporate fleets. In addition, the planned Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), ReFuelEU Aviation and FuelEU Maritime, are still under negotiation. Sweden will probably work on these files at the end of their term, which will leave a short time for the dossiers to be agreed upon before the EU election in 2024.
What about digital policy?
When looking at the Swedish Presidency’s program, digital policies are not perceived as very ambitious. On the Data Act, they aim to develop a general approach in the Council and kick off Trilogue negotiations with the Parliament. However, the Swedes signal no commitment to finish the discussions before the Spanish take over in July. In May, the European Commission presented its “European Health Data Space”, which aims to regulate the transmission and sharing of health data across Member States. On health data, the Presidency has the task to decide how this data can be used for research and policymaking and ensure the legislation includes sufficient safeguards around privacy and data protection. On artificial intelligence, the European Parliament still has to adopt a position on the AI Act, which the Swedes can then use to coordinate the trilogue negotiations. However, the file is so complex that it is not expected that negotiations will be concluded in six months.
Transatlantic trade and a level-playing field
A trade war with the United States seems to be on the doorstep of the European Union, as Washington unveiled a monumental $369 billion program of state support for home-grown green tech industry.
Although President Biden made a vague promise to ensure that European companies could also benefit from the subsidies package, it is unclear to what extent this will be put into effect. The Swedish Presidency will have to mediate between the 27 EU Member States, who are bound to differ in opinion on how to protect the green tech sector of the EU.
Single market and budget discussions
The Swedish Government has recognized that strengthening and deepening the Single Market will promote free trade, which in turn will help to accelerate the green transition and support the ongoing digitalization of the economy. As an open and liberal economy, Sweden understands the importance of this and will use its Presidency of the EU to champion the Single Market.
Lastly, the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, which will take place probably under this Presidency, provides an opportunity to reassess whether the current EU budget continues to provide the resources to respond to common challenges.
While the Czech Presidency was very much focused on deepening external relations with the EU, the Swedish Presidency wants to turn its attention inwardly. The Swedish Presidency and the 30th anniversary of the EU’s Single Market both fall in January 2023. We note Sweden’s focus on innovation, open trade, and strengthening the EU’s internal market.
The continuing development of a fully functioning Internal Market is a strong indicator of this. However, Sweden Democrats (SD) 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. Despite not being in government, SD is consulted on predefined topics, including energy and EU affairs.
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