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Sweden Rules the EU

by someone Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 04:55:39 AM EST

[Yesterday], a small country in northern Europe [took] charge of the large and unwieldy European Union. Our protagonist is the bold (and bald) Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister or Sweden, and his merry band of ministers and assorted political lackeys. Will he succeed, and what constitutes success in the European presidential ring? Will he increase the prestige of our small country? Ah, yes, and what will he actually attempt to accomplish while in charge?

(photo and logo courtesy of se2009.eu, the official site of the presidency)

promoted by Nomad


To help with the "success for our nation" part, Reinfeldt had requested a domestic political truce. The opposition was not amused and declined his request. Perhaps a small sign of the country moving away from the 'Nation first, European Politics second' instinct? In the previous Swedish EU presidency the opposition did agree to such a truce. It doesn't make much sense to me, however, if Europe should at all be considered a politically integrated space. Why on earth would an opposition unconditionally support the government and refrain from criticism for 6 months? How can they be considered an opposition in such a case? Plus, this whole, 'Success For Sweden in Weighty International Position' really puts me too much in mind of the little nation forever seeking approval and a pat on the head from the big boys on the continent. "Let's all get together and show the important countries that we can do it well, small as we are! Maybe we'll get to sit at their table in the cafeteria... That would be soooooo cool." Yuk! (Do other EU countries have a tradition of domestic political truce during EU presidencies?)

As for issues, there is some potential financial regulation to get in order. Then there is what is supposed to be the highlight for the presidency. Climate Politics. Which I am sure, since we are talking about a right wing government here, means trying to get the most growth out of climate issues and carbon trading certificates. How can we avoid to make any kind of sacrifices that might impact profits? How can we claim that markets and liberalisation is just what is needed? Perhaps I am just being cynical, but it seems that in Sweden, Reinfeldt and his crew has really done their utter most to sell out as much publicly held entities as they could. And attempted to privatise as much health care as they could get away with. I would imagine that their drive for economic liberalism is only marginally tempered by the economic meltdown. So they are probably on board with the idea that there is Only One Way to solve every problem: liberalise, liberalise, liberalise.

It is of course rather likely that whatever plans for great policy progress that might exist, much more time will be spent putting out fires and managing crises. There may be a fight in the EU parliament about reappointing Barroso head of the commission. Then there is Lisbon, and if Lisbon passes in the autumn, we may start the fighting over the approval of the next commission, before the term is up. If we are lucky, there may be some time left for policy initiatives.

I must also put out a general warning about another character in the Swedish government. The Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt. This is a guy who worships Henry Kissinger and aspires to similar international Greatness. (Including the war crimes?) A nasty little guy who's been around the block of oil companies, weapon manufacturers, government, and leading roles in the Yugoslavia debacle. As we may hear more from him over the next six months, be on your guard.

Other than that I have Not Much Opinion on the Swedish government. In particular, on what their domestic policies have been. It has been too long since I lived in Sweden and I have missed too much. So, I ask our other Swedish correspondents to perhaps contribute some weightier material and opinions on the current Swedish government and its Prime Minister, and the impact they are likely to have on the EU.

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In Ireland, Governments set great store on having a successful term as President of the EU as it is an opportunity for essentially small time politicians to shine on a larger stage.  It also allows a small country like Ireland "to take it's place amongst the nations of the world" on some sort of equal footing.  For citizens as a whole, its a bit like supporting your national Rugby/Soccer/tiddlywinks team.  You want your side to do well.  But there has never been a request for the opposition to cease to oppose on some sort of patriotic pretext.  After all, it is also an opportunity for the Opposition to show that the Government is not up to the job.

The last Irish Presidency of the EU in 2004 was marketed as a great success.  It came at the time of enlargement, and Bertie Ahern brokered agreement on the Constitutional Treaty and the appointment of Barroso as President of the Commission - both tricky political hurdles at the time.  It also helped to "improve" relations between Europe and the US post Iraq, although I'm not sure that was, of itself, a good thing, as it meant we were altogether too complicit with the Bush regime.

But Sweden could have the honour of being the last "President of the EU".  If Lisbon is passed, the Presidency of the Council will be held by a separate full time official/politician for a 2.5 year term.  Ironically the Czech Presidency could be a good argument for that being a necessary step in the evolution of the EU.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 06:46:26 AM EST
a small country

Surely not by land area...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 06:59:15 AM EST
The EU is firstly, an economic union - definable by measures such as GDP, secondly a polity - definable by population/electorate, and only thirdly a geographical entity - definable by land mass.  Discuss.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 07:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does that have to do with Sweden?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 07:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone defined Sweden as a small country in the context of the EU.  You challenged that on the basis of its land mass.  My argument is that the EU and its member states are not defined, primarily, by their land mass.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 07:39:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If in the context of the EU, then in the context of the EU Council and the European Council. Therein, population matters first and foremost (vote weights being a function of them), not GDP.

Still, my original comment was not a serious one... just a reaction to the conflicting images in my head when I read the phrase.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 07:45:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think of Swedes as big tall blonds myself, and as a polity, Sweden has had a larger frontprint on world politics than you might expect for its population size.  A pity they seem intent on doing much of that good work...  Even a great company like SAAB was taken over by GM, and now by Koenigsegg...  yuk

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 07:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I read "country", I usually think of some coloured or contoured area on a map -- even though, indeed, those contours have more to do with the Homo sapiens sapiens specimen spending most of their time within that area. (Then again, those borders get their existence not from the people, but certain institutions -- which may or may not represent most of the inhabitants.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 10:27:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On that basis Denmark (inc. Greenland) makes up half the land mass of the EU, and much more based on the the Mercator projection on which many maps are based!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 10:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is sure an oddity, but Greenland is part of Denmark but not part of the EU. (So, would it be included, Denmark would be a third by land area.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 11:22:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A self-ruling part since June 21, 2009.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 11:57:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Soon to be the state of Greenland, USA. Many, many recreational vehicles will have to visit there in order to update their "visited all states" bumper stickers. Go into the trans-Atlantic car ferry business ASAP.
by asdf on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 07:49:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The countries in the Baltic Sea region cover an area of 2.4 million km2 nearly half of the EU.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 1st, 2009 at 06:59:24 AM EST

Sweden rides to defence of hedge funds

Sweden marked the first day of its six-month European Union presidency on Wednesday by coming to the defence of hedge funds and private equity, promising to press for improvements in EU proposals for tougher regulation of both groups.

"There is an exaggerated fear that private equity contains big systemic risk. Our opinion is that it does not," said Mats Odell, the country's financial markets minister.

(...)

Mr Odell said: "It is not private equity that caused the crisis, nor hedge funds. But in some countries, the political debate portrays private equity and hedge funds as the problem. That's not the same as saying we shouldn't regulate them. But the aim is to have sound regulation and not to kill the industry."

(...)

Private equity chiefs see the Swedish presidency of the EU as a window to water down the proposed regulation before Spain takes over on January 1.

"Sweden has its own significant private equity and venture capital industry, so it is very focused on this," said Mr Walker.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 05:57:41 AM EST
I have this (wholly unsupported) theory that central banks should use private equity as a tool to decide interest rates; that is, if inflation is low but PE is mushrooming all over the place, this is a danger sign that bubbles are growing and interest rates must be hiked to nip them in the bud.

Any thoughts?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 08:11:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interest rates were not low during the bubble leading to the 1929 crash - but the rate of growth of stock market valuations made a 12% loan to gamble with stocks profitable.

Raising interest rates will reliably strangle the real economy, though.

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 22nd, 2009 at 02:09:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reinfeldt: no need for a strong Council president | Policies | EU governance | Council of Ministers | European Voice
The European Union's small and medium-sized countries do not want a strong leader as the first full-time president of the European Council, according to Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister of Sweden, which took over the presidency of the EU yesterday (1 July).

Reinfeldt said that EU governments were divided over the powers and influence of the new figure, who will, if the Lisbon treaty comes into effect, chair the European Council for up to five years. The permanent president is supposed to work alongside the government leader of the country that, under the existing system, holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers. Reinfeldt said that while some member states thought that the president should be a strong personality, others wanted a consensus-seeking chairman. The choice, he said, would be "a balance between those who want a strong leader - a figure leading Europe - or more of a person presiding over meetings and co-chairing with the rotating presidency". He added: "Small and medium-sized countries are less interested in a strong leader."

Reinfeldt's comments reflect growing resistance from some national governments to appointing a high-profile figure such as Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, as the first full-time president, for fear that he might marginalise leaders from smaller countries and compete with leaders from the big member states.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 08:35:07 AM EST
Well, heck, let's give them a chance, eh? Could they really do a worse job?

Ah, not quite the point. The Q is - can they run the system efficiently without losing billions or allowing it to be syphoned off?

Hmm...

No breath holding going on here.

Yan

by yanv on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 09:50:17 AM EST
Welcome to (posting at) European Tribune Yan!!!!
by Nomad on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 08:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yan, we're knocked out that you should comment here. When we follow the bullshit trail from your user info (don't do it, folks, it'll give a spammer traffic!) we find this:

This user account (yanv) is one of several hundred we have had to disable for spam. Since this comment got some welcome, I'm leaving it. Other test comments from spam accounts are and will be being deleted. So, regulars and readers, if you are surprised by a comment's disappearance, this is the reason.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jul 4th, 2009 at 05:10:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've decided that the reason more people do not take the European Union seriously is that the European Union is silly.  I mean, I am certain it all makes sense to you.  And you are going to explain to me why it makes sense.  But, even though it makes sense to you and you can explain to me how it makes sense, I maintain that it is positively nuts!

From the first Sweden-EU article that appears on Google news:

STOCKHOLM, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Sweden on Wednesday took over the presidency of the European Union (EU), the world's largest integrated economy with nearly half a billion citizen.

"After two year's preparation, Sweden takes over the presidency of the EU," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at a joint press conference with the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

From the good old Wikipedia:

The European Commission (formally the Commission of the European Communities) is the executive branch of the European Union.

In the study of political science the executive branch of government has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy.

The word presidency is often used to describe the administration or the executive, the collective administrative and governmental entity that exists around an office of president of a state or nation.

and once more:

"Sweden takes over the presidency of the EU," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at a joint press conference with the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso...

... who is not even Swedish, to my knowledge.

Stop.  Don't.  Please.  It's not worth it.  

I mean, what the hell good is a presidency if no one knows who is in it or what it does?

Madness.  You're all quite lovely and civilized and have a great deal to offer the world.  But you're mad.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 02:22:05 PM EST
Well, we dislike the European Council's power grab, too -- no disagreement here...

On the other hand, "President" is accorded to the leader of non-executive institutions, too. You have a President of the Senate, too (which, in an ideal world, would be the rough equivalent of the European Council).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 02:28:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
omg Im so confused and don't even want to know what you are talking about.  Power grab?  I'm talking using words in ways that defy the laws of the universe and confuse everyone.

Just, stop using the same words for different things!  No one calls the President of the Senate the President of the US.  Why call Sweden the President of the EU?  How can a country be President of anything anyway?  That's crazy.  I mean, honest to god, why not call Sweden the "President of the Council" (if that's what it is - I don't even know anymore) and Barroso the "President of the Commission"?  No one even knows what the EU is anyway, so it might work.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 02:35:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bloody Europeans, doing things different to Americans. The cads.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 02:57:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh please.  My point was never that it should do things like America.  DoDo brought up the US Senate, not me - but feel free to ignore that if it gets in the way of your righteous indignation...

My point was about the very confusing terminology.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<shrug> We do it to annoy you.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:49:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why are you guys bringing up America? Honestly - I think it says a lot more about you than it does America.

I first noted the "EU President v. EU Presidency" problem while watching France 24.  It was on Deutsche Welle that I saw a programme about how most Europeans don't even understand the EU and are apathetic about it because they don't even know what it does.  It was on ET that I brought it up.  The example I used was from a Chinese news service.

It's pretty pathetic of you to dismiss what I say on the grounds of my nationality alone.  Jesus effing christ - you are better than that Colman.  And here I was just about to write a diary on Obama's atrocious foreign policy... Guess I wont - I don't want to be accused of American exceptionalism.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 04:07:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why call Sweden the President of the EU?

That's the point: they are only the President of the Council of the EU, which is the (very) rough equivalent of the Senate; and pretending to be the Presidents of the EU reflects the Council's power grab. To give you the analogy, it's as if your Governors had taken over the Senate, and made the President and his cabinet yes-men for it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:10:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(For Europeans: in the above, I don't even attempt to indicate the distinction between the Council and the European Council...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:12:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even wikipedia gets that distinction wrong occasionally.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:36:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean, honest to god, why not call Sweden the "President of the Council" (if that's what it is - I don't even know anymore)

That is what it is, and that is what it's called.

However, everyone from politicians to journalists to bloggers is too damn lazy to make the distinction.

Also, for president you can read chairperson if it helps.


A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
first there was this in the 1960s and then the member states negotiated a treaty (Lisbon) which gives the Council more influence.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:26:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may suggest my own diary The Bigger Picture from February 11th, 2008.

It's not like we don't endlessly talk about this stuff on the blog.

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:34:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But you're mad.  

Hey, you're the ones who appoint a temporary High King and then don't even sacrifice him to the gods when he's done. Now that's crazy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 02:58:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that the European Union is silly.  I mean, I am certain it all makes sense to you.

The EU is how it is. You learn how it is and then it makes sense.

If they had taught it to you in civics classes in high school it would make sense to you like the US does.

Now, nobody gets taught in European schools, but that's a different issue...

A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:24:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the good old Wikipedia:
In the study of political science the executive branch of government has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy.
Except that this is not exactly true in most places. I mean, we all like the neat little theory of the separation of powers, but that isn't exactly realised in theory or in practice almost anywhere. In fact, in federal states (such as the US) it is not exactly clear that there is a single executive branch because some of the authority and responsibility rests with state governments and not by delegation of federal power, rather the federal government only has the power that the constitution gives to it.

In particular...

The European Commission (formally the Commission of the European Communities) is the executive branch of the European Union.
is inexact, not only because the EU is not even a state and sovereignty rests with the member states, ultimately, but also because not all areas of EU-level decision-making are under the commission (some are under the council). The Commission really only acts as the executive on matters pertaining to the internal/common market.

And then, the Commission doesn't have only an executive role: it is also the originator of EU legislation (but laws are approved by the council and the parliament jointly).

So, if one were to do political science properly and not in wikipedia's sophomoric style, one would say that the powers of government are conventionally separated into three functions: executive, legislative and judiciary; and then one would have to ask the question of "how are the three functions of government carried out, and by which combination of institutions and agents?".


A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds; a man of deeds and not of words is like a garden full of turds — Anonymous

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 03:58:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could also ask how well the conventional separation of powers actually describers a given real system.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 04:01:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Coming from the part of the world learly without separation of powers, I had my problems getting the concept of the triumvirate of executive-legislative-judiciary. I recall I couldn't see the point of separating legislative and executive (when a government majority almost always votes for its government, what is it all about?), was unsure where to put prosecutors, and how to call police & military.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jul 3rd, 2009 at 05:45:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's even a concert given by Peter von Poehl in the Swedish cultural institute in Paris to celebrate the Sweden presidency... I'll be there !

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Jul 2nd, 2009 at 07:55:22 PM EST


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