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.