Friday, February 21, 2014

Reinfeldt: Swedish Foreign Policy

The following is excerpts from a speech delivered by the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, on March 7, 2011 regarding Sweden’s current policy towards the European Union and the rest of the international community. He expressed Sweden’s intention on moving towards more integration between members of the EU and working with the other members to make the EU more competitive economically as well as increase the openness of Europe’s borders to the rest of the world.

The year 1991 is also a landmark for Sweden's relations with Europe. On 14 June 1991, the Swedish Government of the time declared that Sweden would seek membership of the EC, and on 1 July the membership application was submitted. This broke an ingrained and partially incorrect image that Sweden had of itself and which had prevailed during the post-war era.
This Swedish self-image was partly the result of history, partly a conscious choice that still distinguishes our country from many other countries on our continent. We are a small country in northern Europe. We did not take part in the Second World War and therefore do not share the experience of the horrors of war that characterises the rest of Europe.
We are a country that for a long time chose not to take the path towards European integration. Instead, we tried to create our own, separate social model. Perhaps the most distinctive aspects of this were the policy of neutrality, the fact that a few large companies dominated the labour market, a large public sector and clear collaboration between politics, the trade union movement and the business sector. At the same time, this was perhaps more a mythical image than a social model of our own, because was it really that different from what we know of social infrastructure in the rest of Europe?
The image Sweden has of itself has also undergone major changes in recent decades. Our economy has shifted from industrial production to the production of services. Globalisation has had an impact on the business sector. Our labour market has changed. We are in the process of moving from a society of high taxes to a society that combines good economic growth with high ambitions regarding climate, knowledge and welfare. And it now appears that we are facing a time of change regarding the Swedish party system.
In addition, membership of the EU means that we are no longer on the sidelines of the joint European development efforts. But what is the background to Sweden's European policy?
Today, membership of the EU is all but taken for granted in Sweden. Furthermore, the Eurobarometer shows that Swedes are more positive towards the EU than the average EU citizen. And since 2006, my Government has actively worked to ensure that Sweden is at the heart of European cooperation. But this has not always been the case.
But in the end, Sweden chose to join in with European cooperation. And if we now look back on the 16 years of Swedish EU membership, it can be noted that it has meant a great deal for Sweden. It has affected both our legislation and our ways of thinking. Membership has also opened up many opportunities:
- we can live, work, study and retire freely within the EU,
- our companies can buy and sell products and services in the internal market of more than 500 million consumers, which facilitates increased trade and produces higher economic growth in Sweden,
- within the EU, we limit greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and safeguard Europe's biological diversity,
- through EU enlargement, we contribute to spreading economic growth, welfare and democratic reforms to new Member States and in our region,
- through the EU, Sweden's foreign policy voice in the world is stronger.
And much can be added to the list. But enough about history. What can be said about the future? What stance does the EU take today? And which policies does Sweden intend to work for in the EU?


There have been major changes in Europe. Sweden has also seen major changes. But we see the greatest changes when we gaze out at the world at large. We live in a time of change. In a world where information, knowledge, goods, money and people are constantly in motion and crossing borders. And more, all this is happening at a speed and on a scale that the world has never seen before.
According to the UNDP, the world's poor countries are also slowly beginning to close the gap with the developed countries when it comes to life expectancy, education and income levels. In recent decades, the opportunities for people all over the world to build a future through education and work have improved through improved opportunities for a better life. And if these trends continue there is a possibility that we, or at least our children, will live in a world that is more equal and fair.
At the same time, globalisation and development around the world have an impact on the global balance of power. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate some of the shifts in the balance of power now taking place in order to describe the world that Sweden and the EU must deal with, the world that also forms the framework around Sweden's EU policy.
* * *
Instead, it is expected that most of the world's production will, increasingly, take place in emerging countries. In 2011, developing countries are expected to have an average growth of 6 per cent. This is twice the growth of the richer parts of the world. Just look at the fact that the Chinese economy doubles every six years, and that India is not far behind.


In its report from last year, the Reflection Group, led by Felipe Gonzales, stated that the EU faces a choice - reform or decline. These are strong words, but also an important wake-up call for Europe.
Today, I especially wish to emphasise five questions to which I believe the EU must find new answers in order to respond to a new world in a new era:
-         how can the EU increase its economic growth, employment rate 
and competitiveness?
- how can the EU combat climate change?
- how can the EU promote and safeguard people's mobility across 
- how can the EU modernise its budget? 
- how can the EU be a strong foreign policy actor that champions the 
values on which European cooperation is based?

Last year, the European Union also agreed on a new growth strategy - Europe 2020 - which has replaced the previous Lisbon Strategy. The strategy establishes five quantitative objectives: for the employment of women and men, for investments in research and development, for the fulfilment of the EU climate targets, for the level of education and for a reduction in social exclusion.
Let us take a closer look at one of these targets: the importance of greater participation of women in working life. This is an issue that I pursued intensively on Sweden's behalf ahead of adoption of the strategy.
Today, the average employment rate for women in the EU is about 52 per cent. In Sweden, it is almost 62 per cent. This is if we look at the percentage of the population between the ages of 15 and 74. For men, the corresponding figures are an average of 64 per cent in the EU and 67 per cent in Sweden.
Although Sweden has made great progress when it comes to giving women and men equal opportunities, we are not perfect. There is more for us to do, and we must do more. This applies to women's opportunities to work as a whole, but perhaps in particular if we consider the fact that we have a large proportion of women who work part-time.
It is obvious that greater gender equality in working life would be advantageous. Imagine if the percentage of working women in Europe increased to the same level as that of men. Studies show that if that were the case, we would not only create greater freedom for women and remedy today's waste of human capital resources, but EU growth could also increase by about 25-30 per cent.
In fact, the path to achieving success on this issue is also rather simple. Put a stop to discrimination against women in working life. Design tax and benefit systems that encourage everyone, including women, to work. Expand pre-schools and childcare to make gender equality at home and at work possible. This is really all it takes to make significant progress.
If the EU Member States want to achieve their ambition of being modern societies, this issue can no longer be ignored. It is time to start acting.
The Europe 2020 strategy also highlights the importance of investing in education, research and development. These, too, are areas that are of crucial importance to each individual country, but also to the EU as a whole. We agree with this and Sweden tops the EU table when it comes to investments in research and development.
A good education opens the door to equality and development. It gives all individuals an opportunity to participate in and contribute to our society.


The EU agenda is currently dominated by economic issues. At the same time, we must not forget the other major challenges facing the EU. And here I am thinking in particular of perhaps the most crucial issue facing not only the EU, but the entire planet - the issue of our climate.
The truth is that Earth is running a high temperature. And this is caused by humanity's dependence on fossil fuels. The generation of today and previous generations have taken liberties, the consequences of which will be borne by our children and grandchildren. And we are already seeing the effects; effects that will become increasingly clear.
Simply advocating aggressive national initiatives in small countries will have no effect. It will not solve a global problem such as climate change. To be quite honest, Swedish initiatives will have no direct global effect whatsoever, as Sweden is only responsible for less than 0.2 per cent of global emissions. But by working within the EU for an aggressive and credible climate policy, Sweden has a better opportunity to influence global developments. And we must utilise this opportunity.
A first important task in the spring is to formulate the EU's long-term climate strategy.
Sweden wants to set interim targets for 2030 and 2040 that will make it possible for the EU to meet the agreed target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by between 80 and 95 per cent by 2050. Otherwise we will fail to achieve the two-degree ceiling on global warming set by the UN.

PM Reinfeldt articulated the necessity for change and called for the European Union to open its borders to the rest of the world, which he believes will stimulate the lagging job market among the member states. In order to do so he recommends opening the European job market up to its full potential by getting more women into the workplace and by creating incentives for workers from other continents to join and boost the slow European job market. Throughout the speech PM Reinfeldt covered a wide range of issues but always returned to neoliberal themes of cooperation and inclusion between states.

"Speech by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sweden's Current European Policy."Speech by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sweden's Current European Policy. Regeringskansliet (The Government Offices of Sweden), 07 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <>.

--Tucker Kelleher-Brozost

No comments:

Post a Comment