Swedish ministers outline Council
Swedish government ministers this week outlined their Council Presidency priorities
to a range of parliamentary committees - and fielded MEPs' questions on most EU
Helping to ensure that developing countries can fight poverty effectively and meet global
economic crisis and climate change challenges are the Swedish Presidency's key devel-
opment priorities, International Development Co-operation minister Gunilla Carlsson told
the Development Committee on Wednesday. The Presidency wants to create "a coherent
and uniform framework" to improve the effectiveness of EU support for democracy-build-
ing worldwide, she added, because "democratisation contributes to reducing poverty in all
Replying to MEPs' questions about lack of consistency in the EU's development policy ap-
proach, Ms Carlsson urged Parliament to make full use of its scrutinising powers (bud-
getary and co-decision procedures), to ensure that various EU policy players work togeth-
er to make development co-operation more effective.
Concluding the Doha Round "is the first, second and third priority" of the EU Presiden-
cy, Trade Minister Ewa Björling, told the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. To
achieve this goal, "getting the US on board is essential", she added. Any delay in Russia's
WTO accession would be "regrettable", she said. Ms Björling spoke of the possible con-
clusion in 2010 of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. She alsostressed that the
fight against climate change should be supported by facilitating the transfer of environ-
mentally-friendly products and technologies.
Committee MEPs emphasized that the elimination of all kinds of non-tariff barriers
should be addressed, as well as trade in raw materials. Furthermore, MEPs drew the
Presidency's attention to the fact that the role of Parliament and its International Trade
Committee will significantly increase with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.
Economic and monetary affairs
In the current economic and financial crisis, "defence line number one" is to improve
the supervision of financial markets and to set up European infrastructure in this area,
Finance minister Anders Borg told the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on
Wednesday . Mr Borg also stressed the need to guarantee the long-term sustainability of
public finances, and to have an active labour market policy. Local government and finan-
cial markets minister Mats Odell underlined the importance of the proposals on capital re-
quirements, sound remuneration policies and alternative investment firm managers.
While MEPs agreed with these priorities, several stressed that the Stability and Growth
Pact should be implemented more strictly and more prudently and that rules should ap-
ply to all players. MEPs also emphasized the need for the EU to speak in one voice at the
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Employment and social affairs
Creating more inclusive labour markets is a priority of the Swedish Presidency, Employ-
ment Minister Sven-Otto Littorin and State Secretary Bettina Kashefi, replacing the Social
Security Minister, told the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Thursday. Mea-
sures to be taken include pushing forward the micro-financing proposal. The Presiden-
cy also aims to see that the new regulation concerning mobile workforce is implemented
smoothly, and that the issue of third country nationals with respect to it is resolved.
Several MEPs were disappointed that the speakers had not mentioned the Laval court
case concerning posted workers, and urged the Presidency to open up work on the Post-
ing Directive. Mr Littorin said that the Presidency opposed this. Many MEPs also called
for more action on youth unemployment and equal pay, and for specific initiatives rather
Care for the elderly and social inclusion
High-quality care for the elderly, an "active inclusion" strategy for the almost one hundred
million people outside the labour market and a better co-ordinated disability policy are pri-
ority areas for the Swedish Presidency, Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health Maria
Larsson told the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on Wednesday. MEPs' ques-
tions centred on talks among EU Member States about the anti-discrimination directive,
and concern for the elderly, women, and young unemployed people.
To ensure healthy and dignified ageing, the Presidency aims to step up co-operation be-
tween health care and social care providers for elderly people. For population groups most
affected by the economic crisis, it intends to prepare the way for the 2010 "European Year
for combating poverty and social exclusion", inter alia by preparing an "active inclusion"
strategy. Disability policy, and especially the issue of accessibility, are also key issues,
said Ms Larsson.
Environment, public health and food safety
The long-term sustainability of fisheries, food and climate, as well as sound animal hus-
bandry and healthy animals, are key concerns for the Swedish Presidency, Agriculture
Minister Eskil Erlandsson told the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Commit-
tee on Wednesday.
The Presidency would like to conclude work on proposed obligations for operators placing
timber on the market and the novel food regulation. But progress will be harder to make
on the food labelling proposal, where a balance still has to be found between the needs of
consumers and industry, he added.
MEPs questioned Mr Erlandsson about the use of meat from cloned animals, the need to
tackle antibiotic resistance, loss of biodiversity, labelling of nanoparticles, organic food,
GMO labelling and pesticides.
The top climate change priority is to reach a comprehensive and ambitious agreement at
the upcoming UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Environment Minister Andreas Carl-
gren, told the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on Tuesday. MEPs
in general supported him but raised many questions on financing, the role and involve-
ment of the US, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), and developing coun-
tries, as well as a possible sanctions mechanism. On financing, Mr Carlgren summarized
his position as: "no money, no deal" and "no emissions reductions, no money".
The economic and financial crisis should be seen as an opportunity for Europe to move to-
wards a more eco-efficient society, he said, adding that developing a concrete EU strategy
for biodiversity and marine issues is another priority for the coming months.
Industry, research and energy
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"We can address both the economic crisis and the climate challenge at the same time" by
working for a shift towards "a European eco-efficient economy", Sweden's Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister for Industry Maud Olofsson Parliament's Industry Committee on
Wednesday. Ms Olofsson said she hoped an agreement with Parliament on the energy
efficiency package (energy performance of buildings directive, the energy labelling direc-
tive and the tyre labelling regulation) would be reached this autumn, so as "to send a clear
message to the international climate negotiations" in December in Copenhagen.
"The Swedish Presidency will do its utmost to prevent further disruption of gas supplies
to Europe", Ms Olofsson added. To enable the EU to deal with any supply disruption in
the future, the Presidency would start working on the Commission's proposal for a securi-
ty of natural gas supply regulation, she said. Moreover, the Swedish Presidency will also
try to reach a first reading agreement with MEPs on the European Earth observation pro-
gramme GMES, stressed Ms Olofsson.
Achieving "a swift conclusion" on the telecoms package had always been "a top priority",
Swedish minister for Communications Åsa Torstensson told Industry Committee MEPs on
Wednesday. The conciliation process should be "fast and limited", she said, because "it
is vital for both economic recovery and for consumer rights that the package be adopted
In May, MEPs and Council had reached a compromise at second reading on the package,
except for one EP amendment stressing that a user's Internet access cannot be restrict-
ed without prior ruling by the judicial authorities. "It is vital that we work in tandem to clarify
the importance of the Internet for disseminating information and for a lively democratic de-
bate", said Ms Torstensson, adding that "our efforts should be zealous and extend beyond
the telecoms package".
"Sweden considers that a larger proportion of the EU budget should be allocated to re-
search, innovation and other measures for promoting competitiveness" - and money
should be shifted from agriculture to the research budget - research minister Tobias Krantz
told Parliament's Industry Committee on Thursday. Furthermore, resources now allocated
to research could be used more effectively, he added. The minister agreed with MEPs that
the administrative burden imposed on researchers applying for funds under the EU's Sev-
enth Research Framework Programme should be simplified.
The Swedish Presidency will also give priority to "the quality of our universities and other
public research institutions and providers" by developing a European strategy for more in-
vestments at EU level "to strengthen the European knowledge building institutions".
Internal market and consumer protection
The best way of dealing with the draft legislation on consumer rights in the EU was the
main topic that the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee discussed with
Swedish minister Nyamko Sabuni. The draft directive is one of the Swedish Presidency's
priorities, but because of its legal, economic and political complexity it will not be possible
to finalise it within six months, said the minister. The labelling of textiles (a recast of exist-
ing legislation) and class actions (on which the Commission is due to put forward new leg-
islation) were also discussed.
In an economic crisis, keeping the internal market open is all the more important, argued
trade minister Ewa Björling. Improving the way the single market works, in order to boost
growth and jobs, is a key priorities of the Presidency, she said. MEPs welcomed this gen-
eral aim as well as the detailed action plan for the coming six months, which includes swift
and effective implementation of the services directive as well as legislative work on the
Community patent, European patent disputes, late payments in commercial transactions,
construction products and gambling.
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Transport will be part of the solution to climate change if the EU succeeds in establishing
a single transport system which encourages road-to-rail shift for freight and the use of in-
novative technology, Communications Minister Åsa Torstensson told the Transport and
Tourism Committee on Wednesday. She stressed the importance of transport infrastruc-
ture in securing economic recovery in an "eco-efficient economy", citing improved freight
logistics, intelligent transport systems and rail liberalisation as priority policy fields.
MEPs questioned the minister's ambitions, however, drawing to her attention the deep
budget cuts made by Council in all major EU transport initiatives for 2010. MEPs also ar-
gued that faster action is needed to put into practice the "internalisation of external costs"
for the environment, i.e. through the Eurovignette lorry charge. The Council must now
"move from words to actions", MEPs insisted.
"It is important for the Swedish Presidency to find a balance between the need to ease im-
plementation in the countries hardest hit by the economic crisis, while safeguarding the
fundamental principles of the structural funds", Enterprise and Energy Maud Olofsson told
the Regional Development Committee on Thursday, adding that the presidency expects
structural fund recipients to benefit substantially from measures to simplify their imple-
Another priority is the Baltic Sea strategy, which will not provide new funds, but should en-
sure that existing EU programmes work more efficiently. The presidency will also focus
on the transition to an eco-efficient economy, as 30% of the EU cohesion policy budget
for the EU´s cohesion policy is expected to be invested in the "green economy", and this
should continue after 2013, she said.
MEPs demand an ambitious agricultural policy agenda from the Swedish minister
Sustainable fisheries, food policy and climate change, and animal health are the
Presidency's top priorities, Agriculture minister Eskil Erlandsson told the Agriculture and
Rural Development Committee on Wednesday. The Presidency will seek agreements on-
the plan to extend the intervention period for dairy product storage, obligations for placing
timber products on the market, the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, food
information for consumers, and novel foods, he said. He also noted that Member States
have a duty to investigate discrepancies between wholesale and retail prices.
MEPs questioned Mr Erlandsson about decreasing subsidies for farmers, excessive bu-
reaucracy, the planned abolition of milk production quotas, the competitive situation of the
EU farmers vis-à-vis WTO requirements, discrepancies between wholesale and retail food
prices, the problems of small farmers, food labelling, animal transportation rules, and poli-
cy on genetically modified organisms (George Lyon, ALDE, UK). One doubted whether in-
creasing subsidies would be a viable solution, and warned against attempts to "re-nation-
alise" the common agricultural policy.
Here the Swedish Presidency will tackle three key issues: the fisheries control regulation,
the TAC and quota negotiations, and the smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty,
should it enter into force. The aim is "to reach a political agreement on the control regula-
tion at the Council meeting in October," Agriculture Minister Eskil Erlandsson told the Fish-
eries Committee on Wednesday. The Presidency will encourage small-scale fishing, he
added in reply to MEPs' questions.
Mr Erlandsson sought MEPs' specific backing for recovery and conservation plans to be
negotiated for Celtic cod, anchovy, western stocks of Atlantic horse mackerel and north-
ern hake. He also stressed the importance of Baltic Sea Strategy in co-ordinating Baltic
coastal development and bringing together EU activities in the environment, energy, com-
petitiveness and security fields.
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Culture and Education
"Our first priority concerns teachers and their professional development, including the role
of school leaders" Education minister Jan Björklund told the Culture and Education Com-
mittee on Wednesday, stressing that all teachers need professional development opportu-
nities and to become more mobile. The second priority is migration and education. Educa-
tion should help the children of migrants to become successful and productive citizens of
the country in which they live, he said. The third area is the "knowledge triangle", i.e. the
interaction between education, research and innovation.
"Promoting a creative generation" is the Presidency's overall motto in the area of culture
and media, said Culture minister Ms Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, adding that the Council
should adopt conclusions in November on "how we can promote the creativity of children
and young people and secure their access to culture".
Adopting the Stockholm programme is the Swedish presidency's main priority in legal af-
fairs, justice minister Beatrice Ask told Legal Affairs Committee MEPs on Wednesday. Re-
garding another key issue, the enforcement of judgments given by courts in another coun-
try, the minister mentioned the need for guidelines for the Brussels I regulation and aboli-
tion of the exequatur procedure. Other topics were the Community patent, the need to cut
red tape for small companies and greater emphasis on support for children in divorce cas-
Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK) backed the abolition of the exequatur procedure. She and com-
mittee chair Klaus-Heiner Lehne (EPP, DE) argued that more attention must be devoted to
contract law. Tadeusz Zwiefka (EPP, PL) called for coordinated legislation to deal with di-
vorce, inheritance and wills. Eva Lichtenberger (Greens/EFA, AT) believed that the Com-
munity patent could include non-EU countries.
Civil liberties, justice and home affairs
Justice minister Beatrice Ask announced an initiative on accrediting forensic labora-
tories to guarantee that information and data exchanged are compatible and useable
throughout the EU, "to be adopted before the end of the year". Negotiations on the frame-
work decision on procedural rights will also be restarted. The Presidency will also try to
reach agreement on a common instrument on interpretation and translation, a strategy to
strengthen the status of victims of crime in Europe, and an initiative on the transfer of pro-
ceedings between the judicial systems of the Member states. The Presidency will, also
seek agreement on framework decisions on the fight against trafficking in human beings
and on sexual exploitation of children, she added.
Immigration minister Tobias Billström stressed the need for well-managed immigration to
attract skills, adding that within the Stockholm co-operation programme, the fight against
illegal immigration should also respect a balance, "so that the security measures are
not taken at the expense of legal immigration". The Presidency aims to achieve political
agreement on the proposed resettlement mechanism, and an EP/Council agreement this
autumn on the European Asylum Support Office, he said.
The Swedish Presidency is preparing for a smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty -
provided it is ratified - European Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström told the Constitutional
Affairs Committee on Tuesday. It aims to have the Council take the necessary decisions,
inter alia to enable the 18 MEPs whose status depends on the treaty's ratification to start
work as soon as possible, and on arrangements for the European External Action Service.
If the treaty is adopted, the October European Council can deal with the nominations of
the President of the European Council, the High Representative and the new Commission,
she said, confirming the current Commission would continue in a caretaker capacity for a
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Committee members put several questions about appointments for to the new positions.
Ms Malmström declined to speculate on names, but assured Parliament it would be kept
informed of the issues. MEPs also voiced concern about the lack of public interest in Eu-
rope and urged the Presidency to push forward work on issues of most interest to citizens.
Women's rights and gender equality
To make it easier for women to start and run their own businesses and to reconcile pro-
fessional and family life, the Presidency expects to take negotiations forward with the Par-
liament on the maternity leave directive, the new anti-discrimination directive and the pro-
posal for equal treatment of self-employed women and men, Gender Equality Minister Ms
Nyamko Sabuni told the Women's Rights committee on Tuesday.
Committee MEPs congratulated the Presidency for paying particular attention to gender
equality in order to make women less vulnerable in times of economic downturn, but said
that more measures are needed to tackle the pay gap and unequal representation in ad-
ministration, in both in public and private sectors. MEPs were also concerned that Sweden
is blocking rules on cross-border divorces.
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