On January 1, 2023, Sweden took over the semi-annual rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union from the Czech Republic. During the six-month period, Sweden will lead the work of the Council, build cooperation and agreement between all EU Member States.
Against the background of the war in Ukraine and its consequences, Sweden would face “unprecedented challenges” in the six months to the end of June 2023, according to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. In a nutshell, the country will focus on security, competitiveness, climate and energy as well as democracy.
In terms of security, the war in Ukraine will be the top priority when Sweden holds the presidency of the EU for the next six months. As stated by Kristersson in mid-December in his speech when announcing the priorities: “The unity the EU has demonstrated since Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine is a strength. We are interconnected and we are better together.” Sweden will prioritize continued economic and military aid to Ukraine as well as support Ukraine in implementing reforms so that the country can get closer to EU membership. The Swedes also face a difficult task in holding the EU together against Russia. Hungaryhas stood in the way several times when, for example, the EU wants to introduce further sanctions against Russia.
In addition to dealing with the consequences of the war in Ukraine as a matter of urgency, the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU would like to draw more political attention to efforts to promote economic growth. On competitiveness, Europe’s strength on the global stage depends on a strong economy. In the short term, Sweden must work with the countermeasure to the USA’s huge state aid package Inflation Reduction Act and in the long term strengthen the competitiveness of European companies.
Turning to climate and energy, Sweden would like to further strengthen the global pioneering role of the European Union on climate issues. The country aims to bring down the high energy prices and reform the energy market in the EU. A faster transition to green energy will help the EU meet a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030. Here, the “Fit for 55” package is crucial for achieving the EU’s climate goals.
Lastly, in the context of democracy and rule of law, the Swedish EU Council Presidency emphasizes the preservation of the fundamental values of the EU as an important task, especially against the background of the war in Ukraine. Therefore, Sweden will fight to uphold the EU’s values of the rule of law and democracy. Here, the EU and especially Hungary and Poland have been on edge for a long time. Most recently, the EU countries have approved the freezing of EU funds for Hungary until the country implements reforms.