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Sweden and UK find common cause on EU

Published: 08 Jun 2010 08:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Jun 2010 08:54 GMT+02:00

Sweden’s EU minister Birgitta Ohlsson has said she felt “quite safe” with her new British counterpart, after previously expressing concerns that the UK’s Conservatives would pursue a stridently anti-European programme.

Ohlsson, a strong EU-enthusiast, made the comments after meeting David Lidington, Europe Minister in David Cameron’s Liberal-Conservative coalition and Poland’s Europe Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz in Stockholm on Monday.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Ohlsson said the UK was a “core player in cooperation with Sweden.” In an indication that the change of government in London would make little difference to the priorities of UK-Swedish relations, she added that the two countries agreed on the EU’s budget review, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy and promoting free trade.

“A lot of European governments are not promoting free trade so much,” she said.

Ohlsson had previously expressed her anxiety that Cameron “hold EU-opponents in check in his party.” Her comments on Monday suggested she had got her wish:

“From our discussions today, we share a common agenda, not only when it comes to free trade and reforming the budget, but also when it comes to climate issues, and I know that Prime Minister Cameron is pushing as hard as Gordon Brown did [on climate issues].”

“I would like to think today that the UK and Sweden were the most radical countries in the European Union when it comes to pushing for progressive policies on environmental issues. I would like this link to be very strong, and that’s what I’ve heard today too.”

Lidington, known as a moderate Eurosceptic, called the EU a “very important institution,” while emphasising that his party was “sceptical of grand designs.”

He called for countries outside the eurozone, such as the UK, Sweden and Poland, not to be shut out of important economic decisions:

“It’s important that we continue to talk about strategic economic issues at the level of 27, because there are issues that are going to effect every European country. But I think every country, including the United Kingdom, has got to shoulder responsibility to contribute to the solution of the economic crisis in Europe today.”

James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

19:52 June 8, 2010 by TheEye
This is a great shame, because many of us in England want a "stridently anti-European programme". A substantial and growing minority want out entirely.

We voted for Mr Lidington's Conservative Party because it was the nearest group to offer even the slightest backbone when dealing with our EU enemies, but it appears we will once again be disappointed. He's as bad as all the other sell-outs.
01:50 June 9, 2010 by dr_gorsky
In response to the submission from "TheEye"

As a British citizen I am a little taken aback by your comments and for the sake of any international readers I have to state my objection. In my humble opinion your comments are not representative of the UK. First of all let us not forget that we are talking about the UK government; this has to reflect the views of all the constituent nations, not just England. And I think you'll find Scotland at least is pro-Europe. Furthermore, I would be interested to learn your basis for claiming England desires an anti-European programme. If this was indeed the case then surely parties such as UKIP (UK Independence Party) would have gained significant support in the recent election. I would argue that the Conservatives success in the election was largely due to our "first past the post" electoral system. This promotes two party politics and as Labour had such a bad reputation the Conservatives were chosen only for the sake of change, rather than for any specific policy.

I for one am grateful for the EU, I know it is not perfect but it allows me to work and to travel freely across this wonderful continent and no doubt it would have been significantly harder for me to come to Sweden without it. Let us also recognise that the major economic powers in this world are the USA, China and Europe. Would England really have the strength to compete single handedly against these giants?

After meeting so many wonderful people from so many nations I struggle to understand how these anti-European (and in some cases xenophobic) attitudes can exist. I would hope that those that harbour these feelings go out and experience life in their neighbouring nations, have their horizons broadened and learn that being a part of the EU is not necessarily a bad thing.
13:35 June 9, 2010 by Audrian
The problem with UK is it has not been able to reconcile is pro-US stance with its pro-Europe stance. I remember one time whem Mr. Tony Blare in an interview said he hoped a time would not come that he had to decide between the US and Europe. It is one thing to look at the US as an ally but to confuse it with Britain's identity is another thing.
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