Sweden gives mixed signals on EU constitution

The Swedish government has said it still plans to put the EU constitution to parliament, despite rejection of the document in referendums in France and the Netherlands. The prime minister’s closest aide, Lars Danielsson, has rejected calls for Sweden’s ratification plans to be dropped.

But the prime minister, Göran Persson, said on Thursday that the results of the referendums should not be ignored:

“The most dangerous thing now, the most stupid and in my opinion the least sensible political thing, would be to send a signal that we are not influenced by this. It is clear that we are,” Persson told news agency TT.

Politicians from across the political divide in Sweden have called for the constitutional treaty to be put out of its misery. Lars Ohly, leader of the Eurosceptic Left Party, says that the constitution should be “buried”.

“If Göran Persson can’t see that, then I think he’s broken all records for arrogance,” he told Swedish Television.

Ohly also sad that he would have difficulty in continuing his party’s alliance with Persson’s government unless it halted moves to approve the treaty.

Ohly’s views were shared by the Green and Liberal parties. Lars Leijonborg, leader of the pro-European Liberals, said that EU heads of government should agree to “put the constitution on ice.”

Yet Lars Danielsson, state secretary in Göran Persson’s office, told news agency TT that Sweden would continue with the ratification process:

“It is important that every country gets a chance to have its say on this constitution. Then we can draw conclusions about how to handle this in the future.”

The Swedish government’s policy is in line with the plea from European Commission president Jose Manuel Barrosso for member states not to take unilateral action before heads of government meet at a summit in Brussels on 16th and 17th June.

Persson said he hoped that EU summit would result in a “fruitful discussion on how to continue”.

But he cautioned that if France or the Netherlands, based on the outcome of their respective votes, asked for a renegotiation of the treaty the process of ratification would be “completely interrupted”, he said.

Meanwhile, Danielsson confirmed the government would go ahead with its plan to refer the document to the Swedish Council of Laws on Thursday. The council will judge whether the treaty is compatible with Sweden’s own constitution.

Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the opposition Moderate Party, also argued that the Dutch and French ‘no’ votes should not derail Swedish attempts to approve the treaty.

“We ought to wait until the European Council of Ministers’ meeting on 16th and 17th June before we draw radical conclusions,” he said in a statement.

But, added Reinfeldt, “the Swedish ambition ought to be to complete the ratification process.”

The Local/AFP