Reinfeldt called leaders from the Social Democrats, as well as the Left and Green Parties to his office for what turned into a 90 minute negotiation aimed at ensuring Sweden projects itself as a strong, unified country when it assumes the rotating EU presidency on June 1st.
The Prime Minister was keen to keep any of a number of divisive domestic political issues in the background during the six months he and the Swedish government will be speaking for the entire 27-country bloc.
“Everyone watching from the outside is going to see it as Sweden serving as the president of the EU. They aren’t going to divide us up into the government and opposition,” Reinfeldt told reporters ahead of the meeting.
While the move is geared to help ensure the government isn’t distracted by domestic political spats as it works to press its agenda in Europe, Reinfeldt emphasized that it wasn’t an attempt to muzzle all political debate.
“But it’s important to find a balance. There’s value in having the presidency managed well by small countries,” he said.
Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin stopped short of agreeing to refraining completely from holding Reinfeldt’s centre-right government to account, but said she understood the Prime Minister’s motivation.
“We respect the fact that Reinfeldt is going to dealing with some difficult issues. We want to have a good presidency with Reinfeldt in the middle. But we’re going to continue to be tough in political discussions,” she told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.
While she agreed to set aside petty political quarrels for the latter half of 2009, Sahlin said it would be hard to find agreement on issues related to the rights of union workers and the labour market.
“It’s not that we’re going to completely give up on political debate or stop being Social Democrats and Moderates, respectively,” she told Sveriges Radio (SR).
Following the meetings, however, Reinfeldt expressed his satisfaction with the understanding he reached with the three opposition political parties.
“I think we had a very good conversation about how it’s in Sweden’s interests that this go well and that we all have a responsibility for it,” Reinfeldt told SR.