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Sweden and UK find common cause on EU

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08:54 CEST+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.”

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