EU ‘must not crack’ in 2017: Löfven

EU 'must not crack' in 2017: Löfven
File photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
Next year could be a politically stormy year that could hit the EU, including Sweden, hard, says PM as he looks forward to 2017.
A crumbling EU would have a directly bad effect on Sweden, according to the country's prime minister Stefan Löfven.
“We need an EU that is able to deliver, and an EU that is showing cracks would be directly bad for us,” said the PM in an interview with news agency TT.
Löfven was asked what would happen should populist French nationalist Marine Le Pen win her country's presidency in elections in May.
“I don't think it will happen, but there are no guarantees. We have seen other elections with unexpected results,” Löfven told TT. 
The Eurosceptic Le Pen has promised a national referendum on continued French EU membership should she prevail in the presidential election.
“Her party does not support EU co-operation, and [her election] is precisely what we don't need,” the PM said.
Another populist, Geert Wilders, is also expected to gain support when the Netherlands goes to the polls in the spring. German elections in the autumn could also mean significant gains for the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AFD) party.
Löfven refused to speculate on the results of these elections, but warned against growing right-wing populism in Europe. 
EU leaders have planned a summit at the beginning of 2017 in order to discuss how the wave of populism spreading across the continent should be met, not least following the British decision to leave the union, which is set to begin practical steps during the course of the year.
Another event likely to be of significance for Sweden and the EU is the ascension of Donald Trump to the American presidency. Trump's statements on economic and defence policies have already created concern and uncertainty.
The Swedish PM told TT that he hopes for clear answers in these two areas in particular.
“Sweden is a very trade-dependent country, 50 per cent of our BNP is export. It is extremely important for Sweden and we do not want any deals that restrict trade.”
The PM also wants clarification on Trump's position regarding Russia, citing concern in Europe of the possibility of the Trump administration taking a soft position on Russian aggression and the annexation of Crimea.
“For us as a small country it is immensely important to support international law. We want all other parties to do this too, including the Americans,” said Löfven.
Löfven describes the conversation he had with the president-elect in Novemebr as “positive”, saying that he found Trump easy to talk to.
“The USA is as important country and we will strive to continue improving relations,” he said.
But Trump has also raised alarm by questioning climate change and the Paris Agreement and by nominating climate change deniers, such as forthcoming foreign minister Rex Tillerson, for key positions in government.
“On the other hand, Trump has pronounced an 'open attitude' to the Paris Agreement. This is important and what I wanted to confirm during our telephone conversation. It is important that we are in agreement,” said Löfven.
Swedish diplomats and ministers will find themselves in the centre of international politics more often than usual in 2017 as Sweden takes its place at one of the non-permanent seats in the UN's Security Council.
This will require good relations with leaders such as Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping.
“We will try to build bridges between the five permanent members (the US, UK, France, Russia and China) and promote our themes: equality, better conflict prevention and stronger efforts for peacekeeping,” Löfven said.