Gothenburg braces for EU social summit

Gothenburg braces for EU social summit
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
Fair jobs and growth are on the agenda when heads of government and senior EU officials meet in Gothenburg on Friday. But travel chaos is expected in the city, with several roads being closed off for the occasion.

Svenska Mässan in central Gothenburg, where the participants will sleep, and Eriksbergshallen where the summit will be held, are to be cordoned off as early as Wednesday, reports news agency TT.

On Thursday afternoon, when they arrive at Landvetter Airport, and on Friday when they return, the motorway will be closed for the motorcade driving the politicians from the airport to the city.

“The traffic situation will be difficult both on Thursday and Friday,” said police officer Erik Nord.

The regional local authority Västra Götalandsregionen has urged staff to try to arrange their meetings on Skype rather than in person. Many schools have said they plan to stay closed on Thursday and Friday.

A doctor's surgery behind the cordons said they had had to reschedule patient appointments.

“Patients with urgent needs will have to go elsewhere. Or wait until we can open again. But it will be difficult getting appointments for weeks to come,” said Närhälsan Eriksberg boss Annika Robinson.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and EU Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker have invited the EU's heads of state and government to the social summit.

Both France's President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Theresa May are scheduled to attend. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finland and Cyprus have so far turned down the invitation.

European leaders are expected to sign the EU's new pillar of social rights during the summit, and discuss “how to make the most of new opportunities and tackle common challenges for the labour markets and welfare models of today and tomorrow”.

Löfven has argued that EU leaders have spent years and billions on bringing banks and indebted member states back on their feet after the financial crisis, but have not put the same effort into helping for example unemployed young people and pensioners below the poverty line.

He said in a recent interview with TT that it is time to look at the social consequences of the financial crisis, and ensure that the benefits of growth reaches all citizens in the European Union.

“If we don't manage to do this then the whole of the EU will have a gigantic problem of people who are scared of the future and who will be attracted to extremism, populism and nationalism,” he said.