Sweden assumes EU Presidency: Top priorities for the next six months

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Sweden assumes EU Presidency: Top priorities for the next six months
On January 1st, Sweden will assume the EU Presidency. Photo by ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND / Unsplash

As the country holding the EU presidency, Sweden's most important task will be keeping the European Union (EU) united. But many issues divide EU countries – such as migration, energy, and new sanctions against Russia.


Sweden took over the EU Presidency on January 1st. Swedish ministers and civil servants will lead negotiations on upwards of 300 issues during approximately 2,000 meetings, mainly in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Sweden will have the difficult job of finding compromises between the EU countries and building consensus in European institutions.


1. Migration

Migration is an issue that continuously creates tension between EU countries. This may also be the case during the Swedish EU presidency this spring.

The Netherlands and Austria have pushed for an extraordinary summit in February, which will be devoted to migration issues.

"They are now experiencing waves of migration that are getting close to what we saw in 2015. For them, this is an urgent problem, and they are now demanding that Europe act," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said after the last EU summit.

During the Swedish presidency, work will continue on a series of legislative proposals that lay the foundation for a new migration system in the EU. But urgent refugee issues may need to be resolved in the spring.

2. Climate

The large climate package "Fit for 55" previously looked like it would be one of the heaviest things for Sweden to work through.

The package contains several measures aimed at helping the EU to reach the goal of 55 percent lower emissions by 2030.

EU states still need to agree on multiple energy and transport issues, including energy efficiency, energy taxation, renewable energy sources, and new rules for aviation fuel.


3. Restoring natural areas

Climate and Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari will have to deal with the sensitive question of restoring natural areas.

Sweden has a number of critical points of view and worries about the consequences of measures to restore forests and land when it comes to everything - from forestry and mining to park planning and military training fields.


4. Concerns about American competitiveness advantage

At the last summit in December, EU leaders spent hours discussing the EU's deteriorating competitiveness and the US's large aid package to mitigate the effects of inflation.

The package contains major investments in the green transition, which are certainly welcomed by EU countries, but at the same time, make Europe worry that the subsidies will give American companies a competitive advantage.

As usual, Member States have different views on how to solve competition problems. Some call for state support and move in a protectionist direction; other, more free trade-oriented countries, such as Sweden, are more hesitant about such solutions.

In January, the EU Commission will present an analysis of how to proceed.


5. War

The war in Ukraine will likely leave the most significant mark on the Swedish EU Presidency.

The EU countries may have to agree on new support packages for Ukraine and new sanctions against Russia.

So far, the EU countries have managed to stick together. However, the relationship becomes increasingly strained with each new sanctions package against Russia.

The war against Ukraine has led to energy issues becoming acute in the EU.


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