The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Posts Tagged ‘Cameron’

Europe: After the Vote

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Much ink has already been spilled (or many keys have already been tapped) in analysing the European Council’s decision to nominate Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission.

My government has been clear that the decision was wrong in principle, as a matter as process and as an issue of policy.

For that reason the UK stood up for the principle that the European Council – the elected national leaders – should be the ones to propose the Commission President, not be dictated to by political groups in the European Parliament.

This was a position shared by all three main political parties in Britain. In the UK, as in most other EU countries, the so-called Spitzencandidates had been invisible in the elections. The notion that they automatically represented the conscious choice of a European demos is nonsense.

So it was important and welcome that the European Council agreed to review what has happened and to consider how we handle the appointment of the next Commission President. We need to ensure we get a choice of high-quality candidates in the future.

This whole process has reinforced my Prime Minister’s conviction, as he said in Brussels, that the EU needs to change to address the concerns of citizens across Europe and thus close the gap between people in Europe and the EU institutions.

For us, it’s clear that the status quo – “Brussels as usual” – is not right for the EU of today, let alone that of tomorrow. We won’t be able to sustain a diverse, flexible and competitive continent unless we look the challenges and opportunities of modernity and globalisation in the face.

The Prime Minister was clear that Britain’s national interest still lies in our membership of a reformed EU and that he is determined to achieve that through discussion and renegotiation.

He, with others, secured progress in a number of important respects at the Council:

For the first time all Member States have agreed that the EU will need to address Britain’s concerns about the EU in the next few years. We know these are shared by others.

Leaders have also agreed that “ever closer union” allows for different paths of integration for different countries and to respect the wish of those who do not want deeper integration.

We have also embedded Britain’s push for reform, which is shared by other Partners, in the Council’s mandate for the Commission for the next five years:

-prioritising work to building stronger economies and creating jobs.

-making clear the EU should only act where it makes a real difference – leaving it to nation-states where it doesn’t.

– giving national parliaments a stronger role.

– tackling issues that worry voters such as the abuse of free movement in certain countries.

Of course, this is only a start and more change is needed. The PM accepts that what happened in Brussels on Friday will make reform tougher and the stakes higher. But he’s clear that reforming the EU and the UK’s role within is necessary and also achievable.

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A Wake-Up Call for Europe

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Tonight David Cameron pays his second visit to Sweden in just over two years. In 2012 it was to meet his Nordic and Baltic counterparts. Tonight and tomorrow Prime Minister Reinfeldt is again his host, this time at Harpsund. And this time, the German Chancellor and Dutch Prime Minister will be the other participants. At a crucial moment in the European debate they’ll be charting a reform course for the EU. Here’s the article I published in the leading Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri today, setting out our view of the reform challenges ahead.


Today David Cameron comes to Sweden to discuss the future of Europe.

Two weeks ago citizens voted across Europe to elect a new European Parliament.

Earthquakes, tremors, seismic waves: the media air was full of metaphors as pundits reflected on the emerging results.

The analogy that sprung to my mind was less a natural disaster than a wake-up call.

Some will say the results in the UK suggest that it’s already too late: that Britain has overslept and is sleepwalking out of the EU.

The UK government disagrees. These results show that people across Europe are disillusioned with the EU. Not a surprise, given the longest recession in living memory. But this is about more than economics: it’s about politics too. A return to growth, crucial though that is, will not solve all the EU’s problems. What we need is a serious rethink of where the EU goes next and how.

That was the message my Prime Minister took to the European Council dinner on 27 May. It was a message echoed around the table.

This is not a moment for the EU to panic. But emphatically it is not a time to return to business as usual.

What we need is new thinking, some new faces and a new agenda for the next Commission and the next 5 years, set by the European Council. Many leaders are committed to reforming the European Union.

That’s why David Cameron, along with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands , has accepted the invitation of Fredrik Reinfeldt, to meet at Harpsund on 9-10 June, to look at the real reform challenges facing the EU up to 2020 and beyond.

For the UK, these concern above all competitiveness, fairness and flexibility.

Competitiveness, because the election results speak to a deep concern that Europe has lost sight of its key mission, to secure prosperity for its citizens. The next Commission, the member states, national parliaments and the European Parliament need a ruthless focus on creating jobs and growth. More free trade, less, and smarter, regulation, fewer barriers to commerce and innovation: these must be the watchwords if we are to respond effectively to the challenges of globalisation and demographic change.

Fairness, because the evolution of the Union needs to work for all member states, large and small, inside and outside the eurozone. We need eurozone governments to take the right decisions to stabilise and strengthen governance of the single currency. But access to the single market, and non-discriminatory treatment of all member states, not least those with big financial sectors like Sweden and Britain, means a fairer EU is integral to a more competitive EU.

And with competitiveness and fairness must come greater flexibility. If Sunday’s results demonstrate anything it’s that the EU’s institutions have become dangerously remote from those who pay for them and elect them. Centralisation and harmonisation in the pursuit of an abstract ideal need to be replaced with a more modern vision: where, as the Dutch government has said, it’s Europe where necessary, national where possible.

As long ago as 2001 Europe’s Heads agreed that powers could flow down as well as up, away from the centre as well as toward Brussels. It’s long past time to act on that.

The elections were thus a wake-up call for Europe. Some Europeans, although not many Swedes, have had a tendency to decry the UK debate on Europe, “noisy neighbours” endlessly questioning the status quo, the acquis, the Project.

But increasingly our debate is a Europe-wide debate, not about dismantling the European Union, but about adapting it for the future.

And it’s essentially a cross-party issue in Britain. Of course the Westminster parties differ on the details. The Conservatives would have an in-out referendum, following negotiation of a new settlement for the UK in Europe, by the end of 2017. Labour and the Liberals would have such a referendum only in the event of a Treaty change transferring powers from Britain to Brussels.

But all agree on the need to reform Europe.

As David Cameron concluded his Bloomberg speech in January 2013: “I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it… I will not rest until this debate is won. For the future of my country. For the success of the European Union. And for the prosperity of our peoples for generations to come. “

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Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
The 2013 Global Innovation Index lists Sweden and the UK as two of the world’s top three countries for performance in innovation, based on a survey of 84 different measures in 142 countries.
The British Olympics team had the motto “better never stops”. Similarly with innovation, I think: it’s when you’re at or near the top of the league that you need to redouble your efforts to stay there.
With that in mind, the UK invited participants from 22 countries to London for an Innovation Conference last month, as part of our G8 Presidency. There were almost three hundred delegates, more than half from overseas.
Well known UK speakers included Sir Richard Branson, Ron Dennis (Chair of McLaren sports cars) and Thomas Heatherwick (designer of the new London bus).
Check out PM Cameron’s speech at the Conference as well as a various other speakers and information from the conference.
The Prime Minister announced a new £1m ‘Longitude’ innovation challenge prize for inventors or scientists who could identify and solve “the biggest problem of our time”, such as curing diabetes or dementia.
This was inspired by the Longitude Prize of 1714, which the then British government created to help determine how to work out a ship’s longitude and make long distance sailing voyages safer and more predictable.
The Prime Minister also launched a £50m Global Development Innovation Ventures initiative, also designed to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
The Swedish/UK relationship in innovation continues to flourish, following John Gurdon’s Nobel Prize last year.
On 27 June, a British Professor, Colin Carlile, was awarded the Order of the Polar Star by the Swedish Minister for Education and Research, Jan Björklund. The award was recognition of Professor Carlile’s significant contributions to the European Spallation Source project in Lund, a facility for materials research and life sciences.
On 5 September, another British Professor, Dr Peter Morgan, will become the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate 2013 for his work as a sanitation innovator. His efforts are helping to protect the health and lives of millions of people through improved sanitation and water technologies.
So healthy water and healthier lives are the fruits of our innovators: it’s great that Sweden and the UK are good at recognising them.

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An informal forum for Prime Ministers

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

John Thurlow, Nordic Baltic Network Coordinator at the British Embassy shares his impressions from the Northern Future Forum 2013 in a guest blog:

What an experience! I have been fortunate to attend many events in my career to date, but the Northern Future Forum (NFF) is probably the most inspiring experience I’ve been a part of. To get up close and personal to so many Prime Ministers in such an informal setting as the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Riga is an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often.

So what is the Northern Future Forum and why does it matter to the UK? The concept of the Northern Future Forum was conceived by David Cameron in 2011 when he hosted the first event in the UK. Essentially, the idea is to bring together the Prime Ministers from the UK and Nordic Baltic countries with a wide range of creative, imaginative and dynamic experts to look at policy themes that affect us all. The forum stimulates a sharing of knowledge and experience and wide ranging debate. As David Cameron said in his opening remarks at this year’s event, it is usually that PM’s speak to audiences and ask them to listen. The Northern Future Forum is different in that it requires the PMs to listen to the experts. The whole ambience of the event is different to anything I’ve experienced previously. Its relaxed atmosphere encourages innovative thinking. Even the PMs remove their ties, roll up their sleeves and look to the sky for inspiration. This is very different to the other more formal gatherings that are the norm.

This year’s Forum focussed on two key policy themes: The Green Economy and Addressing the Digital Divide. Over 50 experts from throughout the region briefed the PMs and shared knowledge and experience with their peers. The UK team was most inspiring. Nick O’Donohoe (CEO of Big Society Capital) spoke about Social investment and the Green Economy. Joanna Shields (CEO of Tech City) and Liam Maxwell (Chief Technology Officer) spoke about digital innovation and e government respectively. Tom Hulme, (Design Director at IDEO) shared his experiences of using innovation and design to promote and develop new business opportunities. Peter Boyd shared his Carbon War Room work (a “not for profit” organisation that seeks ways for businesses to make money out of reducing carbon emissions).  We were also fortunate to include Niklas Zennstrom (CEO Skype) who briefed the Prime Ministers over lunch on his business experiences in developing the Skype phenomenon.

At the closing session, Nick Boles the UK Planning Minister (standing in for the Prime Minister who had to depart slightly early) said that it was clear the legacy systems of old had to change. In this respect, the UK could learn a lot from our Baltic neighbours who were less encumbered by legacy. On green growth Nick was struck by a message delivered through several experts – it’s not sustainable if it’s not supportable. You can’t therefore rely on government subsidies for ever.

And for me, I was really struck by the sheer depth of knowledge and number of exciting and innovative ideas that are out there. I feel privileged to have played a small part in bringing them to the ears of the Prime Ministers. Roll on Helsinki 2014!

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EU and US – partners for prosperity

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

As Carl Bildt underlined in the Riksdag today, the US is Europe’s main international partner, on the security and prosperity agendas.

So the UK government welcomes, as Sweden does, President Obama’s call in his State of the Union Speech last night for what he called “a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” with the EU. Britain has been arguing hard for this, including in our role as G8 presidency.

David Cameron said today:

“It’s great that President Obama has set out his determination to agree a trade deal between the EU and the United States. We discussed this issue on Monday and we are both committed to launching negotiations this year. A deal will create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic and make our countries more prosperous. Breaking down the remaining trade barriers and securing a comprehensive deal will require hard work and bold decisions on both sides. But I am determined to use my chairmanship of the G8 to help achieve this and to help European and American businesses succeed in the global race.”

Our Trade Minister, Lord Green added that this was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalise trade fully between the world’s two largest trading blocs. An agreement could boost the European economy by more than £50bn – the biggest prize from any trade deal currently under way.”

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2012: 12 Highlights

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

This is my last blog of the year. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Herewith twelve personal highlights from a fascinating, fun and fast-moving year in Sweden:

  • January saw the first of many Ministerial visits this year. Lord Green, our Business Minister came for a big meeting on smart grids and renewable energy, one of many trade and investment sectors linking the UK and Sweden;
  • February involved a two-day visit by Prime Minister David Cameron, here to attend the second Northern Future Forum, bringing together PMs and policy experts from the UK and the Nordic-Baltic countries, this year looking at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society and how to get more women into the workforce.
  • March was a particular highlight, with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, spending three days in and around Stockholm, looking at social integration, education, architecture, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  All areas where our governments, businesses and societies are working together.
  • April saw me in Gothenburg for a great event with British and Swedish business leaders and sportspeople marking 100 days to go the London Olympics.
  • May’s highlight was my first visit to Malmö, an opportunity to meet local politicians, journalists and business people and to talk to students at the university of Lund about the UK and Europe.
  • In June, we hosted two big receptions, one in partnership with the BBC and one with Brunswick, to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, including a concert of English music from across the centuries. And it was a privilege to attend the centenary events for the Stockholm 1912 Olympics and to receive Stockholm’s good wishes for the London games.
  • July meant Almedalen and several days of sunshine and seminars in the glorious surroundings of Visby.
  • August included a lovely week’s break in Sandhamn, enjoying the splendours of the archipelago.
  • September was visits season again, with the Head of the UK Civil Service coming to Stockholm to see how an Embassy works. Happily, he went away impressed!
  • October saw two more excellent visits, by our Europe Minister, David Lidington and the Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, talking respectively about the prosperity and security interests the UK and Sweden have in common.
  • November saw England’s footballers given the honour of inaugurating the new Friends Arena and of being spectators to an amazing display by Zlatan!
  • December saw a British winner! Sir John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his ground-breaking research on reprogramming of cells. Work begun 50 years ago, which has led to stem cell research and the promise of cures which will benefit our grandchildren’s generation. A forward-looking and cheerful note on which to end. Every best wish for a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year!

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Reaching the summit

Monday, January 24th, 2011

And so… the first ever UK Nordic Baltic Summit duly took place – without the intervention of Vikings and longboats, as my previous blogs predicted – on 20 January at the Whitechapel Gallery in East London.  The Prime Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland , Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania travelled to UK with delegations of around a dozen business leaders, civil society and government representatives to pool their best and brightest ideas under three policy themes:  technology and innovation, jobs, family and gender equality, and the green economy/sustainable business.

The morning’s business at the Whitechapel Gallery consisted of 45 presentations grouped into three sessions, one on each policy theme, with five breakout groups running simultaneously each time. Each theme had a Chair and the Prime Ministers spread across the breakout groups and joined the other participants in listening to the presenters and joining in lively discussions afterwards. After lunch the Plenary session was opened to around 100 media representatives from across the region and David Cameron asked each Chair in turn to report back on the morning sessions and to moderate comments from presenters and PMs.

And this did indeed prove to be an exercise in Asummitry, innovative, sparky and thought-provoking.  The concept of wellbeing worked its way through the themes of the conference, as did ideas that focussed on how to build strong family and social structures and promote innovation and entrepreneurship.   There was also a strong interest in the idea that the UK, Nordic and Baltic countries could become an avant-garde for delivering jobs and growth and the potential for the North and Baltic Sea countries to become the world’s leading green region.

Of course a good part of the value of this kind of event is in what it delivers by way of follow up, but the networks and energy created in London will be a great platform.  Meantime, do have a look at the presentations to the Summit.

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Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Those of you that saw my blog from Monday will know that David Cameron will today shake hands with the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the eight Nordic and Baltic countries at the front door of No10 Downing Street at the beginning of the UK Nordic Baltic Summit.  As I said in that blog, this is no ordinary summit but rather an exercise in alternative summitry.  Or asummitry, to coin a term.  It will be a fascinating couple of days.

The brakes are released today when Lord Green hosts a trade conference in London with leading business figures from across the Nordic and Baltic nations. The conference aims to put a further burst of energy into trade and investment among the nine countries, especially in the areas of low carbon and technology and innovation.

But this is an exercise that builds on a recent track record of considerable achievement.  The Nordic and Baltic countries are key partners in trade and inward investment – two-way trade in goods and services is worth over £50bn a year, a figure that roughly equates to the value of our trade with France.  Last year saw a 13% rise in foreign direct investment in the UK from the Nordic markets.  We also share an ambitious approach to building out the low-carbon economy and taking advantage of moving early into green goods and services to ensure that we both lead the push for a sustainable global economy and put our businesses in the box seat to capitalise on this new economy as it rolls out across the world. Today’s event in London is also an opportunity to remind our trade and investment partners in the Nordic and Baltic region that the UK is the number one location in Europe for inward investment and the number one location to do business.  And in low carbon energy we are probably the most ambitious nation in Europe.

OK, so that’s a big claim to make.  But we have reason to make it.  The UK has the largest offshore wind market in the world, with the potential to account for 32GW of electricity generation by 2020 – enough to supply 25% of the UK’s energy needs. This creates huge inward investment opportunities. We have a highly skilled workforce with experience in working offshore, world-leading testing infrastructure under construction in the north east of England, and strong companies already active in the sector: both home-grown such as JDR Cables, and inward investors such as Dong, Vestas, Vattenfall, Statoil – companies from – you guessed it – the Nordic and Baltic region. And to encourage manufacturing companies to set up here the Government has announced up to £60m to support the establishment of offshore wind manufacturing at ports sites in England while the Scottish Government is providing a further £70m for port infrastructure in Scottish ports.

So we’ve a lot of work to do together.  Asummitrically, too.

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Move over, Hagar the Horrible

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Those of you that are avid readers of the FT may have spotted James Crabtree’s piece today announcing a forthcoming “Viking invasion” of Downing Street.  Before anyone gets too many ideas, I have it on good advice that the Swedish Prime Minister will not be turning up in a longboat.  But turning up he will be, alongside a rather more post-modern cast of movers and shakers from the eight Nordic and Baltic countries.  The only things that will be stormed will be brains.

Some stereotypes may however prove helpful.  This is a very different kind of event and the idealised Nordic informality is hard-wired into both the format and the intent of the meeting.  I can’t myself think of anything else like it.  The five Nordic heads of state and government will be joined by David Cameron and their three Baltic counterparts but also by an array of businesspeople, policy-thinkers, entrepreneurs and social innovators for a day of interactive discussion.

The format will be more Californian than Baltic, with rapid-fire parallel presentations in adjoining rooms and the participants will move backwards and forwards around the event contributing ideas, listening to feedback and helping shape thinking.  The aim is to proliferate great ideas for promoting not just GDP but also General Wellbeing.  And unlike most diplomatic encounters, the ideas and the networks – rather than a tortuous communiqué drafted by wonks like me – will be the outcome.  In any event it’s something new, ambitious and creative.  And something, I suspect, that may grow legs of its own, get up and walk.

The Swedes are better known today for social entrepreneurship than coastal raiding, looting and pillaging.  Move over, Hägar the Horrible.

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I’m feeling better already, thanks Doc

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Prime Minister Reinfeldt visited London on Thursday.  After the meeting at No10 the Prime Minister joined David Cameron for a visit to Bart’s Hospital in the East End of London.  This was not motivated, I’m pleased to say, by the need for an unplanned trip to the Emergency Room for either Head of Government.  But rather to see at first hand a great example of UK/Swedish cooperation that’s both good for business and good for the community.

The reason for this is that Bart’s is undergoing a huge refurbishment project under the leadership of the Swedish construction contractor Skanska.  And it’s an extraordinary project.  This is not just because it is turning a building that was somewhat the worse for wear into a bright, modern hospital.  But it is also because of the ways that Skanska has thought about how it makes a positive impact on the people and places around Bart’s.  And this is impressive.

Get this.  Skanska reduced its deliveries to the site by 78% by using a specially designed offsite consolidation centre that reduced considerably disruption to local residents and the community.  Fully 92% of the waste from the project is reused or recycled.  Skanska have brought jobs to the area, employing over 20,000 people at various stages in the project and giving priority to workers from the local community (in fact 15% of the jobs went to locals).  Bart’s was also part of the Skanska Project, an initiative that the company undertook to work with the long term unemployed – to assist them into sustainable employment in the construction industry and to up-skill the existing workforce. 96 candidates completed the initial pre-employment training and 55 then gained employment through the Skanska supply chain.  Meanwhile Skanska assisted a diverse work force to gain 123 NVQs. It’s not for nothing that the project was the Winner of European Business Award for the Environment 2010 and the City of London Considerate Contractor Environment Award 2010.  And Skanska was the winner of the 2010 Sunday Times Greenest Company award.

The Prime Ministers – and indeed all of us that visited – saw for ourselves what a difference it makes when a company thinks more widely about what it can achieve.  And this is a great model for the future. We plan for UK infrastructure investment worth some £200 billion over the next five years. In the same period Sweden will be spending £45 billion on rail and road infrastructure.  This means jobs and investment and opportunities for British and Swedish companies that think green and think big. I’m feeling better already, thanks Doc.

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