How will Sweden’s policies be shaped during the EU Presidency?

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The year 2022 has witnessed two important developments for Sweden. First of all, the Stockholm administration has put an end to the neutrality policy that has been careful not to be included in military alliances for many years after the Russia-Ukraine War that started on February 24, 2022. In this context, Sweden has applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The second important development is that the right-wing coalition came to power in the country after the general elections held in Sweden in September 2022.

On the other hand, Sweden has become the president of an important position in the European Union (EU) as of 2023. In this context, Stockholm has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU as of January 1, 2023. Therefore, it can be assumed that the dynamics caused by the mentioned developments will be effective in the process of the Swedish Presidency.

In addition to all these, it is useful to mention the task of the EU Presidency and the structure of the council.  The Presidency of the Council of the EU is held every six months on a rotating basis between EU member states. During this period, the Presidency chairs meetings of the Council at all levels and plays a decisive role in ensuring the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council. There is also no election for the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Each Member State in turn carries out this task. The Presidency of the Council of the EU has two main duties. The first is planning and presiding over meetings in the EU Council and preparatory bodies. The second represents the Council in its dealings with other EU institutions. In other words, the Presidency carries out the Council’s relations with other EU institutions, especially the European Commission and the European Parliament (EP).[1]

As can be understood, Sweden has started to chair an extremely important task within the EU. In particular, the war conjuncture in Europe, the economic faltering of some countries in the union and the problems experienced in terms of energy pose some challenges to Stockholm.

On the other hand, on December 14, 2022, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced that Stockholm would focus on four essential points during the EU Council Presidency. These include security, competitiveness, environmental and energy transition, and democratic values and the rule of law.[2]

Nevertheless, the Swedish Government has announced that it will prioritize economic and military support for Kiev in the security phase, as well as supporting Ukraine in EU membership. Stockholm has also drawn attention to the fight against cross-border organised crime. In the competitiveness clause, the most urgent measure is devoted to the war in Ukraine and its short-term consequences. Moreover, it was emphasized that Europe’s strength, resilience and global standing are linked to economic output, which is closely linked to single market and global trade opportunities. While the long-term energy market reform was discussed under the title of environment and energy transition, it was stated that efforts to combat high and variable energy prices would continue.[3]

Predictably, the most important challenge for Sweden will be the effects of the Russia-Ukraine War on Europe. Almost all of Stockholm’s priorities are related to the war. Nevertheless, although they are different types of institutions, Sweden is also striving for NATO membership. In this respect, both Sweden and Ukraine are trying to become members of various Western organizations. Given this situation, it can be foreseen that there may be critical developments in Kiev’s integration with the EU on the occasion of Stockholm’s contributions.

On the other hand, internal dynamics as well as external dynamics will be decisive in Sweden’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. In this respect, Sweden’s internal dynamics should also be emphasized. Currently, Sweden is governed by a coalition of three parties. These parties are the Moderate Conservative Party (M), the Liberal Party (L) and the Christian Democratic Party (KD). The far-right Sweden Democrats Party (SD) also supports the current government from the outside. The cooperation of the four parties is based on the Tidö Agreement. In this context, the parties have declared that their approaches to the problems in the country are similar and that they will seek joint solutions to deal with them.[4]

In addition to all this, the SD, although it supports it from the outside, has a critical role in shaping the policy of the current government. The SD, which stands out with its anti-immigrant identity, is also opposed to the EU. For this reason, Western analysts are making criticism that the SD could take the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council hostage. Charlie Weimers, who is an MP for the EP as well as an SD MP, stated that they do not want any mandatory mechanism on migration and that they will not accept more asylum seekers coming to the country. Asserting that this is the red line of the SD, Weimers also stated that crossing this line will have consequences for the Swedish Government. In addition, the SD MP promised that his party would not cause any problems in Ukraine’s struggle against Russia and suggested that there was a high level of support for Kiev within the party.[5]

In this context, the SD, under Sweden’s EU Council Presidency, will try to influence Stockholm’s migration policy rather than the war in Ukraine. Therefore, it can be said that Sweden’s internal dynamics will be very important in Stockholm’s Presidency.

On the other hand, Sweden’s Ambassador to the EU Lars Danielsson pointed out on January 9, 2023 that migration has become an issue where you can win or lose elections in almost every member state. Danielsson also said that a migration agreement must be agreed before the new commission takes office in 2024.[6]

From Danielsson’s statements, it can be argued that irregular migration will be one of the issues that will be important in Stockholm’s EU Council Presidency. The fact that Sweden will head this institution will allow it to bring issues such as migration to the agenda more often.

In conclusion, all of the articles that Sweden has announced that it will prioritize in the Presidency of the Council of the EU are related to the Russia-Ukraine War. Therefore, Stockholm’s policies will be shaped depending on this war. On the other hand, given Sweden’s harsh stance against irregular migration, it can be foreseen that Stockholm will raise this issue in its own interests.

[1] “The Presidency of the Council of the EU”, European Council Council of the European Union,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

[2] “Priorities”, Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Sweden Unveils Minority Government That Relies on Far-Right Support”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

[5] “Swedish EU Presidency at Mercy of Euroskeptics”, DW,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

[6] “Swedish Envoy: EU Should Bolster ‘Negative Incentives’ on Migration”, Devex,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.