| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Sweden takes over rotating EU presidency after shift to right

On January 1, Sweden will take the rotating EU presidency, and has pledged to promote free trade and maintain unity on the Ukraine crisis in the face of demands for a more forceful reaction to US green subsidies. The biggest concerns for Stockholm as it assumes leadership of the 27-nation bloc at this turbulent moment might be how new dynamics in its own domestic politics play out in the European arena.

After eight years of center-left dominance, the conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s cabinet, which was founded in October, is reliant on an unusual coalition with the far-right Sweden Democrats to win a majority in parliament.

Despite rejecting previous calls for Sweden to leave the EU, the populist party’s uncompromising position on issues like immigration appears certain to spark domestic conflict and reduce the amount of leeway for manoeuvre.

There have been “plenty of lovely words” from the Swedish government on its plans, according to Helene Fritzon, a member of the opposition Social Democrats in the European Parliament.

Stockholm has underlined climate change and defending EU “basic values” in the face of disagreements with Hungary and Poland as priority, in addition to Russia’s aggressiveness and trade.

“But there is great concern when, in practice, it is the Sweden Democrats who have the whip hand,” Fritzon said.

Others, though, are less concerned about the possibility that the far-right party may interfere with Stockholm’s moment in the limelight on its European tour.

The Sweden Democrats must formally be notified of any decisions made regarding the EU as a result of the agreement reached to form the government.

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