In mid-October, the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) confirmed Ulf Kristersson (Moderate Party) as Sweden’s new Prime Minister. His election marked a shift to the right in Swedish national politics, ending 8 years of ruling by the centre-left Social Democrats. Kristersson heads a three-party centre-right minority government, composed of the Moderates, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, which will have to count heavily on the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats.
The last time Sweden held the Presidency of the European Union was 2009. A report by the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies concluded that Sweden had done a nice job, mainly with the ratification and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the preparations ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen. This time around, Sweden will want their EU Presidency to focus on EU’s role in the world, speed-up solutions in the fight against climate change, find ways for the EU to address the lurking energy crisis and strengthen EU collaboration regarding migration. Compared to the EU Presidency back in 2009, this time migration and security policy will have a more prominent role on the agenda, as the war in Ukraine continues raging on.
As Sweden readies to take on the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1st January 2023, we’re having a look at the potential implications of Sweden’s new government at a European stage.
The Swedish Presidency’s priorities per sector
- Energy & sustainability: After the Swedish elections in October 2022, a new “Super Ministry” was created, uniting climate, environment, energy and agriculture to allow for a holistic approach in the fight against climate change. Sweden has an ambition of reaching a zero-emission benchmark in 2045, and this “super Ministry” is a way to reach this target. The fight against climate change is high on the agenda in the home country of Greta Thunberg, and will also be high on their EU agenda, with many ‘Fit for 55’ files still to be finalised and other Green Deal initiatives such as the Circular Economy, Biodiversity and Zero-Pollution in the midst of co-legislation. Being among the most important mining countries in the EU, Sweden will also be keen to advance the upcoming Raw Materials Act, an initiative that the Commission treats with high priority. Another issue that the Government bloc agrees upon is nuclear power, which might become an option the Presidency puts forward to address the energy crisis.
- Healthcare & life sciences: The newly appointed Swedish Minister for Health, Acko Ankarberg Johansson, is considered a highly influential figure. Her top priorities include increasing the number of hospital beds, reducing waiting times for medical care and improve working conditions for healthcare personnel. Based on her experience, she is well placed to handle the kick-off of the lengthy and highly politicised negotiations on the revision of the EU General Pharmaceutical Legislation as well as the Orphan Medicinal Products Regulation during Sweden’s EU Council Presidency. Additionally, considering the Minister’s supportive stance on harmonising digital health, we can also expect substantive progress on the EU Council negotiations on the European Health Data Space regulation. Acko Ankarberg has announced that she will listen to the life science industry and that Sweden will be hosting a high-level life science conference as part of the Swedish EU Presidency.
- Trade: The Swedes are likely to have a busy Presidency in terms of trade. Not only is the geopolitical situation still likely to be tense (Russia, China, the US) but they will also be dealing with important and tricky files such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), the Anti-Coercion Instrument (ACI), the Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) and the forced labour instrument. In addition, they are likely to push for the conclusion of trade agreements in line with their usual pro-free trade stance. The most likely conclusion is the EU-Australia deal, but the Swedes will also have a role to play in the negotiations with Chile, Mexico, the new hopes for a deal with Mercosur after Lula’s election in Brazil and other ongoing talks as well.
- Technology: At home, digital and technology are not expected to be a priority for the new Swedish government, which has chosen not to appoint a dedicated Digital Minister. However, in Brussels, and with a high number of tech policy files still under negotiation, Sweden will be expected to play a key role in finding compromise on key debates such as the AI Act or rules on Transparency of Political Advertising and bring progress to negotiations on other files such as the Cyber Resilience Act and the Chips Act. The debate over increased tech autonomy, resilience of value chains and cybersecurity concerns will continue looming in the background and could be particularly relevant given the shift to the right in Sweden and in other European countries such as Italy.
- Financial services & taxation: With Elisabeth Svantesson as Minister of Finance and Niklas Wykman as Minister of Financial Markets, financial services is being covered by two highly experienced ministers from the moderate party. Although big tax cuts have been promised on the campaign trail, which will have an impact, no major changes in policy are expected. The same conclusion can be drawn at EU level. The new Minister of Finance is not expected to impulse a drastic change in the political direction of the Presidency on financial services regulations. Regarding the fiscal rules debate, it is expected that the Minister will defend the traditional line of Sweden on these issues.
This analysis was written by various members of the FTI Consulting Brussels team and in conjunction with FTI Consulting’s affiliate in Sweden, Narva.
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