Sweden takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from the Czech Republic on Sunday, giving the Scandinavian nation a key leadership and mediation role in Brussels over the next six months.
“Sweden is taking over the presidency at a time when the Union is facing historic challenges,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in mid-December.
In a statement on his website, he cites the war in Ukraine, the fight against climate change and Europe’s competitiveness as key issues that need to be addressed. Sweden’s priorities are to focus on a “greener, safer and freer Europe”.
Kristersson and his cabinet are still little known in the EU arena.
The conservative government has been in power for only about two and a half months, having succeeded the government of the Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson.
Kristersson became the first head of the Swedish government ever to work closely with the right-wing populist Swedish Democrats.
Populists are not part of the government, but as the second strongest parliamentary force and with more seats than Kristersson’s Moderate party, they still wield a lot of power in Stockholm.
Despite the EU’s skepticism about this supporter, Sweden’s EU Minister Jessica Rosvall said her government “will put the EU’s work at the forefront”.
In foreign policy, Sweden is expected to give priority to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The country will prioritize continued military and economic support for Ukraine and believes that Ukraine’s EU accession process should also be supported and further steps should be taken to rebuild the country.
Stockholm is also interested in intensifying contacts with interested countries.
Referring to the importance of the security situation in the Balkans, he stated that stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean was in the EU’s strategic interests.
Sweden also believes that cooperation and mutually beneficial relations with Turkey are important for the strategic interests of the EU.
The Swedish government, which is in favor of maintaining strong transatlantic ties with the US, will also try to direct its economic policy in the conditions caused by the protectionist economic decisions of the US administration, which could negatively affect European countries.
The 27 EU members change presidency every six months.