Dispute with Turkey Sweden moves to EU leadership news. Last Minute GERMANY, Austria, France, Netherlands, Spain, Greece headlines and events
The European Union enters the new year with new decisions and difficult things to do. Sweden, which often appears on the agenda because of Turkey’s veto on NATO membership, is taking over the EU presidency “calmly” from 1 January. Croatia, known as the “good student” of the EU, is also a member of the eurozone from 1 January.
Sweden, led by a far-right-backed conservative government, assumes the powers of the Council of the European Union on Monday (January 1) for six months. The Czech Republic, which has held the EU presidency for the past six months, has announced that it has successfully completed its term by adopting important energy agreements such as the founding summit of the European Political Community and setting a gas price ceiling. The capitals of the EU countries especially emphasize the intermediary role of the Czech government in reaching an agreement on such a complex issue as the gas cap.
Sweden’s entry into EU administration at a time when relations between Turkey, an EU candidate country, and Europe are at a freezing point, will add a new topic to the agenda of the two capitals, which have been in frequent contact lately. The presidency could also add a new dimension to Sweden’s relationship with Turkey, the only country that could not be persuaded to apply for NATO membership because of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
The presidency of Sweden, which joined the EU in 1995, coincides with an important period in the political and diplomatic history of the country. Sweden previously held the EU presidency alternately in 2001 and 2009. However, the Swedish people said no to the referendum to join the euro in 2003. Recent polls show that Swedes are still reluctant to join the euro.
chairman for the third time
Sweden will preside over the European Council for the third time after joining the European Union. However, it is difficult to say that the Swedish government, which maintains a very “distant” relationship with the EU, is ready to undertake this task with enthusiasm. When Conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson presented the EU Presidency priorities to Parliament, only 20 deputies and three ministers listened to this opinion.
The leader of the conservative-liberal coalition, which has been in power in Sweden since October 18 with the support of the extreme right, did not set an important goal in his speech in parliament. For his presidency, he set goals: “The 27 members of the EU continue to stand together with Ukrainians in the war on European borders, EU security, energy transition and the defense of democratic values.” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who took over as president amid trade tensions with Washington, said “they oppose protectionism, which is the wrong way across the Atlantic, and stand for free trade agreements.”
During the last campaign for parliamentary elections in September, the European question was practically not covered. The Swedish government is not planning “bright” summits like the French at the Palace of Versailles or the Czech Republic, where it took over the chairmanship of the Prague Palace. EU ministerial meetings, for example, are planned to be held at a modest conference center near Stockholm’s main airport. Modest meetings are envisaged, officially for “security reasons” and unofficially, in order to “disturb the Swedes as little as possible during this period.”
In Sweden, where the left has ruled for eight years, Conservative Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is leading a coalition of moderate conservatives and their traditional allies, the Christian Democrats and liberals. However, the coalition is receiving vital outside support from an “anti-European nationalist party” called the Swedish Democrats (SD).
The problem of migration and refugees is relevant
Goran von Sydow, director of the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (Sieps) in Stockholm, in his assessment of the EU presidency, analyzes Ulf Kristersson’s speech as a “continuation” of the previous social democratic government. However, he points out that during these six months “uncertainty” remains about the role of the anti-European SD.
The Swedish far right, which no longer talks about “leaving the EU” on its agenda, is expected to make itself known during the EU Presidency, especially on sensitive issues of “migration and refugees”. Because in the coalition agreement the government stipulates that the SD will be “informed about all decisions taken regarding the EU” by the executive branch.
Problems with other EU countries
In Sweden’s budget discussions, which often pit southern and northern countries against each other; Being one of the “Frugal Nordic 4” countries, along with Finland, the Netherlands and Austria, which advocates moderation and does not hesitate to “teach a lesson” to the southern European countries, which it considers too wasteful, may cause controversy in the coming period. The risk of tension is expressed with a group that includes Sweden and the so-called “southern wasteful countries” such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece.
According to a study conducted by the website EUmatrix and published in early October, there is not a single Swedish parliamentarian on the list of the “100 most influential MEPs”, although there are 4 Finns and 2 Danes. In other words, Sweden does not have a decisive power in the EP.
It also highlights the fact that most of the newly appointed ministers of the Kristersson government have “almost no” experience of participating in meetings with the EU. Sweden’s presidency coincides with Washington’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the country. Will he be able to have a trade debate with the US with this team? Will it be able to resist the “protectionist demands” of France and Germany?
Sweden, which wants to renegotiate international trade agreements with many countries and regions, may face resistance from the Franco-German couple as it prepares the EU’s response to the US defense plan. A $420 billion US protectionist plan that is mostly about climate investment is also on the agenda of the Franco-German ministerial meeting on January 22.
Croatia in the Eurozone
Another major change coming with the new year for the EU is that Croatia, the Adriatic country of 4 million people that is described as the EU’s “good student”, will officially enter the eurozone from January 1st. With the entry of Croatia, one of the weakest EU economies, into the single currency, the number of EU countries in the euro area has increased to 20.
Other countries that have not yet adopted the euro are having difficulty meeting the necessary criteria or, on the contrary, are playing for time with an extension of the deadline. The last time Lithuania joined the group of countries using the single euro currency was 8 years ago. Croatia, which will abandon its own currency, the kuna, has long used the euro as its currency of account. Along with the purchase of cars and real estate, bank deposits were mainly made in euros. The use of the euro by European tourists has been a common practice in the tourism sector, which accounts for 20 percent of the country’s income.
With the participation of Croatia, the number of eurozone countries has increased to 20, while the number of non-EU countries has decreased to 7. However, the Croats are likely to be the last country to adopt a single currency. Because some of the remaining 7 countries are far from meeting the 4 economic criteria for membership in the eurozone.
Others deliberately play for time in order to delay the date as much as possible. Finally, consent to the introduction of a single currency is a sine qua non of membership. Behind the scenes of the EU, Bulgaria (ERM II), which, like Croatia, has been in the waiting room since July 2020, is expected to join the eurozone in 2024, but the deadline is still undetermined. Brussels does not give the go-ahead because Bulgaria does not fulfill the necessary conditions sufficiently.
Although Romania hopes to quickly join the eurozone, it continues to delay its application for membership because it does not meet the necessary criteria. The country, which is still not allowed into the waiting room, hopes to enter in 2029.
In Central Europe, the Czech Republic also does not want to give up its national currency. A similar situation exists in Poland and Hungary. Denmark, a member of the EU since 1973, is also an exception, seeking to be free from the euro. Sweden, which has been a member of the EU since 1995, is also voluntarily refusing to participate in ERM II in order to remain under the Swedish crown, even if it meets all the necessary criteria.
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