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Mar 272014

(All links -unfortunately- go to Swedish language sites)

At the European Parliament elections in 2009 the participation ratio increased to 45.53 % from 37.85 % in 2004. Not a very encouraging figure but nevertheless a clear increase. For 2014 a low participation has been foreseen. However the latest opinion poll has been interpreted to show a participation ratio of about 50 % which would be about the officially stated government goal as expressed by EU-Minister Birgitta Ohlsson.

That, of course, would mean some progress. But strangely enough the Prime Minister shows an evasive attitude. He points out that it is much more important to vote for the government and local administrations, taxes and so on. Those factors will have an effect on the life of all Swedish inhabitants and are therefore much more important than “the 20 seats in the European Parliament“.

Already in 2009 the Prime Minister expressed his opinion that ““the voters are rational, they realize that the EU election is not (as) decisive for their everyday life and for the future.” He continued to say that there is a “tremendous difference” between national parliamentary elections and elections to the EP since the EP “has no influence on formation of government or influence”

What could be the motives behind this extraordinary position, particularly at this time when the EP has got real power and provides an effective counterbalance to the generally myopic and nationalistic approach of the Council? One factor is certainly that a high participation ratio will be to the disadvantage of the largest parties, both the Moderates in government and the opposition social democrats. In 2009 this was largely to the benefit of the Pirate Party (and earlier to the peculiar “Junilistan”). In 2014 it is likely that mainly the Left Party and unfortunately also the fascist Sweden Democrats will advance att the expense of the two big parties. Possibly also the Greens, although this is less certain. Interestingly we may also expect a good performance from the Peoples Party which is very weak nationally but has a high EU-profile through the popular top candidate Marit Paulsen as well as the EU-Minister Birgitta Ohlsson.

There is another factor at play. In a special committee in the Swedish Parliament the Government has to go through a sometimes awkward negotiation procedure with the other parties, mainly the Social Democrats, in order to arrive at an official Continue reading »

Oct 292009

Previous post on this blog discussed pros and mostly cons of a deepened Nordic cooperation within EU (including two non-members). But there are those who want to go further. In a recent article in DN (SW) which drew a lot of attention, the author calls for a a revival and extension of the Union of Kalmar (1397) by creating a federation of the five Nordic countries. Such a federation, writes the author, would be the 10th biggest economy of the world, well before Russia or Brazil. The Danish Queen, Margarethe, should be Head of State, like her namesake Margareta from the 15th Century.The article was taken seriously enough to be taken up in an editorial in the same newspaper which tells about “many enthusiastic and positive reactions” from its readers. DN does not tell about any reactions from Norway or Denmark (or from the Bernadotte dynasty).

The Kalmar Union has largely negative connotations in Sweden (and probably also in our neighboring countries) and led to two centuries of upheaval and civil war situations culminating in the rebellions of Engelbrekt, Karl Knutsson and finally Gustav Wasa who once and for all (?) secured Swedish independence.

We have to take this discussion  in a humorous vein with a serious undertone concerning the need for and desirability of increased contacts and cooperation between those countries which historically have so much in common. (But DN points out that accentuating a common culture can also be seen as “an unpleasant wink towards blondness and blue eyes.”)

Any formalized coordination between the Nordic countries risks having a negative impact on the wider cooperation since smallest common denominators must be found among countries which are quite different or at least have different ambitions for their EU membership.  This despite common language and culture. Problems would be compounded, of course, if non-members should have an influence. The same obviously goes for other sub-regional groupings.

(Anyone amused by historical parallels might of course point out that the original Kalmar Union was created to get rid of the German prince Albrecht of Mecklenburg.  His role in a new Kalmar Union would presumably be played by Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy.)

Oct 232009

Do you know what Sweden and Finland have in common with Azerbaijan, Congo, Lichtenstein, Monaco and Tajikistan? Perhaps quite a lot but they are also members of the exclusive group of 22 countries which have paid their UN contributions in full. Among other EU countries only Austria and Germany belong to this group. (From AP via UN Wire).

A big shame on the others!

A large part of the UN Budget is spent on special political missions, requested and mandated by the Security Council. (This does not include peacekeeping operations). Not a single one of the permanent members have paid up in full.

In another development, to use newsspeak, 5 members of the so called “Nordic Council” have written an article in EU Observer  under the heading “Closer Nordic partnership needed within the EU.” The authors stress that the Nordic cooperation was developed and functioning well long before the EEC and are worried that the wider EU-cooperation would lead (or have already led) to “unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the Nordic countries and detracts from citizens’ and businesses’ freedom of movement.” Continue reading »

Jun 082009

Just a quick comment to the results of yesterday’s EP election. Contrary to the general trend the participation rate in Sweden increased from 37.8 % to 43.1. In all likelihood this is mainly a result of the appearance of the Pirate Party which got 7.1 % of the vote and 1 seat (2 seats if Lisbon get in force – which of course now seems increasingly unlikely, particularly because of the disastrous results in the UK and Ireland).

On the surface some tendencies in the Swedish results would look encouraging. The EU-critical, not to say hypocritical, parties faced a disaster. The ex-communists could see their share of the vote halved and the peculiar “Junilistan” lost their 3 seats and were eliminated. The most out-spoken pro-EU party, the Peoples Party, increased their share strongly and will get one additional seat. The biggest parties, both on the Government and the opposition side, which both have been Continue reading »

May 132009

In an interview with the Swedish Daily Dagens Industri, the Swedish Prime Minister Mr. Reinfeldt says (my translation) that “the voters are rational, they realize that the EU election is not (as) decisive for their everyday life and for the future.” He continues to say that there is a “tremendous difference” between national parliamentary elections and elections to the EP since the EP “has no influence on formation of government or influence” [?]

This is a remarkable statement from the leader of the country that is next in turn for the Presidency. The Czech Presidency was an unmitigated disaster.  The statement by the Swedish Prime Minister makes us wonder if the Swedish one will be any better.  And does he really believe that the EP “is not (as) decisive for [the voters' ] everyday life and for the future”? At best this is irresponsible, at worst it reflects a tremendous lack of understanding of how the EU works.

There are well founded fears that the participation rate will be very low even if political parties Continue reading »

Nov 222008

wohlin_lissabon_ny.gifSwedish MEP Lars Wohlin, first founding member of the anti-EU “June List”, then “Christian Democrat”, now “Conservative” (?)  in an advertising campaign in the leading Swedish newspapers, today (22/11),  urges us not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Sorry Lars, a waste of money, it’s already done.

Lars’ speciality is the difference between the short and long-term interest rates which, as we all  know, is the source of all sorts of evil. Also he is of the opinion that the EU should not bother about various things. In most of his speeches in the Parliament he is trying to explain why he doesn’t want to vote. Unfortunately it is not very likely that the next EP will provide a platform for this profund wisdom since no party is likely to include Lars on their list. A pity, really, since it might mean his return to domestic politics.

Nov 212008

Against our expectations the Parliament approved the proposal to ratify the Treaty with 243 yes, 39 against, 13 abstentions and 54 absent (!). We will come back to some very interesting results of the voting. (For Swedish speaking readers information on the voting of the individual parliamentarians is available here. Point 9, click on “Visa ledamöternas röster”.) There will be reasons for coming back to this, for the moment we only note that those members of the government parties who had announced their opposition to the proposal apparently lost their courage since only one of them actually voted “no” whereas others abstained or were conveniently absent. With a somewhat wry smile we note that Marita Ulvskog, designated top Continue reading »

Nov 182008

Tomorrow (19/11) On Thursday (20/11) the Swedish Parliament will vote on the Treaty of Lisbon. In our previous post we have expressed some doubt as to the outcome, everyone else, however, seems to regard the approval as a foregone conclusion.

We have seen many articles and blog posts lately about how the financial crisis tends to rally countries -members or not- to the EU and the Euro.  Ironically, in cases such as Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and Iceland this comes at a time when they are further from meeting the criteria of eligibility to the Eurozone than in a long time. Leading Austrian newspaper Die Presse carries an article with a heading that can be translated as The Crisis Forces Sceptics to the EU (DE). According to the article, Ireland may say “yes” in a new referendum provided they are guaranteed a Commissioner. Iceland, still according to Die Presse, will apply for membership in 2009 with the aim of becoming a member in 2011. The Danish Premier has Continue reading »

Nov 142008

Sweden is one of the very few countries which have not yet ratified the Treaty of Lisbon. It is debatable how many there are with Poland’s obstructing -but basically powerless- President and the decision of the German Constitutional Court still outstanding. But it seems reasonable to conclude that Sweden and the Czech Republic are the only real laggards – Ireland obviously always excepted. Unfortunately those are also the two countries that will assume the EU Presidency in 2009. Difficulties are compounded by the fact that neither country belongs to the Eurozone.

Normally the Swedish Parliament would vote on the Treaty on November 20. The Treaty has already been approved by the Foreign Policy Committee.  On paper, there would be a solid majority with the four Government parties and the Social Democratic opposition in favor of the ratification. However, things are not that simple, by far  (SW).

First, 41 members of the Green and the Left Party will vote against ratification. In addition a  mini-rebellion has broken Continue reading »

Oct 152008

According to Europaportalen  (SW) the Swedish Parliament will discuss the Lisbon Treaty on Nov 20. The Swedish Parliament is the second last one to vote on the Treaty, the last one being the Czech Republic where the Treaty has been hijacked in internal political strife. Other points of uncertainty are Germany (!) where the Constitutional Court has yet to make its ruling and Poland where President Kaczyński is playing up again. It would be a good strategy to eliminate all these obstacles before trying to solve the Irish question where premature action could do much more harm than good.

Theoretically there would be a solid majority for the Treaty in the Swedish Parliament. However, the position of the Social Democrats remains uncertain. Many leading social democrats want to delay the decision until clarity has been created Continue reading »