National Press Club

Envoys Discuss Priorities of Swedish EU Presidency

July 17, 2009 | By Peter Hickman |

The Swedish and European Union ambassadors to the U.S., Jonas Hafstrom and former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, took turns at a July 16 Newsmaker in discussing and answering questions about Sweden's EU presidency, which runs through the end of the year.

Hafstrom quoted Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in saying that the two main priorities which "will dominate our presidency" are managing the global financial crisis and unemployment and climate change.

He said other themes and priorities include preparing the 27 EU nations for the December UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen; energy and environment; jobs, growth and competitiveness; a safer and more open Europe; the Baltic Sea Strategy to strengthen that region's competitive position and integration into the EU; and the EU as a global player and further enlargement.

The Swedish diplomat said investing in the green economy will create news jobs and opportunities and promote growth.

As an example, he cited the gas crisis in Ukraine. Sweden believes that if Ukraine invested in energy efficiency so it could reach the level of the Czech Republic or Slovenia, this would translate into energy savings comparable to the cost of its total gas imports from Russia. This way, Ukraine could become completely independent of gas imports from Russia, as well as save a lot of money.

A member of the audience, Icelandic Ambassador Hjalmar Hannesson, announced that his parliament had just voted to begin talks about that country joining the EU.

Hafstrom said the EU should not close the door on the possibility of Turkey becoming a member. "If we close that door," he warned, "what other kind of doors would be open to the EU in the Middle East?"

Bruton said the alliance has the capacity to economically assist former communist countries through the Common Market. And in this regard, he said that "while Russia is not an EU member, there is one area of mutual dependency ... we need Russian gas and Russian gas needs customers."