Sunday, 22 November 2009

EU: Swedish presidency & Lisbon Treaty implementation

First the good news: With regard to communication, the Swedish presidency of the Council of the European Union is generally the most versatile and modern of rotating EU Council presidencies I can remember. Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has handled the main press conferences in a professional manner, and foreign minister Carl Bildt and EU minister Cecilia Malmström have blogged about events beyond the call of duty.

The Swedish presidency has nudged the EU forward on important policy issues, like climate change, and it served as midwife to the top appointments under the Lisbon Treaty, with Herman Van Rompuy as the first president of the European Council and Catherine Ashton as the “double-hatted” high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the EU Commission (to be confirmed). Naturally, the Swedish government shares in the burden of proof that these appointments turn out to be wiser than many underwhelmed commentators have anticipated.

On the other hand, the Lisbon Treaty enters into force in little more than a week, on 1 December 2009. The amending treaty requires a number of implementing decisions by the EU institutions, but only the European Parliament has prepared and debated these issues in a systematic manner (although it could improve its presentation by presenting all the questions as a whole, both for the general public and for more serious students).

Peruse the Swedish presidency web pages, and you find few indications of preparation for the Lisbon Treaty or items with proposals for public debate. These issues should now be tackled in an open and systematic manner, and they should be visibly and comprehensively presented. Both political and legal aspects need clarifications.

The nominations for the new top jobs gave us a prime example of how intergovernmental cooperation works (and its outcomes), but it is now high time to move on to the union in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen.

Ralf Grahn

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