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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une présidence suédoise garante de la politique d’austérité

by Gaël De Santis

A Swedish presidency will ensure a politics of austerity

Translated Saturday 25 July 2009, by Kieran O’Meara and reviewed by Kieran O’Meara

The European Parliament. Sweden, which will take over the presidency of the EU for the next six months, has unveiled its three main priorities: tackling the financial crisis, climate change, and new regulations concerning the right to asylum.

Strasbourg- special correspondent.

It’s a good thing that the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit is taking place in December! It will lend a little progressiveness to the Swedish presidency of the European Union (E.U.). The conservative Prime Minister, Frederik Reinfeldt, will take the chair of the European Council for the next six months, and yesterday he outlined his programme to the Euro-deputies. As well as tackling climate change, the presidency will fall under two further headings. Facing the financial crisis will become a battle against wayward public accounts in Frederik Reinfeldt’s hands. The struggle against terrorism will take the form of the Stockholm Programme, which is very restrictive towards asylum seekers. This must be what they call "the Nordic Model".

Finding a way out of the deficit

"According to the Commission’s projections, the budgetary deficit within the E.U. will reach more than 80% of its G.N.P. next year," he stated. The prime minister intends to make the overseeing of public finances a great part of the work of the European Union in the second half of the year. "We must quickly find a way out of this growing public deficit by putting into place an exit strategy and a progressive return to the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact." When the former Belgian Prime Minister and new chairman of the Liberal Democrat Group (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt, asked him to do in Europe what the Swedish had done in the case of a similar banking crisis at the start of the 1990s, Frederik Reinfeldt simply replied, "We have to clean up public spending." It is within this framework that the Lisbon strategy on growth and employment will be redefined.

This direction has been criticized by two Left groups of MEPs, the Socialists and Democrats (SD) and the European United Left (GUE/NGL). Accordingly, the Swedish Social Democrat Marita Ulvskog asked if the real priority in the coming period was actually "the ability of member states to enforce budgetary discipline". She pointed out the main weakness of the programme: "the reduced social dimension of its aims". "The only reasons you put forward for the crisis are the misdeeds of banks in the United States," added Lothar Bisky, the German president of the United European Left. "It’s as if the governments of the European Union are innocent and have nothing to do with it." Similar sentiments from his Swedish comrade, Eva-Britt Svenson. " What’s lacking is an analysis of the economic and climatic crises," she stated. "They arise from political decisions and call for changes in policy."

The question of social dumping

There will be no question of tackling social dumping, which affected Sweden was through the Vaxholm-Laval ruling of the European Court of Justice; this forbade Swedish unions from striking against a company which had imported Latvian labour into Sweden under the pretext of the "free movement of service provision" written into the Treaty of Rome. Questioned on this matter by the Socialist group leader Martin Schultz and by Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE), Frederick Reinfeldt didn’t respond.

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