Innehållet publicerades under perioden 9 juli 2021 och 30 november 2021

Tal EU Day Lund 29 oktober 2021

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EU Day Lund

I must say that I’m quite impressed by this initiative, this “EU Day”. Raising awareness on EU affairs is an incredibly important undertaking.  It is very much in line with what so many of us try to do this year, within the framework of the Conference on the Future for Europe.

Because the EU is something that might seem quite abstract to many of our citizens. Something that exists far away, and that only involves bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels.

This is of course far from the truth! Few things have such an enormous impact on our daily lives as the European Union. Which is why I think it is especially important that we really take the time to discuss matters related to the EU, like we are doing here today.

Now, let me begin by telling you a little of why I myself am such a devoted fan of European cooperation and integration.  That the European Union once began as a peace project.  As a dream of peace on our continent, after the horrors and atrocities of the Second World War. A dream of us being able to form such strong links between our countries – through trade and travel, exchanges and common projects – that another war, between the states in the Union, would not be possible.

And in this endeavour, our European integration project has undoubtably been an astounding success!  War between member states of the EU is simply unthinkable today.

And meanwhile, the European Union has now grown to become so much more. A grand European project, uniting almost 450 million people under the banner of free movement, a single market, shared interests, and common values.  If I am not mistaken, this is the strongest political union, involving so many members, that has ever been created anytime in world history.

So, I think that this union actually is an incredible achievement, something to be quite proud of, also for us who joined later than others.

Because the European Union gives so much to us, to our citizens! Peace and stability. An economic prosperity not equalled on any continent. A common identity. The opportunity to move freely across our borders to live, work and study. And a way for us all – especially those of us who represent countries like Sweden – to amplify our voices on the world stage.

Now, when it comes to the immediate challenges facing our union, I believe in a practical approach.

The EU must above all provide concrete solutions to the daily problems that many of our citizens are struggling with, and that cannot be dealt with just within our own countries.

And this is a perspective that I think is important to have, also when we discuss the really big issues.

Today, I would like to focus on three such issues, where I see a particular need for political action in the immediate future:

  • challenges to our common values,
  • the ongoing climate crisis, and
  • strengthening the EU’s resilience while remaining open to the world around us.

First, values.
To me, one of the European union’s greatest strengths is our firm commitment to a set of fundamental values. To freedom. To equality. To the rule of law. To democracy.

These values are the very foundations on which our democratic societies are built. They are not exclusively European values. But they are and remain the values of the European Union.

Now, I will go into further detail on this issue during the seminar on the Rule of Law in the EU later this afternoon.

But for now, I would like to say this. It is imperative that those of us who believe in our common values do all we can to safeguard them. And that we use all the tools we have at our disposal to do this.

Because if the fundamental values of the EU are eroded too much, the basis for our cooperation will also weaken.

Second, the climate.
This is really an existential issue, that dwarfs all others. Making the transition to a climate neutral society will be the greatest challenge of our lifetime. But it is highly necessary.

The message from the scientists is crystal clear. If the current trend continues, our planet will be rendered uninhabitable for future generations. One report, from the World Bank, shows that over 200 million people are at risk of being internally displaced by 2050, as a direct result of climate change. A terrible development.

I’m glad that the EU is taking substantial steps to limit emissions. The climate package presented by the commission, Fit for 55, contains many significant initiatives. I’m very happy to see that many member states are making firm commitments.

But after reading the latest IPCC report this summer, I wonder if we do not need more than this! But I have also seen, not least here in Sweden, how the speed of transformation into renewables has been faster than many of us expected. That gives some cause for optimism, that it will be possible to solve this issue, before it is too late.

And third, resilience.
This topic has become extremely relevant, in the wake of the pandemic. And there is now a quite lively discussion underway in our Union. One term that is often used when these matters are discussed is strategic autonomy, which we’ve had some issues with here in Sweden.

I will soon come back to them.  But first, let me say that I think that it is a good thing that steps are now being considered, and taken, to strengthen the EU’s resilience. It is imperative that measures are put in place that make sure that when the next crisis comes – be it a pandemic, a natural disaster, or something completely different – we are better ready to face the consequences.

The pandemic has clearly shown just how powerful our European cooperation can be. Take the vaccines. For a country like Sweden, it had been absolutely impossible to acquire so many safe and effective vaccine doses in such a short amount of time. I’m utterly convinced that the common EU approach saved many lives, also here in Sweden.

But we mustn’t forget, in our eagerness to strengthen our union, what made us so prosperous in the first place! What makes the EU really strong, I believe, is our openness to the world. Our highly competitive single market. Our strong defense of free trade and a fair global trading system.  Our willingness to work with partners across the globe.

These principles should never be compromised.  Unfortunately, I think that a few of the initiatives put forward in our European discussion are taking things too far.

The EU can not and should not stand alone in the world. We can’t hide behind large walls, and impose protectionist measures to unfairly help our own industries.

That is why, in these discussions, I always insist on using the term open strategic autonomy. This serves as a reminder that yes, the EU should strengthen its capabilities in certain areas. But, any measures taken should be carefully considered, and not compromise our openness to the rest of the world.

Now, in conclusion: I think it is clear that there are many issues to tackle in our European discussion during the coming years. But I must say that I am basically optimistic. When I meet young people around our country, I am constantly impressed by how passionate they are. For European values, for the climate, and for other things to do together in the EU. That is indeed a good promise for the future!

Thank you for listening – I now look forward to the interesting discussions awaiting us this afternoon.