Praise and some criticism for the French Presidency

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
The French Presidency received praise overall for its efficiency in gathering a unanimous EU view on important issues but also some criticism.
The climate issue agreement, while not the optimal seen from a Swedish perspective, was on the whole considered a success. Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, called it a historic agreement and stated that taking on the climate change so rapidly was one of the EU’s greatest accomplishments ever. Without this agreement, he claimed, many countries would not have done anything.[1]
The speed with which the EU under French leadership answered to the financial crisis has also been praised in Sweden. There are, however, also some negative points. The Minister for EU Affairs was critical of the French idea to install President Sarkozy as the Eurozone leader: “We should not build new institutions that divide Europe – in this moment we need unity, not division”.[2]
The Swedish view on the first version of the Mediterranean Union was negative, seeing this as an initiative that dealt with the same issues as the Barcelona Process, and therefore competing with it. With the changes undertaken, it is now rather seen as a ‘beefed-up’ version of it. The crucial factor is that the whole of the EU is now involved in the decision-making.[3]
As stated by one member of the Swedish parliament, it was a successful presidency, but two issues were less positive. One was the stated views by the French administration that small member states should not hold the presidency of the European Union and the other was the fact that France had broken the custom of not pursuing its own particular issues during its presidency. The latter referred to the French policy on seeking to establish the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013.[4]
As to the first point, the French remarks claiming that the French Presidency has proved that only major member states can hold presidencies, have not gone unnoticed in Sweden. A number of comments have been made, including from Prime Minister Reinfeldt, voicing a different view on this and the ambition is to prove otherwise. As to the second point, the opinion of the Prime Minister was that due to the support of a number of other countries, the formulations on the CAP were now acceptable to Sweden, which has a strong interest in reducing the size of the EU budget used for this policy.[5]
Further, on the negative side, several commentators have referred to the mistakes made in the Georgia negotiations and the fact that details remain to be sorted out in the climate deal. The style itself, it is said, also gives small member states a great deal to think about.[6]

[1] Dagens Nyheter: EU’s ledare enades om klimatpaket [EU Leaders Agreed on Climate Package], 13 December 008.

[2] Cecilia Malmström: Interview: ‘Institutional Limbo’ to Overshadow 2009 elections, EurActiv, 18 November 2008, available at: (last access: 25 January 2009).

[3] Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in: Committee on European Union Affairs of the Swedish parliament: Stenografiska uppteckningar vid EU-nämndens sammanträden, 12 March 2008, p. 23, available at: (last access: 25 January 2009).

[4] Bengt-Anders Johansson, Moderate Party, in: Committee on European Union Affairs of the Swedish parliament: Stenografiska uppteckningar vid EU-nämndens sammanträden, 10 December 2008, pp. 12-13, available at: (last access: 25 January 2009).

[5] Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister, Ibid., pp. 14 and 20.

[6] Ingrid Hedström: President Sarkozy visar vägen till snabbfotad union [President Sarkozy shows the way to a quick-reaction Union], Dagens Nyheter, 13 December 2008.