Open Europe Blog

This is spot-on.

Sara Skyttedal, vice-president of the Youth wing of the European People’s Party – the pan-EU party Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso belongs to – has a blistering piece  in today’s Svenska Dagbladet. She takes Barroso to town over his ‘State of the Union’ address, in which he called for Europe to become a “federation”:

“As Vice-Chairman of [the EPP’s] youth wing, YEPP, I can only say that representatives such as Barroso make it more difficult to be pro-EU [EU-vän] “

She continues:

“At a time when crises are raging across Europe and when countries need a helping hand, the eurocrats see an opportunity to demand extensive transfers of power and centralisation in return. Barroso suggests the creation of a banking union and argues that the EU in the end must become a federation. This is a frightening development, since even though Barroso himself says that a superstate isn’t the end goal, it is it hard to interpret his vision in any other way.”

She argues that politicians have ”time and again” ignored the subsidiarity principle. Taking aim at the Swedish political class, Skyttedal says:

“Just as there are many signs that the EU makes it harder for member states to fight the centralisation of powers, Sweden has reinforced this tendency on its own”, arguing that the requirement for EU-membership should be deleted from the Swedish Constitution.

“Those of us who are active in the EPP…must take a bigger responsibility for the liberal-conservative family in Europe. In these circles we must dare to bring up the problems that exist. Large parts of our respective parties were once active in the Yes-campaigns, both for EU and euro membership, but it’s time to swallow our pride and take up the fight against supranationalism and to show it’s possible to have a realistic attitude to the EU, which doesn’t automatically mean arguing in favour of leaving the project altogether.”

“The EPP-family is the biggest one in Europe, but includes members that unfortunately work in the opposite direction to the EU that we rather want to see. What we think the EU needs is less supranationalism, less political interference and definitely not a federation.”

Hear hear.

Sweden isn’t exactly a European hegemon (those ambitions pretty much died in 1709) but it’s an interesting country for the UK and Europe in at least two respects: first, it’s actually doing well, both on the fiscal and banking front. Secondly, how the country responds to the drive for further euro integration will be an interesting proxy for how easy it’ll be to reconcile a more tightly knit eurozone block with the EU-27. Most importantly, the banking union with the single market.

70-80% of Swedes oppose joining the euro, and that debate is dead (baring random calls from the occasional politician and opinion former who still cling on to that particular dream – it’s almost cute), but the country has fundamental choices ahead of it – such as whether or not it joins the the ECB’s banking supervision structure – so Europe needs to be discussed. 

Though a majority of Swedes would echo the sentiment contained in Skyttedal’s article, there is still a contingent in Sweden, particularly on the centre-right (associated with Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister) that clings on to a vision of an ever-closer integrated EU as a liberal inroads into its dominant domestic social democratic model, and also as a catalyst for Swedish internationalist idealism, i.e. a ‘peace project’.

Historically, both of these assumptions contained some truth but firstly, Sweden’s social democratic domination has already been broken and secondly, the single currency – clearly – has proven less of a liberal trade project and more an ideological over-reach (think Greece). The eurozone crisis is now causing friction in Europe, rather than the opposite, and it most certainly isn’t aiding either Europe in the world or facilitating enlargement (which is a legitimate EU foreign policy tool).

In other words, this traditional Swedish centre-right vision is dated and needs upgrading – which is true for other contingents in the EPP. Skyttedal’s article is an important reminder that if we want to save what’s good in Europe, Barroso’s “federation” vision – which risks a massive popular backlash – is the opposite of what’s needed.

The path for true pro-Europeans must lay elsewhere.

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