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The Shift of Strategy Of Sweden: How Will This Affect Diplomatic Relations With THE EU?
Written by: Alexa Dominique Pascual
At the year 1995 Sweden became a member of the European Union, the country has implemented EU’s Single Market Programme (SMP). This benefitted the EU by making them reach their full potential and this also ensured Europe’s recovery against the COVID pandemic. The program also provided 4.2 billion euros, to support Europe’s strategies in the single market. (European Commission, The Single Market Programme)
In 1972 before the membership of Sweden to the EU, they were a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which recognized Sweden as one of the European countries with the most substantial trade deals. Its export trade deals, benefitted the economy because of their resources in timber, hydropower and iron ore. Because of the country’s resources, they strengthened their foreign trade agreements. After awhile Sweden became a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which contradicted Sweden’s policies because it proved to show that the country wanted to excel national boundaries and authority over other EU states, which made some European states confused on Sweden’s mixed policy agenda because of their super-nationalist strategies.
In the 1960s Sweden improved their feminist policy by successfully introducing it to their citizens, in 1979 Sweden introduced the Gender Equality Act, which follows the idea of having men and women get equal opportunities in their social life and in the workforce. In June 2017, the Swedish government agreed on a strategy that could battle zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, which made the country become recognized to bind the carbon neutrality target legally. (Asian Development Bank, Swedish Economic Integration Into The European Union as a Latecomer: Policy Recommendations for Asian Economic Integration, 2020)
But, recently, the Swedish government decided to decrease funding for projects to combat the climate crisis and the feminist foreign policy, which Sweden was successful in over the years. How will this affect Sweden’s relationship with the EU, and how does this affect their agendas on developing social change?
Feminism in Sweden
At the year 2014, the feminist foreign policy was adopted by the Swedish government to secure the livelihood of women in the country. The feminist foreign policy aims to bring gender equality for women and men in male-dominated fields. This agenda brings in policy development and significant strategies on how to prevent the discrimination of women in our world today. The agenda also greatly influenced countries like Canada, France and Mexico on the fight for women’s rights. Sweden, the first country to develop such a strategy, began to be eye-opening to nations across the alliance. Ever since the 1960s and 1970s, Sweden has played a significant role in the fight for women’s empowerment.
Unfortunately, for the past couple of months, Sweden’s new government has decided to abandon funds for the feminist foreign policy which makes the country lag behind other European nations on this fight, once a leading nation and now the least leading nation in the fight for social development. The hindering of the development of the policy, was recently announced by the new Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom (Human Rights Watch, Sweden’s New Government Abandons Feminist Foreign Policy, Hannah Walfridsson,2022)
Because the Swedish government is going far right on their agenda in prioritizing the full development of their domestic and foreign policies. Then the nations full potential to influence different nations will not likely be possible, because Sweden was the leading nation in the fight for feminism. Since, the new government decides to go backwards in this agenda then their plans on fighting for equal rights will not succeed especially when it comes to inspiring young women to participate in leadership roles. The nation has been one of the highest contributing country to fund global health, gender equality and climate change with a promised budget of $3.5 billion for funds to fully develop departments and to greatly support new ideas for the agenda. (Donor Tracker, Sweden)
This is unfortunate, for the government to ignore a promising agenda that could have supported women and girls on their problems in experiencing gender discrimination. Officials could have continued the strategy, and enhanced the policy together with the alliance on the fight for change. In order to fight the reality of this situation in terms of gender equality, this needs the full cooperation of the government because they are the ones who have the authority to enhance such a strategy. However, with the new coalition of three right-wing political parties that greatly supports an agenda that goes backwards. Change will most likely not be implemented, because the country was leading in terms of social development, this gives an opportunity for other nations to uphold the portfolio in terms of the fight for social change. But, it does not weaken the feminist foreign policy on the other hand because participating members are still fulfilling their duties on funding the strategy. For example, France and Germany has continued to give their contributions to this agenda. Germany gave a contribution of , $12.8 billion to fund organizations that support women’s empowerment. The German government has also promised support to the African Union in increasing women’s participation for leadership roles and to have more opportunities in employment. This gives the nation a upper hand in this agenda, and the opportunity to greatly influence the alliance and developing nations on the importance of enhancing gender equality. (Reuters, Germany announces a new “feminist foreign policy”,2023)
On the other hand, France gave €120 million their implementation of the agenda will be managed by the French Development Agency (AFD). This gave the country an opportunity to increase their participation in the feminist agenda. The French government even doubled their funds in 2022 to €700 million to participate in the fight for gender discrimination which proves to show that they are inlined in their promises for the 2030 United Nations Agenda.
The French government also launched an ambitious goal “The Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality” which gives the opportunity for officials to create different strategies to strengthen gender equality worldwide. (Permanent Mission to France To The United Nations New York, Feminist Foreign Policy, 2019)
This gives both nations the ability to lead such agenda, even though if Swedish officials back out on continuing their participation. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, could have not just helped them in their domestic politics but also they could have influenced other countries from around the world who are experiencing violence and inequality within their society. For example, developing countries in West Asia, Middle East and Africa have been experiencing a high amount of domestic violence and abuse from their spouses. Not only that, their citizens are experiencing the lack of education and the employment not just because their country suffering from the lack of resources. But also because some women have been prevented from being an active member of the society because of discrimination. Sweden could have still partnered up with participating nations on the feminist policy, to strengthen the idea and to have it fully grow. But since, Swedish officials chose to cancel their participation in the feminist policy then this idea will not reach its full potential and will not fullfill its promise on leading a change in our world today.
Sweden’s Climate Strategy
The adaptation of a climate and energy legislation for 2030 was implemented by the EU to have its member states participate in the contribution of this strategy. Sweden submitted its promise to participate in the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) to contribute on the action of battling climate change. Sweden has a total of 1.4% EU greenhouse gas emissions and has reduced its emissions at a faster pace compared to other EU member states. Sweden also has a share of 56.4% renewable energy sources and is predicted to reach 65% by 2030. (European Parliament, EU progress on climate action-How are the Member States doing?)
This makes the country contribute to the prevention of greenhouse gas emissions, which means that the government is contributing to the prevention of the use of fossil fuels which will reduce air pollution.
The Swedish government showcased their contribution to the prevention of the climate crisis by producing the “Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework”. Which presents a climate report on the budget that Swedish officials are contributing to the safety of the environment. This agenda also promotes a policy action plan which is implemented every fourth year to educate people on the progress of each strategy on the prevention of climate change. This report also makes sure to achieve every goal and fund each organization that supports the protection of the environment. (NATUR VARDS VERKET, Sweden’s Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework)
The Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework will most likely be put in to a pause because of the new priorities the Swedish conservative government is implementing. Because of the change of leadership the agenda on climate change will weaken because officials decided to slow down progress and focus on their interests, in tightening immigration laws, increasing taxes and costs on living, the plan on backing down from NATO membership and the increase of prices on food, instead of supporting action to prevent the climate crisis. (CBC, Sweden Democrats, far-right party, part of government for 1st time ever)
The new government will be led by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and the new environment minister Romina Pourmokhtari will work under the minister for energy, business and industry, Ebba Busch. This is unfortunate for Sweden’s strategies because, the previous government was working on the increase of youth participation in combating climate change to develop more policies to prevent the continuous damage that the climate crisis is doing to our surroundings. Now, the government being under the conservative rule will bring less way for positive change to happen. This is only making each agenda go backwards, especially since Sweden was a promising nation on giving influence on combating the climate crisis compared to any EU nations. Not only that, the countries ambitious plan for an energy supply system with zero net atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 will slightly decrease because of the lack of cooperation within the government. However, change is not impossible as long at the new government changes strategies and cooperates in making social change. Unfortunately, that is less likely to happen because of their different priorities and agendas in leading a nation. Also, with Sweden’s new agenda on tightening immigration laws, will bring less productivity to the country. Because with less immigrants then less people will contribute on making a change for the development of the nation. That means, less citizens in Sweden will have the opportunity to be involved in climate change organizations. In this case, positive change within the country will not be implemented if there will be less people participating in local organizations that contribute to saving the environment and the well being of citizens.
How will this affect Sweden’s Relationship with its allies?
The EU developed a growing concern over the shift of strategies of Sweden’s new government. Sweden has always been a constructive country that influences development within the alliance. However, with the new government it is less likely that the agenda promised will grow and its expected that their will be a delay of action because of conservative values.
(Politico, Brussels fears Swedish far right aims to thwart EU law-making program)
Especaillly with their promising key values that Swedish officials have proposed in the EU, this will slowly develop and weaken. The right wing government will prevent the countries amibitions on increasing development in domestic politics and in foreign policy. This will prevent Sweden from leading any agenda in the EU that promotes development and sustainability. Which will also hinder their international presence on the matter, which will push back their foreign policy agendas and their presence in the international stage. The new government should rethink their policies on how they conduct their strategies on foreign affairs, because Sweden's strengthes were always in support for gender equality, climate change and sustainability. Unfortunately, these agendas are the ones they are hindering and preventing them to progress.
(European Commission, The Single Market Programme,https://commission.europa.eu/funding-tenders/find-funding/eu-funding-programmes/single-market-programme/overview_en#:~:text=The%20Single%20Market%20Programme%20(SMP,governance%20of%20the%20single%20market.)
(Asian Development Bank, Swedish Economic Integration Into The European Union as a Latecomer: Policy Recommendations for Asian Economic Integration, 2020,https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/606516/adbi-wp1134.pdf)
(Human Rights Watch, Sweden’s New Government Abandons Feminist Foreign Policy, Hannah Walfridsson,2022,https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/10/31/swedens-new-government-abandons-feminist-foreign-policy)
(Donor Tracker, Sweden,https://donortracker.org/donor_profiles/sweden)
(Reuters, Germany announces a new “feminist foreign policy”,2023,https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/germany-unveils-guidelines-give-foreign-policy-a-more-female-face-2023-03-01/)
(Permanent Mission to France To The United Nations New York, Feminist Foreign Policy, 2019)
(European Parliament, EU progress on climate action-How are the Member States doing?,https://onu.delegfrance.org/Feminist-foreign-policy)
(NATUR VARDS VERKET, Sweden’s Climate Act and Climate Policy Framework,https://www.naturvardsverket.se/en/topics/climate-transition/sveriges-klimatarbete/swedens-climate-act-and-climate-policy-framework/#:~:text=The%20Act%20states%20that%20the,budget%20policy%20goals%20work%20together)
(CBC, Sweden Democrats, far-right party, part of government for 1st time ever,https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/sweden-new-government-1.6618787#:~:text=World-,Sweden%20Democrats%2C%20far%2Dright%20party%2C%20part%20of%20government%20for,immigration%20Sweden%20Democrats%20in%20government.)
(Politico, Brussels fears Swedish far right aims to thwart EU law-making program,https://www.politico.eu/article/brussels-eu-fears-spoiler-role-sweden-far-right/#:~:text=of%20the%20EU-,Brussels%20fears%20Swedish%20far%20right%20aims%20to%20thwart%20EU%20law,the%20EU%20on%20January%201.&text=Voiced%20by%20artificial%20intelligence.,over%20Sweden's%20imminent%20EU%20presidency.)