Continued Battle over Combustion Engine in Swedish Government

Environment - March 4, 2024

The EU member states have agreed on the world’s most ambitious climate packages, “Fit for 55”. It requires that the Union’s greenhouse gases be reduced by 55 percent by 2030. This happened during the Swedish presidency. The Swedish Centre-right government is very satisfied over its accomplishment.

But the Sweden Democrats (ECR) have now stated in the election campaign before the European Parliament elections in June that they want to reform “Fit for 55” and during the next term tear up certain parts of the package.

Tearing up parts of “Fit for 55”

In a televised hearing, Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Åkesson was pressed about this. Why does his party want to tear up this great climate agreement?

He replied that it is a compromise like all EU legislation. Both he and the government are dissatisfied with certain parts. Åkesson mentioned for his part, the ban on new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035, or as it is formally called “requirement for zero emissions”.

The Sweden Democrats are against that ban because it is a typical display of political micromanagement. The combustion engine will be an important part of the vehicle fleet in Europe and Sweden even after 2035, that’s something that Åkesson is sure of..There are many reasons not to implement that ban. “You let the map come before the terrain”, as Åkesson put it.

Then Åkesson was pressed on why he then let the government agree to “Fit for 55”. He replied that the parties did not agree and therefore let the Swedish Riksdag decide, and with the help of the left-wing parties the government gained support for the ban on internal combustion engines.

“But then the question is not so important to you, if you let it go,” continued the reporter.

The government and the Sweden Democrats voted differently

Åkesson replied that he and the government stated that they do not agree and thus the parties will act independently, separately, on that issue. In the EU elections the Sweden Democrats will push for bad parts to be torn up and will act for it in the European Parliament.

All the while the Centre-right government defends “Fit for 55” and says that Swedish competitiveness would be weakened if the climate package was torn up. They stand behind it. And thus, the Sweden Democrats and the government are on different sides.

Then Åkesson pointed out that even parties in the European group EPP, to which the Swedish government’s parties belong, have directed criticism at “Fit for 55”. They are not satisfied there either. Even car manufacturers such as Mercedes have expressed doubts about the drastic ban on new cars with internal combustion engines as early as 2035, and that they may continue to manufacture them after that date.

This decision was made a year ago, and many who supported the ban at the time have begun to reconsider. “It’s bubbling” with criticism. And that says something about the sustainability of this decision, argued Åkesson. Therefore, it is not surprising that his party are getting ready to tear up the parts that are bad for Sweden.

Why didn’t you stop the proposal then?, repeats the reporter. Åkesson replies that it was established that they did not agree and therefore they do not act jointly. “I can’t threaten to leave the collaboration regarding every single question,” Åkesson summed up.

The delicate process of the Tidö Agreement

The reporter revealed that she didn’t understand the dynamics of and negotiation process within the Tidö Agreement. The ambition is to reach an agreement, and that both the government and the Sweden Democrats support the policy that the government puts forward. In the vast majority of areas, this has been possible, which has surprised many commentators in Sweden. And then the Sweden Democrats back the government and defend what the government proposes, even if they have compromised.

In cases where the government and the Sweden Democrats do not agree, it can be handled in different ways. The government can refrain from putting forward the proposal. The government can have the issue to be further investigated to see if another solution can be put on the table. Or the parties can state that they follow different lines and have the right to debate their line in the national parliament and in the EU parliament and let the issue be decided by the other parties.

In the matter of “Fit for 55”, the entire left-wing opposition sided with what the Center-right government proposed, while the Sweden Democrats insisted that the climate package contains unrealistic proposals. With that, Parliament voted it through – without bitterness between the Tidö parties.

Questions may arise where the Sweden Democrats vote for a left-wing proposal in parliament after the government has agreed that they do not agree.

The Tidö process is thus based on mutual respect, and that one has the ambition to reach a common compromise. If it doesn’t work, you can still take the issues further without the collaboration as such collapsing.

Thus, the free vote of the Sweden Democrats can be helpful in the European Parliament after the election to tear up the radical decision to in practice ban new cars with combustion engines until 2035, if parties in other countries and within the EPP also come up with better ideas.