Time to evaluate the Swedish membership of the Union

Politics - June 6, 2023

The European Union is about to become a straitjacket for Sweden, the party leader of Sweden Democrats (ECR) writes in two articles in the country’s largest newspapers. He receives support for an evaluation of the EU-membership also from the liberal press.

The power shift from member states to Brussels is ongoing. The second largest party in the Swedish parliament, Sweden Democrats, now raising their voices to implement a broad evaluation of the contry’s membership in the Union.

The European project has changed radically during the three decades Sweden have been involved. From intergovernmental cooperation where decisions are mostly made by unanimity, to a supranational union where most decisions are made by qualified majority. Governments of various colors have endorsed this development and accepted that our self-determination has been curtailed.

The Union is developing in the wrong direction

Jimmie Åkesson writes in Aftonbladet that his party “buys – albeit reluctantly – that the EU in its current form, in the short and medium term, is the form of European cooperation that is realistic … But the development is going in completely the wrong direction.”

He points out that over 60 percent of all decisions in Swedish municipalities and regions are influenced by EU decisions. This means that other countries’ politicians and bureaucrats, whom Swedish voters cannot elect or depose, today have greater influence over Swedish legislation than the elected members of Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag.

Soon national elections will become meaningless

“In pace with such a development, the will of the people, which is reflected in the results of the parliamentary elections, will become less and less relevant. Our general elections in Sweden will soon lack significance for Sweden’s development. Of course, we cannot have it that way,” writes Åkesson.

He exemplifies that the EU wants to gain power over migration policy, which in the long run could mean that the member states completely lose control over who has the right to live, reside and work within national borders. “That in itself constitutes an absolutely central and fundamental part of the definition of an independent state.”

This means that the EU can go against the broad support of the Swedish people for introducing a strict migration policy.

For these reasons, Swedish EU membership needs to be evaluated so that the consequences can be discussed, says Åkesson. It is also important to “look at how we can limit the over-implementation of EU legislation that Sweden has so far indulged in.”

Protect national interests

Swedish politics needs to find ways forward to better guard Swedish interests. Sweden needs to establish several exemptions from the EU’s directives so that politics in Sweden can be more in line with the will of the people.

“Sweden needs to put Swedish interests first. We have extensive problems within our borders to which we need to devote our undivided focus. We need to change our approach to the EU and stop being so naive in our view of European cooperation,” states Åkesson.

He points out that other member states are more adept at using the union for their own gain and that Sweden needs to do the same. “It is time to pay for all the hundreds of billions Swedish taxpayers have sent to the EU. It is no longer about what we can do for the EU, but rather what the EU can do for us,” concludes Jimmie Åkesson.

Establish “referendum lock”

In an article in another major newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, Jimmie Åkesson develops together with EU parliamentarian Charlie Weimers the party’s current view of the union. They writes that their party wants a so-called “referendum lock”. This would mean that the Swedish people must approve when power is transferred from Sweden to the EU.

“Only the knowledge that every decision on the transfer of power must be submitted to the citizens would slow down the worst abuses from Brussels,” write Jimmie Åkesson and Charlie Weimers.

The government and Riksdag should take measures to create readiness to leave the EU. Such preparedness should not necessarily be seen as a preparation to actually leave, but rather as a signal to counterparties in future negotiations that there is a limit to what can be accepted.

Opinion for returning power to member states

Opinion polls show that a majority of all Swedes are in favor of Sweden’s membership in the EU. The Sweden Democrats respect this. At the same time, however, the same surveys show that the Swedes do not want more supranational decision-making.

Popular support in Sweden for a “United States of Europe” is just under 14 percent. Only 11 percent of citizens want to transfer more power from the member states to the EU, while 48 percent want to return power to Sweden.

The Sweden Democrats now want to investigate how a member state like Sweden can prevent more power transfers to the EU. They want the country’s representatives to get better at reaching negotiation results that are in Sweden’s interests. “This is currently a more urgent issue than the discussion about membership”, say Åkesson and Weimers.

They believe that those who advocate the EU should welcome an evaluation of the membership and not try to turn a debate about negotiation strategy into one about membership being or not being. Different actors in Sweden should all be able to agree on the goal of giving our negotiators stronger support and equipping them better for future battles.

Some positive reactions

From the left-wing media, Åkesson’s statement is seen as a tactical move. Aftonbladet, the biggest left-wing paper, believes that the Sweden Democrats are putting pressure on the centre-right government. “Either the government takes battle against the EU to get through the agreed domestic policy proposals. Or Åkesson delivers a Swexit debate in time for next year’s EU elections.”

In the Swedish media landscape, the positions of Sweden Democrats as a conservative party are usually condemned, but this time several major media highlight that there is a point in evaluating the EU membership that has lasted for almost thirty years, since 1995.

The leading liberal newspaper Expressen believes that EU membership is a very complex issue with many angles that must all be taken into account in a possible evaluation. The paper believes that the question of whether the EU benefits Sweden or not is difficult to answer, but that it is clear that Sweden needs the EU at the present time.

Business newspaper Dagens Industri writes in an editorial article that “It is a very good idea” to evaluate the EU. “Certainly there are areas where the EU’s ambitions go too far”, the paper write, but believe that an evaluation would show that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

A similar attitude is shared by other liberal newspapers that see a point in evaluating the membership. One ep-ed headline reads: “Of course, EU membership can withstand an evaluation”.

“Stupid to wave away Åkesson’s criticism of the EU”, says the Swedish free market think tank Timbro. They warn that the EU’s federalist orientation risked triggering a “Swexit” debate within the Swedish right, i.e. a debate about leaving the Union.

From a market-liberal point of view, Timbro supports that the EU project is evaluated, but “an evaluation should not be a first step towards withdrawal, but lay the foundation for increased Swedish influence in Brussels”.