A strong EU, in Sweden’s interest


Together with Swedish think-tank Global Utmaning, I have written a chapter in an anthology on Swedish policy for a stronger EU in areas such as migration, climate, finance, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, youth, and many more. The ambition of the anthology is to also show how these policy areas overlap like human rights and migration, democracy and climate, development assistance, and trade.

Sweden joined the EU for economic reasons after the referendum in 1994. Since then the world has changed and EU has become a very political organization. The political climate has become more polarised and major issues are not resolved within the union. The very organization created to avoid war and conflict has not dealt very well with shocks. The Syria crisis with refugees and the ongoing migration from Africa have exposed the weaknesses of EU countries not being able to work together to provide shelter for the needy and fair process for those wishing to stay. The covid pandemic was another shock the EU did not handle well. BREXIT meant the EU for the first time has been challenged by real threats of falling apart. Taken together, the EU is shaking and can therefore not be a very strong voice in the world.

Migration, Integration and the EU

My Contribution

I wrote about migration and integration. The recommendations coming out of my chapter which tried to broaden the conversation to labor market needs and possible solutions used the Software Development-project at KTH that I work with as an example. My policy recommendations for Sweden in the EU were (translated here):


• Act to change the view of immigrants and their integration into society, in line with
The EU’s new integration action plan, ie to value the indispensable value of immigrants
contribution to our society;
• Prioritize a sustainable, harmonized, and long-term migration and integration policy –
within the framework of a common European regulatory framework – based on principles inline
with EU’s core values such as rule of law. This policy area should get more resources because it
is both a social and economic investment for the future;
• Question the Migration Commission’s focus on temporary residence permits for
asylum seekers and return processes based on protection reasons that often do not change
significantly over a period of a few years.

Online Launch

The seminar (in Swedish only) that launched the anthology “A strong EU, in Sweden’s interest” whas broadcast on YouTube and featured politicians as well as one of the editors of the anthology, Hans Alldén.

Some issues that were discussed were: What is a stronger EU? More united? Faster by taking majoritarian decisions instead of seeking consensus? More power and responsibility in the world? Better decisions taking the subsidiary principle into account? What can Sweden bring to the table?

Interesting issues raised by invited panellists were among others:

Jutte Guteland (S): Media do not cover European politics means weak transparency, despite much power with the EU.

Jakop Dalunde (Mp): Nobody keeps me accountable as a parliamentarian in the EU.

Hanne Waerland-Fager (Eu youth dialogue): We have to learn about what issues different political levels are in charge of, when we go to elections for the EU parliament we should discuss issues that EU is mandated to address.

Göran von Sydow (Director Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies): The pandemic is an interesting example where health is a national responsibility, but these measure affects EU at large, however collaborative measures were not happening.

You find the anthology (in Swedish) here: https://www.globalutmaning.se/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2021/05/Ett-starkt-och-ha%CC%8Allbart-EU-i-Sveriges-intresse.pdf

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My Reactions to the Swedish Turn-Around in Refugee Crisis

In shock and disbelief, I read that the Swedish governing coalition has more or less closed Sweden’s boarders. From the initial “Refugees Welcome” attitude to closed doors. The reason is taking in 80 000 refugees over the last two months (!) has stretched Sweden’s infrastructure and services.

In addition, the EU neighbours (except for Germany) are not pulling their weight and Sweden’s PM said he hopes this will send a signal to them. In detail, the following was announced:

“Sweden’s new asylum regime will apply for three years. Temporary residence permits will be granted to all refugees apart from those relocated to Sweden under the EU’s quota scheme and families with children and unaccompanied children who have already arrived.

Sweden’s border police also announced a doubling of officers on Sweden’s southern coast, where most refugees arrive. Since the imposition of border controls on 12 November, the average number of asylum seekers has fallen from 1,507 per day to 1,222, according to immigration officials.” (the Guardian)

As a Swedish citizen, I feel disappointed with my politicians (I voted for the current PM) and was hoping for a less reactive and conservative leadership. Especially toward the background of Sweden being extremely stable financially – to the point on negative interest rates(!) and according to Swedish Central Bank Director Ingves, Sweden could even benefit economically from a large scale inflow of migrants/refugees as that would grow the economy, increase jobs and make the ageing population younger. Many solutions to infrastructure and service limitations have not been tested!

After several discussions on social media and at home, I have arrived at the same basic question over and over again:

Where do you draw the line when helping others?

Sadly, its a question with no easy answer. Because how do you make sure your help is sustainable, that you do not sacrifice yourself or your values in the process? But also, Sweden cannot take in all 11 million Syrians fleeing, so no restrictions at all can also not work? However, I feel, and this is based more on feeling than fact, I admit, that Sweden drew this line too soon. One of the richest countries in the world could lead by example – there are already so many great stories in Swedish media on families taking in refugees, schools working collaboratively with Swedish training for newcomers, and citizens contributing with what they can –  I feel there was more to build on there, instead of quickly closing the boarders as soon as the going got tough. As Swedes mobilize to demonstrate the new refugee policy, I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

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