On Wednesday, the Czech Republic handed over the presidency of the European Union to Sweden. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has called for a more aggressive approach to the problems currently facing the E.U. as it tries to settle on a new charter and gain influence on the global stage.
The recent Czech presidency has been deeply criticized for a lack of leadership on key issues like the world financial crisis. An art exhibition commemorating the Czech presidency stirred anger across the region for its depiction of Bulgaria as a toilet, among other caricatures. Many see the Swedish presidency as a departure from the Czech style of leadership, though the last Swedish presidency was markedly quiet.
Bloggers had their say about the future and past of the European Union — including Swedish Minister for European Affairs Cecilia Malmström, who will chronicle Sweden’s presidency in her blog. She writes of her ambitions:
I’m looking forward to some challenging and exciting six months, that will require a lot of hard work and creative leadership.
It’s no secret that Sweden will be leading Europe in a difficult time. The European Union is facing a number of challenges, and the presidency will work under very specific conditions. But we are not afraid of taking up the challenge. The presidency’s ambition is to achieve results on a range of issues where citizens expect the Union to deliver. While working to create better conditions for growth and jobs, we will also need to unite the world in the struggle against climate change.
Blogger Julien Frisch shares his cautious enthusiasm:
As a realist, I know that the change [Sweden] can bring in practice is limited. But knowing that the spirit behind their actions is different to the previous presidencies, I have the hope that they will make a positive difference.
“Philippe,” a Swedish blogger, feels particularly dismayed over the failures of the previous leadership:
The past months have been marked by a rudderless feeling as the domestically strife-ridden Czechs failed to stamp their authority on the bloc, and member states freely bickered over how to tackle the devastating economic crisis.
Honor Mahony of euobserver.com writes that the Swedes are in for a difficult time:
Now prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is in the hot seat. Every word he utters will be treated as the EU’s approach to that issue. His predictions on the economic crisis and a climate change deal will be headlines in themselves. […] Each presidency brings with it its own particular traditions – the Swedes are pushy on transparency and have relatively good green credentials.