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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Not quite getting it

As noted previously, Sweden is now at the helm of the EU. For those of you not familar with the country's position on the EU, it can basically be summarised as follows: pretty much on track on individual EU policies (such as financial regulation, the EU budget and labour market regulation) - but lost on the big institutional questions - such as the Lisbon Treaty.

For instance check this out - it's from a magazine commissioned by the Swedish government to inform us about its Presidency. One of the articles, looking at the Lisbon Treaty, is particularly revealing. Torbjörn Haak - Deputy Head of the EU Coordination Secretariat at the (Swedish) Prime Minister’s Office - has clearly not quite grasped the debate surrounding the Lisbon Treaty - or how politically charged it is. Neither has the journalist writing on the government's behalf.

The article informs us that:

"Being the civil servant he is, Torbjörn Haak avoids taking a political stance but notes that the Lisbon Treaty gives both the European Parliament and national parliaments more power.
'It’s not a question of a massive transfer of power to Brussels,' he says. 'It doesn’t introduce any broad new policy areas.' But, he adds, national parliaments will be able to keep a check on their governments' EU policies and will also be able to scrutinise legislative proposals from the European Commission."

Ha! No, not political at all. Never mind this week's ruling from the German Constitutional Court, which alluded to the potentially detrimental effect the Lisbon Treaty will have on national parliaments. And never mind the damning verdict by the UK Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which said the Treaty offered no significant new powers for national parliaments. (See here for why national parliaments will in fact lose influence under Lisbon).

Failing to recognise one of the most basic politcal disagreements on the Lisbon Treaty at this particular moment in history is simply not okay - for key civil servants and journalists alike.

Sweden is a voice of reason on many issues in the EU. With the Lisbon Treaty now firmly on the home stretch, there couldn't be a better time for the country to start applying some of that reason to this vital debate.

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