Boosting EU competitiveness

A well-functioning EU that sets the right course for its future development are crucial for Sweden’s continued prosperity. Growth, trade and jobs are all directly dependent on which path the EU chooses to follow. A competitive Europe is also the best way to face a challenging global environment. Sweden needs to be a driving force behind ensuring that the EU has the right focus and makes building a strong single market and a competitive EU a top priority.

Let Sweden’s Presidency of the EU in 2023 act as a launch pad to translate such ambitions into action.

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In view of the Swedish Presidency, we have identified five priorities for a more competitive Europe:


Strengthen and deepen the single market.

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Take global leadership in free trade.

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Promote a green transition.

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Accelerate digitalisation.



Promote companies’ research and development activities.

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Five key priorities for Sweden’s EU Presidency in 2023

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise wants to see a strong EU, one that can hold its own in the face of increasingly tough global competition. We want to contribute to the discussion on how we develop the internal market, and how the digital and green transitions can be successfully combined with growth.

To address this, we have developed - in the run-up to the Swedish Presidency - five key priorities for a more competitive EU.


A competitiveness compass for the EU

Europe is facing strong economic headwinds. Addressing the short-term needs of businesses is imperative. At the same time, we must also take on the longer-term challenges, not least closing the gap between Europe and the global leaders at the frontier of growth and innovation.

There is currently no common approach to boost competitiveness at EU level. But with a joint strategy the gap can be closed. Therefore, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise presents a competitiveness compass for the EU - with a focus on policies and reforms necessary for the next five to ten years.

With reforms that only moderately reduce the regulatory burden, opens for more trade integration with the world, and increases spending on R&D with a few percent, the European economy would grow by 3 percent. Another €430 billion in value added would go right into the EU economy, boosting productivity, income, jobs and tax revenues.

Download the brochureRead the report form ECIPEEconomic dividend
Business Europe

The Presidents of BusinessEurope’s 40 member federations have mapped out a direction for Europe and business in the years ahead in the StockholmDeclaration, which you can find below.

EU is Sweden’s most important trading partner

More than half of Sweden’s exports go to the EU, therefore the development of the EU as a trading area is crucial for our growth.

Sweden's trading partner - export of goods, continents in 2021

Source: SCB

Sweden's trading partner - service exports, continents in 2021

Källa: SCB

600 000jobs are created in Sweden through exports to the EU

The total number of jobs created by exports amounts to 1.2 million, of which 770,000 are in goods production and 430,000 in services production. We have assumed that the share of jobs corresponds to the share of the value of goods and services production respectively to calculate the share of jobs related to exports to the EU, which is an approximation.

Source: Harry Flam (2021) ”Den internationella handelns betydelse för Sverige”.

Research and development

Research and development is increasingly important for growth, and the EU has fallen behind the US and China.

Share of global R&D investments in 2019

Source: NSF

R&D intensity in 2020

Total investment as a share of GDP.

Source: Eurostat

1. Strengthen and deepen the single market

European competitiveness is based on a strong single market that promotes coordination and transparency between Member States. One specific area where the single market has unexploited potential is the services sector.

An action plan is needed in which existing obstacles to a growing services market are reviewed and concrete action is proposed by the European Commission to remove these. Other issues that should be prioritised to strengthen businesses’ competitiveness include the free movement of workers, avoiding micromanagement of the European standardisation system and working towards greater harmonisation of market surveillance.

2. Take global leadership in free trade

International trade is crucial for Swedish prosperity. For trade to work, we need predictable and transparent rules that guarantee openness.

A positive trade agenda that increases opportunities for international trade is of considerable importance in order to balance the growing number of defensive instruments that are now being developed within the EU. Sweden should therefore actively support negotiations and the ratification of new free trade agreements. Similarly, Sweden should encourage the EU to take the lead in reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) and continuing to develop relations with the US, including within the Trade & Technology Council (TTC).

3. Promote a green transition

It is vital for our future that the green transition is managed successfully. To achieve the EU’s more ambitious climate goals – which the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise supports – future measures must be produced with a view to growth.

Unless the transition also puts people in a better position, the climate will not be prioritised on a sufficiently broad front. The green transition must therefore take place in a cost-effective manner that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation. Favourable conditions for industry to transition to more circular alternatives, and a goal of security of supply for the electricity system, are examples of topics that should be prioritised for the Swedish Presidency and that will have an important role in final negotiations on the major climate package “Fit for 55”.

4. Accelerate digitalisation

Industry must be given the best possible conditions for continuing to drive technological development. Technological protectionism must be discouraged, with technological capacity being encouraged and the right balance being struck between innovation, integrity, and transparency.

Updated laws and regulations are therefore needed around data flows, data sharing, AI, and e-commerce. For example, data flows should be enabled to a greater extent through more adequacy decisions in respect of third countries and greater inclusion in EU free trade agreements. In addition, the Swedish Presidency should work on legislation that promotes, rather than restricts, the use of trustworthy AI.

5. Promote companies’ research and development activities

Research and development provide much of the foundations for competitiveness. However, investing public funds in research projects for future technologies selected for political purposes is not the way forward. Instead, the public sector should create well-designed rules that enable companies to compete – on a level playing field –  to produce the best possible technical solutions.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise would therefore like to see the upcoming Swedish Presidency prioritise proactive initiatives in joint EU programmes – such as Horizon Europe – with competition remaining the starting point for investment and innovation.

News articles, reports and position papers

ARTICLE — 15 September 2023

“¡Competitiveness, por favor!”

During its presidency of the EU, Sweden succeeded in putting competitiveness on the bloc’s agenda. As Spain now takes over the presidency, it is imperative that competitiveness remains central to policymaking, writes Anna Stellinger.
ARTICLE — 30 June 2023

Ordförandeskapet går i mål – ”Ett stort kliv i rätt riktning”

Det svenska ordförandeskapet i EU går mot sitt slut. Ett intensivt, men resultatrikt halvår, sammanfattar Anna Stellinger, chef för internationella och EU-frågor. ”Det gör skillnad om man är ute tidigt och är konstruktiv”, säger hon.
ARTICLE — 6 June 2023

The “diamond” of the EU turns 30

The EU Single Market celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Despite its age, however, many people still think of the Single Market in abstract terms.
ARTICLE — 26 April 2023

State aid Scoreboard 2022: Level playing field in the EU is challenged

State aid expenditure keep increasing in the EU. The amount of state aid disbursed are also very uneven between different Member States. As the European Commission publishes its yearly state aid scoreboard, there is cause for concern regarding the integrity and functioning of the Single Market.
ARTICLE — 8 March 2023

High level seminar on competitiveness – together with the Swedish Presidency of the EU

The 7th of March the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise hosted a seminar together with the Swedish EU Presidency. Long term competitiveness with a focus on “a compass for competitiveness” was the topic of the seminar.
ARTICLE — 8 February 2023

Informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Stockholm

Key messages by Anna Stellinger, Deputy Director General International and EU Affairs, at the Informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Stockholm, 7 February 2023.
ARTICLE — 19 January 2023

Wanted: A strategy for a more competitive Europe

With a policy framework at EU level designed to boost competitiveness and productivity growth, the gap between the EU and the global leaders at the forefront of growth and innovation can be closed.
ARTICLE — 13 December 2022

Europe’s future competitiveness is at stake

Europe needs a fresh start, an aggressive agenda for reform and increased competitiveness, writes Jan-Olof Jacke, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise along Anna Stellinger, head of International and EU affairs.
ARTICLE — 28 November 2022

Competitiveness topped the agenda as European business leaders gathered in Stockholm

Time for the EU to take the next step. As Sweden prepares to take on the presidency of the EU in January, the Director General of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, Jan-Olof Jacke, says that Sweden has an opportunity to take on a greater role in the Union.
REPORT — 26 October 2022

Priorities for Sweden’s EU Presidency In 2023

Swedish Enterprise has produced a proactive agenda that sets out five EU priorities; “All are to strengthen the EU’s competitiveness”
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BE-1000 Bruxelles
Subscribe to our Swedish newsletter
Contact our EU Office


Rue du Luxembourg 3
BE-1000 Bruxelles
Subscribe to our Swedish newsletter
Contact our EU Office


Rue du Luxembourg 3
BE-1000 Bruxelles
Subscribe to our Swedish newsletter
Publisher and editor-in-chief Anna Dalqvist