From 1 January 2023, Sweden will hold the EU Presidency for the third time. This is an excellent opportunity for Sweden to show how we want the EU to develop. As well as saying what we don’t want, we need to be equally clear about what it is we actually do want from the EU. Swedish Enterprise has produced a proactive agenda that sets out five EU priorities; “All are to strengthen the EU’s competitiveness”
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.
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. 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
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 largely form the foundation for strong competitiveness .Investing public funds in research projects for future technologies that have been selected for political purposes is not the way forward. Instead, the public sector should create well-functioning rules that enable companies to compete to produce the best technical solutions on equal terms. The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise would therefore like to see the Swedish Presidency prioritising proactive initiatives in joint EU programmes such as Horizon Europe, where competition should remain the starting point for investments and innovation.EU