Catching up after Brussels
Brussels last week was a great experience in all possible ways.
Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs had organised this year’s conference for Swedish Ambassadors in EU countries in a more than exciting way. Not only were we all gathering in Brussels as a useful way of starting this very special year, the year of Europan elections and hence change of guards on key positions in the EU. We also got the opportunity to listen to some key personalities, most notably Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council (i.e. the meetings of the EU Heads of State and Government).
He was impressing to say the least. That’s not his usual image in media. My guess is that he will be revaluated and that his legacy will become very different – meaning much more positive – from what is thought to be common knowledge today.
Obviously we talked a lot about the situation in Ukraine which at that time was, and still is, complicated, unpredictable and deeply worrying.
I am truly impressed by the strong engagement from Poland illustrated not least by the ambitious tour in order to discuss Ukraine to a long range of European capitals these last days by Prime Minister Tusk. Stockholm was one of these capitals. Naturally so since the Eastern Partnership was our joint initiative, and we share the strong ambition to move it forward. The future of Ukraine is very close to our hearts – Swedish hearts included. My heart not least after having visited this great country many times.
Obviously we also talked a lot about the European elections in May – and what will follow.
I learned the message coming out from the Europan Parliament: This time it is different. And it truly is.
This is not a plattitude, not a regular attempt to stir up emotions about something in reality being more of a routine event. The European Elections in May this year will have a clear impact in so many ways. It will influence the formation of the new European Commission. But it will also influence the policy direction for the whole of EU the next five years since the European Parliament after the Lisbon treaty has a much stronger role and voice than previously.
The growing eurosceptic movements in some countries, sometimes even rightwing extremists try to strengthen their influence and support. Whether that will happen or not depends on us all, having the right to vote.
I will definitely use mine and I hope that all fellow Europeans will do the same.
One major event last week was the visit of the Standing Committe on Industry and Trade from the Swedish Parliament, led by former Minister Mats Odell. My co-workers had prepared a program that the Committee was very satisfied with. And the visit itself once again showed the growing awareness in Sweden of Poland’s growing importance in Europe.We had one more illustration of that this week when our State Secretary of Infrastructure, Ingela Bendrot and her staff, visited Warsaw for discussions with her Polish counterpart, Vice minister Zbigniew Rynasiewicz. Transport policy on the EU agenda and traffic safety were key issues discussed, and I think there is clearly room for more contacts and cooperation.
In that spirit I will host a lunch meeting next week for all the contact persons for the cooperation with Sweden in all different Polish ministries. I borrowed this idea from my Polish colleague, Adam Hałaciński, autumn 2012, and next week we will do it again, not least because the declaration was reconfirmed and broadened a couple of months ago. I look forward to hear about the upcoming implementation.
But now - to be very honest I look forward to the weekend. The conditions for jogging are improving and the Warsaw half-marathon March 30th is coming closer. Time to increase the dose of training. Which will make me better prepared for the 21 km in March but also make me more relaxed and more productive at the same time.
Let me finally recommend you some of my favorite Swedish music for relaxation, just presented on our Embassy facebook-site. Bo Kaspers and one their many great songs: “Mellan ett och noll” (Between one and zero).