Sweden among the "big three" EU foreign policy leaders
Sweden has ranked second on the 2015 European Foreign Policy Scorecard based mainly on achievements by the previous government, but current minister for foreign affairs Margot Wallström says her government will maintain Sweden's role as a "humanitarian superpower".
Sweden, along with the UK, had the second largest influence on EU foreign policy last year, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations, the think tank that puts together the annual European Foreign Policy Scorecard. Only Germany was more influential.
Since 2012, Sweden has climbed from fourth to second place. The news has pleased the previous government, which was in power until September last year.
“Sweden has been climbing up through the rankings over the years that we've been tracking leaders and slackers within the scorecard,” said Susie Dennison, a senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations and project leader for its scorecard.
“This year's number two ranking really is remarkable because it puts Sweden above France so it puts it in the Big Three,” Dennison continued.
EU member states are ranked according to their relations to various nations and regions, and the scorecard also considers how well countries do on managing multilateral issues and crises - for instance in the areas of aid, climate and the response to the Ebola epidemic
“Sweden's engagement in Europe is based on a very activist diplomacy and on different areas it displays what we've termed brokerage, sponsor and example-setter types of leadership,” Dennison explained.
“What we mean by that is that Sweden invests time and energy in creating coalitions within the EU. It's willing to put its money behind the resources it cares about and this year that was both on general aid, but also in relation to the Middle East, and not only in terms of humanitarian aid to the region, but also in terms of a willingness to take in refugees.”
Since the latest scorecard measures foreign-policy achievements in 2014, the previous centre-right coalition government - the so-called Alliance - can take much of the credit for Sweden's high ranking, as it was in power until September last year.
Karin Enström, the foreign policy spokesperson for the conservative Moderate Party, served as minister for defense under the previous government. She said: “We were efficient and we had a clear goal: to play an important role in the framework of the European Union. I'm worried that Sweden's new government won't follow up these good results."
According to Enström, the current Social Democrat-Green Party government is not focused enough, but is trying to "do everything, everywhere at the same time".
But the current minister for foreign affairs, Margot Wallström, said her government will maintain an active engagement with the European Union and that it will provide constructive contributions and proposals.
"We have already started doing that and we've also continued policy on for example the Ukraine and Russia,” Wallström told Radio Sweden. “We also have access to very good intelligence for example on Russia and the Ukraine and by contributing in every meeting, we will definitely continue to have an impact.”
Asked if she has anything positive to say about the previous government's impact on the EU's foreign policy, Wallström said: "That's fine. I don't really know what [the scorecard] represents and how it is measured. We are just happy about that and we will continue to make sure that our voice is heard loud and clear.”
Wallström has said that she will push for "global commitment and an independent voice".
"That means we will show that we are interested in looking at the global, UN agenda and we're already doing that because we are regarded as a humanitarian superpower," Wallström insisted.
Whether or not Sweden will maintain its high ranking in next year's European Foreign Policy Scorecard might depend on Wallström's personal commitment.
"One of the points that was made last year, when Sweden ranked third, was that this was about personality politics, that [Sweden's previous minister for foreign affairs] Carl Bildt talks loud and often and was willing to travel many miles in terms of playing the role of an activist EU foreign minister. It will be interesting to see whether that point is proved by what happens in 2015 or not. I think it's too early to tell,” said Dennison of European Council on Foreign Relations.