Socialism Today                     The monthly journal of the Socialist Party

Issue 54

About Us

Back Issues



Contact Us



Issue 54, March 2001

Sweden's EU Protests

SWEDEN IS chairing the European Union (EU) from January to July. Prime minister, Göran Persson, is extremely grateful for the chance to raise his status among world leaders. Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (Socialist Justice Party - CWI Sweden section) is preparing for the international demonstrations outside the summit in Gothenburg on 15-16 June.

The first confrontation, however, was on 9 January when the European Commission met in Sweden for the first time. Our socialist youth organisation, Elevkampanjen, mobilised over a hundred school students behind the slogan 'Revolt Against the EU'. The Swedish EU Commissioner, Margot Wallström, was sent out to talk affably with us. The event received wide national media coverage.

At the second demonstration, outside the EU meeting in Norrköping, the rulers showed another face. The peaceful demonstrators were encircled by police barriers, the security forces using the media to describe us as a threat.

But the establishment's main line so far is to conduct the EU presidency 'together with the whole of Sweden'. After years of bad opinion polls, Persson is changing tactics. Now he tries to hug his enemies to death. Persson and other ministers have said that they support the Attac-movement - a European campaign calling for taxing the rich to pay for increased public spending.

The government wants to be remembered for having accelerated the process of EU enlargement. That would suit the European Commission after the debacle in Nice. Even though the actual entry of states from Central and Eastern Europe into the EU is not close, it reveals the interests of the European capitalists. The twelve candidate states have a population of 105 million people, which would be 28% of the EU population, but would only account for 4% of its GNP. The Western European capitalists want access to that market, its natural resources and cheap labour. But to give the peoples and states of Central and Eastern Europe the same rights as the West is not on the agenda. Twenty-two percent in the candidate countries are employed in the agricultural sector. They really need the fat agricultural subsidies the EU gives to farmers. But it is not for them.


The German and Austrian governments have said that they want a transitional period of seven years until workers from Central and Eastern Europe can enter the EU labour market. The Swedish government has said that Polish workers must wait until the Polish economy has caught up. 'Europe must never be divided again', said the Swedish foreign minister, but new borders will be created. The candidate states are forced to join the Schengen agreement which will mean them imposing visas on countries they have strong links with, such as Russia, Ukraine and Belorus. The Ukrainian president commented: 'The iron curtain is gone but we are getting a paper curtain instead which is as hard to force'.

For Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna and other EU opponents, the Schengen agreement is one of the main issues in the protests. Sweden will join Schengen on 2 March. The day before, there will be a demonstration outside the EU summit in Stockholm on employment - a rehearsal for the Gothenburg protests in June. People are only now beginning to realise what Schengen means. The visa requirements force refugees to enter Europe illegally. Since 1993 more then 2,000 people have died attempting to get into Europe. Sweden had a rule exempting airlines from being fined if they transport refugees. That exemption will end. The latest attack is the suggestion from France, that it should become illegal to help refugees who live clandestinely. Illegal to act in solidarity!

Following on from the Lisbon summit a year ago, the government has organised the summit around the 'three Es': Enlargement, Environment, Employment. Their view of employment is, of course, even more deregulation.


The Nice summit abolished EU members' veto on trade, opening up the possibility of the EU taking the initiative in new negotiations in the World Trade Organisation. They will do this under the cover of 'helping' poor countries. In our campaign we point out that the EU uses trade to squeeze poor countries - an important issue for the growing numbers of anti-capitalist youth.

During Sweden's presidency the militarisation of Europe will accelerate. In May, the EU aims to begin the military coordination of the proposed rapid-reaction force. Parts of the force are expected to be ready for action next year, with the whole army of 70,000 soldiers ready by 2003. (225,000 soldiers will be trained in total.) This is so sensitive for the Swedish government that it will hold this particular summit in Brussels! The government is still trying to argue that Sweden is a militarily neutral state.

Only 49% of EU citizens are in favour of the EU and public opinion in Sweden is the most EU-negative. In December 2000 only 28% were in favour of EMU with 47% against. Yet it is not easy campaigning against the EU. The biggest problem is the unions. The president of LO (Sweden's TUC), Wanja Lundby-Wedin, said: 'To be the chairing-country of the EU is very important. It is the biggest international commitment Sweden has ever had'. On the question of why Swedish unions did not participate in the Nice protests, she answered: 'It is not the tradition of the Swedish unions to demonstrate'. Nonetheless, there will be a union presence in Gothenburg, for example, by Norway's transport workers' union, and from Denmark.


Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna is involved in a networking campaign and organising demonstrations outside seven EU meetings and will intervene in others. Our role has been to try to unite the fragmented left and to promote the socialist anti-EU campaign, particularly among school and college students. January 9 was a good start.

Elin Gauffin

Home | Issue 54 | About Us | Back Issues | Reviews | Links | Contact Us | Subscribe | Search | Top of page