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Sweden at the helm - 01/07/2009

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Sweden takes its turn at the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, with economic recovery and climate change on its agenda.

Sweden assumed the revolving presidency of the European Union on 1 July, hoping to steer the bloc out of recession and pave the way for success in international negotiations on climate change.

One of Sweden's priorities will be to coordinate national policy on budget deficits, which have ballooned as EU countries spend heavily to stoke growth and shore up banks.

With unemployment rising, Sweden is also keen to lay the foundations for a new strategy for creating growth and jobs in the coming decade. The current strategy, adopted in 2000, expires next year.

At their meeting in June, EU leaders backed the commission's proposals for strengthening supervision of the financial industry. Sweden hopes to get the corresponding legislation passed during its six months at the helm. The Swedish government will also prepare the EU position for the Group of 20 economic powers in September.

But Sweden says its top priority will be securing an ambitious agreement on tackling climate change at the UN summit in Copenhagen in December. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said climate change needs a global answer. "We need to keep the European Union together and show European leadership to get this global answer in place."

In negotiations ahead of the conference, Sweden will press the EU case for deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. It will also try to forge consensus on financing the fight against global warming, especially in developing countries.

Sweden takes over at a time of institutional change and uncertainty. A new parliament is taking shape after the elections in June and a new commission will be appointed. Ireland is expected to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty in the autumn. Last summer Irish voters rejected the treaty, dealing a blow to efforts to streamline EU decision-making. All countries must ratify the treaty for it to come into force.

Over the next six months, Sweden wants joint EU efforts to tackle pollution in the Baltic Sea and revive economic activity in the region, which has been hit hard by the financial crisis. Sweden also plans to promote a common asylum policy and to boost EU cooperation on immigration.

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