Posts tagged ‘EU’


This interview was originally posted at Eurotopics on Sept. 10, 2008.

Sweden is the most generous among Europe’s donor countries. Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson explains why this is the case and also why the EU needs to be more active in Georgia and Africa.

euro|topics: The Swedish government seems to attach great importance to development aid, more so than other European Union governments, as it spends the highest percentage of its national income on it. Why?

We believe in openness. People are connected with global developments, whether it’s hunger in Africa or the violence in Afghanistan. This government believes that aid and development cooperation can make a difference if we do the right things.


Photo: Pawel Flato

But of course combating poverty is not only about the amount of development aid, but also about trade regulations, climate policy and about foreign relations.

euro|topics: Developing gender equality, particularly in Africa, is a primary goal for Sweden. Why is this so important?

Gender is one of the three priorities in Sweden’s development cooperation. Women and children are specifically vulnerable, but they can be fast tools for change, for example in issues of power sharing. The other two priorities are “human rights, democracy and the need of rule of law” and “environment and climate change”. When I came into office two years ago, we had about ten priorities. I found huge room for improvement there in Swedish policy.

euro|topics: How do you evaluate cooperation at an EU level?

The EU should use its full potential for stronger policies of coherence regarding levels of ODA, trade, agriculture, and foreign security policy. There are new donors emerging and old donors now trying to achieve more, like Spain. We have the old team of the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden cooperating very well together.

euro|topics: You alluded to the fact that every EU country has its own development priorities, which can sometimes make distribution of aid counterproductive.

This is true in foreign policy as well. It is easier to please your citizens if you can put up the Swedish flag rather than the EU flag.

euro|topics: What should be done to improve cooperation among EU countries?

A lot. I’d like to have a new treaty with a more coherent foreign policy. It should analyse and then link development cooperation with the global role that the EU should play. This could help in overcoming these disparities that are sometimes counterproductive.

euro|topics: Given recent events, will your development aid policy toward Georgia change or does this depend more on a common European policy or perspective?

Georgia is one of those countries where we decided to stay and where we are trying to do more. We were among the first countries to answer to the humanitarian appeal from Georgia, and we are following the situation there seriously and closely, specifically with our minister of foreign affairs Carl Bildt.

euro|topics: So it doesn’t depend much on a common European policy?

Even though there may be reluctances or changed attitudes within the EU, we really should support Georgia. The EU should step up its efforts to show solidarity and encourage the possibility of having Georgia as a well-functioning state and a good partner. We should also continue to engage more with Russia. Sweden just phased out Russia as a partner country, but we still do a lot when it comes to our common Baltic Sea and the environment.

euro|topics: Do you think aid will begin to decrease even more due to the world food crisis and the economic downturn that is predicted for the EU?

Yes. Up until last year it was actually the case that the overall ODA levels were increasing in the world, but now there is stagnation. The trend has been positive in one way, but too slow to meet the Millenium Development Goals and the promises made. If we, the rich world, do not deliver on that, how can we help, or more or less encourage, developing countries to listen more to our experiences, to not make the same mistakes when it comes to the environment and to feel that we are partners? I think the levels of ODA are a test of our overall commitment, and that is why I’m frustrated about the progress on our levels, but also partly on aid effectiveness.

euro|topics: What are the major future challenges for European development cooperation?

When it comes to regions, it’s Africa, Africa. I would like to stress that very clearly. It is our closest continent and big differences between the two continents are not healthy for the EU. We could do more to encourage women’s rights, democracy and the rule of law in the neighbourhood, including parts of the Middle East. And our main issue should be climate change.

Interview: Morgan Ashenfelter


Sep 10, 2008 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment


The European Union is currently in a crisis, said Dr. Eckhart Stratenschulte from the Europaische Academy of Berlin. As the recent disruption of the Lisbon Treaty by Ireland demonstrates, the European Union is at a bit of a crossroads, and no one is entirely sure which way to go.

“There’s no consensus about where the EU is going and who is coming with it,” Stratenschulte said.

He said that the EU needs to work together and should become a large international player alongside the U.S. The foreign policy of the European Union is relatively new, but the U.S. can not possibly lead the world alone even if it is the most powerful nation, Stratenschulte said.

While there are many issues that the EU and the U.S. do not agree on, their views on human rights are similar enough that it should be the basis for working together in a foreign policy with other countries.

The EU must work out its own problems first, namely that the EU must be reformed in order to keep up with a changing world and with the addition of new member states. The Lisbon Treaty aims to do just that, but because it hasn’t been ratified yet, the question of where exactly the EU is headed, in terms of its power and rights throughout the world, remains.

Stratenschulte’s argument relates to that of Samuel P. Huntingdon’s thesis in his book, “The Clash of Civilizations,” in which he argues that the world’s power is divided into several “orders” based on similar culture and religion, such as Western Christian versus Russian Orthodox versus Islam versus Latin America. Therefore, the European Union and the U.S. must work together in order to extend their power throughout the world and continue to protect their own culture.

Jul 3, 2008 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment


It seems that northern Italy’s cities’ particle pollution is way above the World Health Organization and EU’s standards. Not only is this a problem for the environment, but it also leads to a host of health problems, like asthma, poor lung development in children and respiratory and heart disease.

Northern Italy is one of my favorite places in the world. It is absolutely gorgeous, and with Venice, Florence and Milan it is also an important region for history, culture and priceless art. Not to mention it is the home to millions of Italians. No matter how you look at it, countries must be responsible for their pollution. EU and WHO standards are there for a reason. It’s a little scary that a first world country with the ability to curb their pollution is ignoring the problem, even when it affects the health of its citizens.

Jun 11, 2007 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

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