Our second site visit of our last full day in Stockholm was a trip to the Swedish Parliament, where we took a short tour of the building and spoke with a representative about parliamentary procedures as well as its interactions with the EU. We learned that the Swedish Parliament, or the Riksdag, has numerous sectoral committees monitering EU affairs within specific policy areas. The Committee on EU Affairs deals with all areas of cooperation with the EU , and the Government consults both the Committee on EU Affairs and parliamentary committees when it needs to gain support for its EU policies before meeting with the Council of Ministers. It was particularly interesting to learn that consultations ahead of the meetings with the Council are open to the public, and the stenographic records are published. In many previous site visits, we’ve seen that a certain percentage of European citizens feel that they lack access to or knowledge of policymaking processes within the EU, so this visit gave us some valuable insight into how Sweden tries to make its interactions with the EU as transparent as possible to its people. It’s also important to note that the Swedish Parliament checks all of the EU drafts before approving them, but not all countries do. There have been discussions on finding a way for national parliaments across member states to work together on subsidiarity checks, which would make agreement and implementation of EU laws more efficient.
Another interesting point the representative made was that since Sweden currently has a minority government, there are often cases in which the government must negotiate with other parties, sometimes changing its position.
We also discussed some of the issues the Riksdag is currently dealing with, the most pressing of which is the migration crisis. The same day we visited parliament, they were voting whether to adopt new legislation on migration that would last for the next two years. We had the unique opportunity to witness the vote, which ended with a majority agreeing to pass the legislation. The new regulations will make it more difficult for refugees to attain permanent residency, and will impose serious restrictions on family reunification. Sweden has always taken a more liberal approach on migration than the rest of Europe, and this legislation was not without strong opposition, which was demonstrated in protests that took place outside the building. The legislation and the protests were further evidence that the migration crisis is only becoming more serious, and highlights the need for a more cohesive, effective strategy across EU member states. The visit to the Swedish parliament was an interesting look into Swedish politics, and gave us valuable insight into the Nordic model as well as prominent issues like the migration crisis. After visiting institutions in both Copenhagen and Stockholm, it will be very interesting to compare Scandinavian perspectives on European issues to those in other member states.