17. The Policy Watch

The Policy Watch is a weekly update which aims to provide concise insights into the current policy landscape. Tailored for our members and individuals interested in international affairs, this update offers a brief yet comprehensive summary of key developments affecting policy decisions and political trends in the UK, Sweden, and the EU.

The UK Watch

UK REJECTS EU’S OFFER ON POST-BREXIT YOUTH MOBILITY SCHEME 

The UK Government has rejected an EU proposal to facilitate easier movement for young people, stating that “free movement within the EU was ended.”

The European Commission had proposed a scheme allowing young people aged 18 to 30 to stay in an EU country for up to four years without restrictions on work, study, training, or volunteering. However, Downing Street rejected the proposal as it prefers country-by-country deals to an agreement that would apply across all 27 member states.

UK AND US SANCTION IRANIAN ENTITIES FOLLOWING ATTACK ON ISRAEL

On Thursday, the UK announced sanctions against seven individuals and six entities linked to Iran, accusing them of facilitating destabilising regional activities, including the recent attack on Israel. This move supplements over 400 existing sanctions imposed on Iran, targeting key figures and organisations involved in the missile attack against Israel. The sanctions, announced alongside the US, aim to tighten restrictions on Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle and missile industries, reinforcing condemnation of Iran’s behaviour and efforts to curb its ability to disrupt the region.

 

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT ABANDONS 75% EMISSION REDUCTION TARGET BY 2030

The Scottish Government has announced the abandonment of its flagship target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030, following a series of missed annual targets. While the final aim of achieving “net-zero” emissions by 2045 remains unchanged, there are indications that annual climate targets may also be revised. The decision, expected to be formalised with a statement at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon, reflects mounting challenges in meeting ambitious climate goals, with critics highlighting the difficulty of achieving the 75% milestone amidst broader societal and economic complexities.

The Sweden Watch

SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER REPORTED ATTACK ON IRAN

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström expressed deep concern over reports of an attack on Iran, stating it is a matter taken seriously by the Government and is closely monitored. Billström emphasised the need for de-escalation in the region, urging an end to hostilities and escalation.

 

EU APPROVES STOCKHOLM’S NEW ENVIRONMENTAL ZONE

The European Commission has approved Stockholm’s new environmental zone, which prohibits petrol and diesel cars from entering the specified area. The City of Stockholm had previously decided to implement a class 3 environmental zone in the city centre, covering 20 blocks within Kungsgatan, Birger Jarlsgatan, Hamngatan, and Sveavägen.

This entails a ban on petrol and diesel cars, with only electric vehicles and low-emission gas vehicles permitted, including low-emission plug-in hybrids for heavy traffic and taxis. The European Commission found no objections after conducting a review to ensure compliance with freedom of movement regulations.

 

GABNA SAMEBY LOSES LEGAL BATTLE AGAINST MINING COMPANY

The mining company Copperstone Viscaria has been granted approval to continue exploration for iron, gold, and copper in the Viscaria 119 area west of Kiruna.

Despite the Sameby’s objections to Bergsstatens initial approval, the Administrative Court in Luleå ruled in favour of Bergsstaten and Copperstone Viscaria regarding the application area, citing that concerns about its impact on reindeer husbandry were not relevant in the initial stages. The exploration permit is valid for three years, from November 1, 2023, to November 1, 2026.

The EU Watch

EU LEADERS MEET IN BRUSSELS FOR A SPECIAL EUROPEAN COUNCIL

On Wednesday and Thursday, EU Leaders convened in Brussels for a Special European Council. At the two-day summit, the 27 Heads of Government/State adopted conclusions on, e.g.: (i) the continued support for Ukraine, (ii) restrictive measures against Iran, (iii) a strategic debate on EU-Türiye relations, (iv) A new European competitiveness deal, (v) inviting the Commission to assess the creation of a Capital Markets Union, and more.

 

EU REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL EUROPE

During the High-Level Conference on the European Pillar of Social Rights, organised by the Belgian Presidency of the Council, EU institutions, social partners, and civil society renewed their commitment to a stronger social Europe.

At the event, a Declaration on the Future of the European Pillar of Social Rights was signed by key stakeholders, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, and various social organisations. The declaration outlines initiatives to implement and strengthen the European Pillar of Social Rights, serving as the guiding framework for EU social policies in the future legislative term.

 

EU LEADERS WELCOME THE U.S $60.8 BILLION UKRAINE AID PACKAGE

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $60.8 billion aid package for Ukraine, with European leaders welcoming the move but stressing the need for more support from Europe to counter anticipated Russian offensives. Despite conservative opposition, the measure passed in a 311-112 vote, with President Joe Biden’s administration highlighting the urgency of the aid to prevent Ukraine from losing ground to Russia’s invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commended the decision, stating that Ukraine’s use of weapons provided by NATO allies strengthens security in Europe and North America. While Ukrainian officials expressed gratitude for the aid, concerns were raised over the time it would take for replenishments to reach the frontlines, with fears of a Russian offensive looming in the coming months.

 

CROATIAN CONSERVATIVE PARTY WINS MOST SEATS IN ELECTION, COALITION TALKS AHEAD

Croatia’s ruling conservative party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), secured the highest number of seats in the parliamentary election held on Wednesday (17 April), but fell short of the required majority to form a government, according to almost complete official results, prompting negotiations for a coalition. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s HDZ won 61 seats in the 151-member assembly, a decrease from its previous count of 66 seats in the 2020 vote, while the centre-left coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP) clinched 42 seats.

With a voter turnout of 61%, the election witnessed heightened political competition amid challenges including corruption, labour shortages, inflation, and illegal migration, setting the stage for intricate coalition discussions in the days to come.

 

GERMAN-RUSSIAN NATIONALS DETAINED FOR ALLEGED SABOTAGE PLOT AGAINST AID TO UKRAINE

German authorities have apprehended two German-Russian nationals in Bayreuth on suspicion of planning sabotage attacks in collaboration with Moscow, targeting U.S. military installations in Germany to undermine German military support to Ukraine, according to the German federal prosecutor’s office. The suspects are alleged to have prepared explosive and arson attacks on military and industrial sites, including U.S. armed forces facilities.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has summoned the Russian ambassador, expressing grave concern over the suspected recruitment of agents by the Kremlin to carry out attacks on German soil.

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