6. 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

INSTRUMENTS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND POWER-SHARING PASSES

Following the agreement between the UK Government and the Democratic Union’s Party (DUP) two weeks ago, UK MPs passed two statutory instruments to enable a functioning Belfast government on Thursday. The instruments specify the conditions for the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and the UK and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

 

UK COULD RECOGNISE PALESTINE

According to Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the U.K. is considering a recognition of a Palestinian state. This statement came as he tried to sell a peace plan for the war in Gaza. He further stated, “We should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like – what it would comprise, how it would work.”

 

IMF: UK SHOULD REFRAIN FROM FURTHER TAX CUTS

In its assessment of the world economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised the UK Government not to implement further tax cuts. The primary reason the IMF disagrees with the UK’s plans to cut taxes to boost economic growth is its views on the UK Government’s public service spending plan being too low and that the investments need to be higher to preserve it.

 

RISHI SUNAK IS OPTIMISTIC OF HIS CHANCES IN UPCOMING ELECTION.

During an event at the Londoner Hotel with his campaign supporters, the UK PM Rishi Sunak expressed optimism when discussing his chances of winning in the upcoming general election.  During his toast of gratitude, PM Sunak said that the conservatives were down, not out and that a surprise comeback was possible, hinting at the comeback of the English cricket team.

The Sweden Watch

SWEDEN AND FRANCE STRENGTHEN COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR POWER 

On 31 January, Swedish Minister for Education Mats Persson and French Minister for Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau signed a letter of intent on deepened cooperation between the two countries on nuclear power technology research. As the Swedish Government seeks to enable new nuclear power, the cooperation aims to promote technological and scientific exchange between Sweden and France, the latter of which is ”a leader in the nuclear power sector,”  according to Minister Persson.

 

GOVERNMENT PROPOSES HIGHER MORTGAGE CEILING

According to SVT, to combat rising debts among Swedish households, the Government is proposing to increase the mortgage ceiling from 85% to 90 %. The proposal aims to discourage individuals from taking high-risk and unsecured loans to meet the current 15% cash investment requirement for mortgages. Although the proposal has been met with scepticism from some experts, the Government emphasises the need to prevent ‘debt traps’ for individuals.

 

MINISTER BUSCH: SWEDEN MIGHT NOT REACH EU CLIMATE GOALS

The minister for Energy, Business, and Industry, Ebba Busch, stated that there is a chance that Sweden might not reach the EU’s climate goals by 2030 in SVT’s programme ‘30 Minutes’. In accordance with the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ plan, Sweden must reduce its non-trading sectors’ emissions by 50% by 2030. Busch has said that it is too early to say whether Sweden will be able to reach these goals because of the ‘necessary’ short-term increases in emissions due to recent policy changes.

The EU Watch

BREAKING (FAST) NEWS: PROVISIONAL DEAL ON MORE FRUIT IN JAMS

The Belgian Presidency of the Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on a final compromise version of the ‘Breakfast Directives’, which will increase the minimum amount of fruits in jams, among other things. The Breakfast Directives’ primary aim is to improve information for consumers to make more informed and healthy choices.

According to the EU’s legislative process, the final compromise text now has to be adopted by the Council and the Parliament to be endorsed as EU law.

 

EU MEMBER STATES AGREE ON THE AI ACT’S FINAL DRAFT

Despite the concern for Germany’s, France’s, and Austria’s position on the matter, the EU Member States agreed on Friday on the final compromise text of the AI Act. The final compromise text is the result of lengthy negotiations in the trilouge, where representatives from the Council of the EU, the European Parliament, and the European Commission gather to discuss their positions on the original Commission proposal of an AI act.

The Law, expected to come into force in Spring 2024, imposes strict limits on ‘high-risk’ AI usage and enforces transparency and stress-testing of advanced software models. The AI Act marks a milestone in AI regulation as it established binding rules for the development of AI technology.

 

THE TRILOUGE REACHES AGREEMENT ON RIGHT TO REPAIR DIRECTIVE.

On Friday, the parties in the trilouge (see above for explanation) reached a provisional agreement on a final compromise text of the so-called right-to-repair (or R2R) directive. The aim of the Directive, which is a part of the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan, is to make it easier for consumers to repair rather than replace their defective products by setting obligations for manufacturers to repair goods which are “technically repairable” under EU laws (I.e. Washing machines, mobile phones, vacuum cleaners, etc).

 

MACRON SAYS EUROPE’S AID MUST CONTINUE WITH OR WITHOUT THE US

During his visit to Sweden, French President Emmanuel Macron said that Europe must be prepared to keep supporting Ukraine even if the US withdraws its support. “we must be ready to act to defend and support Ukraine whatever it takes and whatever America decides”. He also called for the EU to accelerate its support as the cost of a Russian victory would be “… too high for all of us.”

However, Macron has received criticism for this statement, as France’s total of €500 million in military support to Ukraine is far less than other European Countries, with Germany (€17.1 billion), the UK (€6.6 billion), Poland (€3 billion), Sweden (€2 billion), and many more having sent more.

 

MACRON BLAME BRUSSELS FOR FARMERS’ FALLING INCOMES 

While farmers protest throughout Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron blames EU rules and policies for farmers’ falling incomes and urges the EU to drop several initiatives. The list of ‘demands’ includes: dropping some green measures, limiting food imports from Ukraine, and stopping the trade deal between the EU and the South American Mercosur Bloc. This move by Macron has been said to maybe help him fight off Marine Le Pen but could backfire by undermining the French President’s green credentials.

Macron’s statement on the trade deal with the Mercosur group also puts pressure on the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who needs France’s support for her possible second term as the Commission’s chief.

 

MELONI AND FRENCH WINE AND DINE-DIPLOMACY TURNS ORBÁN AROUND ON EU SUPPORT TO UKRAINE

On Thursday, the two parties (i.e., Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the remaining 26 EU leaders) agreed on the €50 Billion aid package to Ukraine. It was during a breakfast meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Commission’s chief Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian PM Giorgia Meloni that Orbán bulged after weeks of Hungarian veto threats and EU counter-threats.

The agreement was reached after a several months-long ‘charm offensive’ from Italian PM Meloni, who used her long-standing relationship with her Hungarian peer to bridge the gap. Also, Macron and his lunch parties at the Elysée have been said to be key for Orbán’s turnaround in the EU’s support package to Ukraine.

The reached consensus between the 27 Heads of State/Government was welcomed by Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson, who stated, “This sends an important signal also to the US.”

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