Sweden's road to EU membership
When Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995, it was the culmination of a long period of integration and cooperation with the EU countries. Important milestones along the road to membership included the 1972 Free Trade Agreement between Sweden and the EC and the 1992 treaty establishing a European Economic Area (EEA).
Once the accession process was under way, it took only a short time for Sweden to become a full member of the EC. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in the autumn of 1989, debate on Swedish entry into the European Community gathered pace. Up to then, due to the antagonism between the big powers during the Cold War era, Sweden had felt unable to reconcile EC membership with the policy of neutrality it had traditionally pursued.
In October 1990, the Swedish Government stated its opinion that Sweden should apply to join the EC. In July 1991, the prime minister of the day, Ingvar Carlsson, submitted Swedens application, and in February 1993 formal negotiations got under way in Brussels. Earlier, at summit meetings in Lisbon and Edinburgh in 1992, the EC heads of state and government had agreed to enlarge the Union without introducing any major institutional reforms. The path was now clear for Sweden to become one of the ECs new members.
The negotiations lasted for just over a year. During this period, the European Union was created through the Maastricht Treaty. On 30 March 1994, Sweden and the EU member states finally agreed terms, and the agreement was signed at the Corfu summit in the summer of 1994.
Referendum on EU membership
On 13 November 1994, the membership question was finally settled in a national referendum. A total of 52.3 per cent voted in favour, 46.8 per cent voted against and 0.9 per cent registered blank votes. Turnout was high; 83 per cent. The Swedish people had thereby given the go-ahead for membership, and the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) formally approved the decision on 15 December 1994.
One of the reasons why the membership negotiations had proceeded so smoothly was that much of the work had already been done in connection with the EEA agreement of 1992. This agreement between the EU countries and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) already regulated most of the terms of entry for Swedens participation in the EUs internal market. Important areas such as agriculture and regional policy, however, lay outside the EEA agreement and were embodied in the EU agreement instead.
Swedish as an EU language
Swedish is one of the EU:s 21 official languages under the EU treaty. The Swedish languages status as an official EU language is of great symbolic importance to Sweden. Satisfactory communication between the EU institutions and a countrys own language is a vital element in the ongoing efforts to achieve both greater transparency in the Union and wider democratic approval among its citizens.
A Swedish language policy was established in 1996. It is based on the principle that Swedens elected representatives to the European Parliament and Swedish representatives in other high-level bodies must have the opportunity to communicate in Swedish. The country's choice of representatives should not be governed by their language skills.