Speech by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in European Parliament 3 april 2019
Brussels, 3 April 2019
Check against delivery.
The defence of democracy – and our young people’s dreams
President of the European Parliament.
[Vice-]president of the Commission.
Distinguished Leaders of the Political Groups.
Members of Parliament.
My fellow Europeans.
Firstly, I would like to show my appreciation for your work during this electoral period,
and the progress you have achieved for Europe.
But my focus today,
will not be on our past,
but on our future.
I believe that we must step up,
to defend our fundamental values in the European Union.
And the most strategic way to fight the forces that challenge those values,
is to deliver results in the areas of employment, security, migration and climate change,
and thus: to create hope for the future.
That should be our core mission:
the defence of our democratic values
– and our young people’s dreams.
* * *
Some people say that idealism is the preserve of the young.
And when we enter the world of adults,
we learn that nothing is black and white,
and realise that self-interest and cynical trade-offs rule the world.
I believe this narrative is wrong.
My parents took me in as a foster child,
and taught me about shared responsibility,
about respect for every human being,
During my political career,
I have had to compromise and make tough decisions,
in difficult situations,
such as economic downturns and terrorist attacks.
But it has not made me forget my values.
It has only deepened my belief in the importance of having a moral compass,
to guide you through the tough times.
Because if we didn’t let our values steer our decisions,
if we didn’t feel our choices were leading us towards the kind of society we believe in,
what would be the point in making any decisions at all?
* * *
The same applies to the EU.
Our union is based on values.
The whole idea of creating a common market,
and joint responsibility for coal and steel production, was to tie our countries and our peoples closer together.
We wanted to fulfil Friedrich Schiller’s sentiments in Ode to Joy
that Alle Menschen werden Brüder
with equal value and equal rights,
which – put to the music of Beethoven
– became our common anthem.
* * *
And now that our union has grown and grown older,
we, just like every individual, need to
remember our most fundamental values.
For what would be the ultimate point of our work,
the ultimate point of our union,
if it did not promote the values we believe in?
It may also be the greatest thing we could do for the world.
We are living in a time when the multilateral system is being shaken to its core.
The United Kingdom wants to leave our union,
and the transatlantic link is being questioned.
Meanwhile, China is on the rise – and several economies in Southeast Asia and Africa are ready to follow in its footsteps,
and redraw the entire global economic map.
At the same time, Russia is acting in a revanchist manner, in flagrant contempt of international law.
Now more than ever it’s time
to stand up for common, principle-based solutions, and a world order where might does not come before right.
But the EU can only be a strong voice for democracy in the world if all of us Member States stand up for the principles of democracy at home.
We can only be a credible actor in the Middle East,
if we fight anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in our home countries.
We can only be a force for free media and the rule of law in our neighbourhood, if we have free media and independent courts in our union.
For every democratic principle that is weakened in the EU, the EU’s voice in the world is equally weakened.
Therefore, the EU must stand up for our fundamental values. Both externally, in our world
– and internally, in our union.
* * *
And this is not just about our place in the world
– but the whole future of our cooperation.
If the principles contained in our most fundamental contracts are not adhered to,
how are we then to trust the other agreements?
On the single market.
On free movement.
Everything that does so much for our prosperity.
If our promises to each other are to be trusted,
if our cooperation and our economy are to continue to grow,
then pacta sunt servanda must apply
to the most fundamental contracts of all.
* * *
Therefore, Sweden will work to defend the EU:s core values - in the budget negotiations and in our support of the Commission’s work.
My government will propose to the Swedish Parliament that Sweden will join the European public prosecutor´s office, to contribute in the fight against corruption and the embezzlement of EU funds.
We support the Belgian proposal to establish an EU mechanism for the peer review of adherence to the rule of law.
And I will devote my efforts in Europe to defending the values I have borne since my childhood,
of the equal value of all people, and of solidarity.
I will give my all,
side by side with so many of you,
to refute and fight the extremist forces,
who deny these values
– and are doing everything they can to tear apart the union that defends them.
Of course the EU is a compromise,
– probably one of the most successful compromises in world history.
But there can be no compromising on human dignity.
– No reasonable level of anti-Semitism.
– No acceptable level of racism.
– No tolerable level of misogyny or homophobia.
Never will we compromise on these values!
* * *
But, and this is very important:
The defence of democracy is also the defence of young people’s dreams.
Is there anything more dangerous to society than its young people ceasing to dream?
It is in societies that have lost hope that both political and religious extremism can grow the strongest.
And this is not only crucial in the fight against extremism, but also in the work to uphold broad, popular support for our union.
I believe it is crucial for all of us in the current Brexit negotiations, that the UK and the EU have the ability to move on as friends
- and create a close, strong and long-term relationship.
But the only way for the EU to avoid similar exit ordeals in the future is to constantly prove its worth to people’s everyday lives – and to their dreams for the future.
That is why the EU should not only benefit the market
– but also benefit the people.
It is also why the work for a larger market
can also be the work for a stronger democracy,
if that market can create jobs – and hope – for our young people.
Over the past two years, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and I have co-chaired a Global Commission on the Future of Work for the International Labour Organisation.
And there is no doubt that in the future work will be more advanced, more automated and more digitised – and that demand for skilled workers will soar.
This is good news for the EU.
We benefit from global competition that is based on knowledge – rather than lower wages.
But – we cannot rest on our laurels.
Everyone wants to be in the same position.
China has long been training more engineers than the United States, Germany and Japan – put together.
In this respect, our European cooperation will have an incredibly important role to play in the creation and sharing of world-leading knowledge and innovation.
And there are always many competing interests in budget negotiations.
But my country has learned the very hard way that it is only with strict priorities and a budget that is under control that democracy can deliver,
in the long-term and with stability.
That is why, given all the competing interests,
we do not propose a larger budget,
but rather the stronger prioritisation of innovation and new jobs, and the digital, educational and physical infrastructure required to make them possible.
It is our responsibility, for our young people’s dreams,
to take advantage of this opportunity.
Our solution can never be to lower wages,
or raise protectionist walls.
We should not shut ourselves off from world
– we should lead it.
* * *
Therefore I’m proud that young people in Tallinn or Bratislava, can listen to hip hop from Paris,
or fado from Lisbon - on Spotify from Stockholm.
But I also know how hard Spotify had to work
to get launched in Europe. A start-up company in Silicon Valley can launch a product on the US market and reach over 320 million people immediately.
Our only chance of competing with this
is to make it just as easy to reach all the citizens of the EU at the same time.
Believe me, anyone who has lived through a dark, Nordic winter, knows that we can’t compete with California when it comes to the weather!
For generations, people from our continent have travelled across the Atlantic, in search of a better life.
But the young IT geniuses of today and the future,
should not have to go west, or east,
to realise their dreams.
They should be able to do so here, in Europe,
in a digital single market, open to everyone.
* * *
And it is now almost a treat to visit the European Commission website, and see that one priority policy area is: the European Pillar of Social Rights.
And, of course, my pride is not diminished
when it also says that we launched this work
in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
I am grateful to President Juncker and the Commission,
to the European Parliament and to the Member States in the Council
for all of our work
to create a social pillar,
and establish 20 key principles that strengthen the social rights of all the citizens of Europe.
But no worker will or should thank us,
until these 20 principles are a reality, across the EU.
- Until we stand up for collective agreements and fair wages.
- Until we put a stop to rule breaking and tax fraud.
- Until we secure gender equality,
and women’s right to a full wage,
a career without glass ceilings,
and the freedom to decide over their own lives.
For the same reasons, Sweden will actively promote all new free trade agreements,
because we know how many jobs they can create.
But all these agreements should be favourable to people as well as to the market, and respect our environment, our health and the rights of workers.
And there is enormous potential for the European services market – if it is opened up – and shaped with concern for social rights.
But the EU labour market must be defined by all of the positive freedoms: The freedom to study abroad, learn languages, work throughout Europe.
Never the freedom to set worker against worker!
Our common labour market should not crush workers’ dreams, it should fulfil them!
* * *
And I know, that if you are to have hope in the future,
you must also feel safe, in the here and now.
IS and terrorism are dreadful security threats
that must be dealt with together,
– but, unfortunately, they are not our only ones.
I recently met the leadership of Europol at their headquarters in The Hague,
and their Virtual Command Post.
Europol has done an amazing job breaking up and arresting paedophile networks.
It is a type of crime where every nation’s police service can see their part, but where we can only see the whole - and crush it - in cooperation with each other.
A single nation would not – even if it really wanted to,
even if it poured in resources – be able to solve it alone.
Europe is borderless for criminals, too.
They read up on European laws,
looking for the weakest national legislation,
and for new national markets to enter.
That’s why Sweden wants to deepen European efforts to fight organised crime and cyber threats.
We want to strengthen our cooperation on security and defence,
increase our ability to implement joint civilian and military crisis management operations,
and have a European Union that cooperates with strategic partners and builds security – together.
* * *
I also know that there is broad agreement,
in this parliament and on this continent,
that the EU must never again lose control
in the way it did during the refugee crisis.
Chaotic migration affects the confidence of the whole of society in the reception of refugees – but it affects the refugees themselves worst of all.
The only ones who benefit are right-wing extremists,
who are able to use the situation to inflame hatred of migrants.
The EU’s free movement of people requires shared external borders,
and a shared responsibility for orderly and regulated migration,
built on three pillars:
- Firstly: strong co-operation with countries outside the EU so that fewer people are displaced, and more people can have better living conditions, so that new migration crises can be reduced or prevented entirely.
- Secondly: the control of all external borders, which is now taking place through the strengthening of Frontex, creating greater security and saving lives.
- Thirdly: the fair distribution of those who arrive and whose grounds for asylum are to be examined,
with that work carried out as a shared responsibility by all Member States.
It should not be possible to benefit from all of the advantages of Schengen cooperation,
and then refuse to share in the responsibility for its maintenance.
We have a huge task ahead of us.
Sweden will do its best to support the completion of that task.
And I am under no illusions that it will be simple.
But if we fail to deliver,
the Schengen Agreement will be weakened,
and – in the long run – so will the entire EU.
So, it is time to step up, for orderly and regulated migration in Europe – it is the best interests of us all.
* * *
as Swedes we’re often asked:
Do you know ABBA? Do you know Zlatan Ibrahimović?
But now we have to get ready for another question:
Do you know Greta Thunberg?
We are proud of the demonstrations she has inspired,
which gathered over a million young people all over the world.
But one thing we must never forget in their message:
It is not up to their generation to solve the climate crisis.
It is up to us. All generations. Here and now.
Sweden is ready to be in the lead, and show what is possible.
We have a climate framework for our society,
which will lead our efforts to cut emissions quickly and powerfully,
and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.
But we, together, must implement the Paris Agreement
without any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’,
to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.
And, as part of this work, the EU needs to adopt a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.
It is also a great opportunity for European industry,
as the whole world is crying out for new solutions.
So, it is not only the right thing to do morally,
it is also the right thing to do economically,
and is crucial to our survival.
* * *
This is what I want to say to you today.
Idealism is not only the preserve of the young.
Our common values have been the basis of the EU’s fantastic history,
and they must guide us, so that we can have an even better future.
And in these times when people say that the EU must prove its worth,
there is no better task for our union
than defending our democratic values,
and – by delivering on jobs, security, migration and climate change – defending the dreams of our young people.
An EU that can deliver this not only gains greater legitimacy – but also a stronger voice in the world.
It is a difficult task.
But that’s why it’s so alluring,
that’s why it’s so perfect for us.