EU relations with the rest of the world

In a time of insecurity and conflict, the EU and Sweden must be a strong voice for peace, security, development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The responsibility for work on the EU's relations with the rest of the world lies with the Foreign Affairs Council.

More about the Foreign Affairs Council on the Council of the European Union website

Relations with other countries and regions

Good relations with the rest of the world are beneficial to the EU’s economic, political, social and cultural development. For example, a successful neighbourhood policy is crucial for the EU’s credibility and effectiveness as a global actor. A neighbourhood of peace, democracy and economic prosperity is necessary for the EU’s long-term development and security.

In light of growing challenges and the negative developments in several countries, the EU should strengthen its policy and stand up for the right of all its neighbours to take sovereign decisions and determine their own future, and for democracy and human rights.

Eastern Partnership countries

The Government will work to ensure that the EU develops its policies aiming at supporting a democratic and economic development in all Eastern Partnership countries. The Government's policy will be formulated against the backdrop of growing polarisation and the use of selective justice ahead of the parliamentary elections in Georgia, the persistent political, economic and legitimacy crisis in Moldova, the early review of sanctions against Belarus in connection with the release of political prisoners, Armenia's desire for a new agreement with the EU and the worrying deterioration of human rights in Azerbaijan.

The Middle East peace process

Sweden is working to ensure that the EU is active in the peace process and that the EU is clear in the implementation of agreed policies. The Council conclusions from 2009 continue to guide Swedish positions, including the issue of differentiation between Israel under the 1967 internationally recognised borders and the settlements which are in breach of international law.


The free trade agreement with Japan will be of great importance for trade between the EU and Japan. The Government gives priority to negotiations with the world's third largest economy.

The external dimension of migration

The EU is facing increased migration pressure and refugee flows on its southern and eastern borders. As many as 60 million people around the world are fleeing from war and persecution, many of them unaccompanied minors. This has presented new challenges for common EU action, in both internal and external dimensions.

The EU must increase support to the countries in the immediate region that take a large responsibility for the refugee situation. In particular, cooperation with Turkey and the Western Balkans must be strengthened. The basis of cooperation is to safeguard the right of asylum and strengthen the capacity of countries of origin and transit so that they are themselves able to manage all aspects of migration. In addition, the ambition is to create good relations with third countries so as to bring about efficient repatriation and facilitate cross-border mobility.

Free trade and openness in the fight against poverty and climate change

In the area of trade policy, membership of the EU means that Sweden is included in a common trade policy. Sweden is working actively in the area of common trade policy to promote free trade and greater openness and to counter protectionism.

Increased free trade in both goods and services is an important instrument in the Government’s overall policy for growth and more jobs. Sweden is a strong advocate of free and fair trade and increased openness, and is against protectionism. The environment, the interests of wage earners and people's health must be safeguarded in trade policy.

It is estimated that around 90 per cent of future economic growth will take place outside the EU. The Government’s goal is to achieve the most ambitious agreements possible to support sustainable growth and employment, without impairing the possibility of strengthening protection of the environment, the interests of wage earners and the health of people and animals. Trade agreements must respect democratic decisions.

New strategic direction for EU development cooperation

The EU is a key global development policy actor and, together with the Member States, accounts for more than half of the world’s total development assistance. According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the objective of EU development cooperation policy is the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty. 

Sweden played a proactive role in the drawing up of the Council conclusions on a new strategic direction for the EU’s development cooperation – the Agenda for Change –  and is now pursuing its implementation. Within the framework of this agenda, Sweden is particularly pushing for more resources to go to work to promote human rights, democracy and good governance, and inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.

European External Action Service (EEAS)

Sweden will continue to work for a strong and well-functioning service, based on the view that a joint external action service is an important tool for a concerted and effective external policy. Sweden has particularly highlighted the importance of fully utilising the role of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the European Commission to further develop cooperation between the EEAS and the Commission. Sweden has also emphasised the importance of close cooperation with the Member States.

Sweden welcomes the EEAS reorganisation, not least the establishment of the senior position of gender equality adviser, which Sweden has actively pushed for. The Government welcomes the fact that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has been tasked with drawing up a global strategy for foreign and security policy.

Common Security and Defence Policy

Sweden will work for continued development of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This involves, for example, that Sweden in particular will work to ensure that the EU increases its capacity and ambitions for civilian and military crisis management capacity and the application of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in CSDP operations. Sweden will also promote expanded cooperation with important partners such as the UN, the OSCE, NATO and the AU, as well as relevant regional organisations. In addition, Sweden will highlight relations between internal and external security issues.