Swedish ministers visit the Parliament to outline Council Presidency priorities

Swedish government ministers have outlined their Council Presidency priorities to the committees on constitutional affairs, climate change, international trade and gender equality. Further presentations will be made to other committees this week, now that MEPs have returned from their holidays.

The Swedish Presidency is getting prepared for a smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty - provided it is ratified - European Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström told the Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday. It aims to have the Council take the necessary decisions, inter alia to enable the 18 MEPs whose status depends on the treaty's ratification to start work as soon as possible, and on arrangements for the European External Action Service.

If the treaty is adopted, the October European Council can deal with the nominations of the President of Council, the High Representative and the new Commission, she said, confirming the current Commission would continue in a caretaker capacity for a limited time.

Climate change, eco-efficiency, biodiversity and marine issues

The top climate change priority is to reach a comprehensive and ambitious agreement at the upcoming UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, told the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee on Tuesday.

The economic and financial crisis should be seen as an opportunity for Europe to move towards a more eco-efficient society, he said, adding that developing a concrete EU strategy for biodiversity and marine issues is another priority for the coming months.

International trade: the priority is Doha

Concluding the Doha Round "is the first, second and third priority" of the EU Presidency, Trade Minister Ewa Björling, told the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. To achieve this goal, "getting the US on board is essential", she added. Any delay in Russia's WTO accession would be "regrettable", she said. 

She also stressed that the fight against climate change should be supported by facilitating the transfer of environmentally-friendly products and technologies. 

Committee MEPs emphasized that the elimination of all kinds of non-tariff barriers should be addressed, as well as trade in raw materials. Furthermore, MEPs drew the Presidency's attention to the fact that the role of Parliament and its International Trade Committee will significantly increase with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty.

Gender Equality

To make it easier for women to start and run their own businesses and to reconcile professional and family life, the Presidency expects to take negotiations forward with the Parliament on the maternity leave directive, the new anti-discrimination directive and the proposal for equal treatment of self-employed women and men, Gender Equality Minister Ms Nyamko Sabuni told the Women's Rights committee.

Committee MEPs congratulated the Presidency for paying particular attention to gender equality in order to make women less vulnerable in times of economic downturn, but said that more measures are needed to tackle the pay gap and unequal representation in administration, in both in public and private sectors. MEPs were also concerned that Sweden is blocking rules on cross-border divorces.