The Swedish government takes over the Presidency of the EU today with the unenviable task of steering the Union through the next six months. Sweden's original goal, of promoting an eco-economy and integrating environment into the energy and competitiveness Councils, looks hard to achieve under this economic climate. In February, Sweden believed it could be "a driving force in EU environmental policy" but has more recently said it expects to be leading a "crisis presidency" although it still describes its two main issues as climate and the economic crisis.
For the chemical industry, the focus on eco-efficiency presents opportunities for those companies who are already taking a serious look at their eco-profile. But most industries are shying away from additional legislation at this point, with the paper industry association CEPI recently releasing its Manifesto for Competitiveness and Employment http://www.cepi.org/Objects/1/files/manifesto.pdf.
Back in 2001, the last time Sweden had the Presidency, I was following their every move as an EU environment reporter. And significant steps were made under their leadership. The summer of 2001 saw the Kyoto Protocol almost collapse and be basically rescued by the EU and the adoption at the Gothenburg Council of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Let's hope that Sweden can maintain its chosen course and that it's ambitions will not be reigned in by the other Member States who would prefer to take cover to weather the economic storm than to address resource efficiency and climate.