Brussels and the EU Institutions are getting back into gear for the first working week of 2023. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine almost entering its second year and an unusually warm winter in continental Europe proving once more that climate change is real, challenges for Europe have not changed much in the past few weeks.
While the European Parliament is shaken up by the so-called Qatar-gate (here is a roundup, via POLITICO), the new year is also bringing new main actors to the fore of the EU’s political scene. That is precisely the case of Sweden, which on 1st January took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU from the Czech Republic. Stockholm will be presiding over the work of the institution representing the 27 EU’s governments for the first half of 2023, until 30 June next, when it will be passing the baton to Spain.
“A greener, more secure and freer Europe is the foundation of our priorities,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said presenting the European roadmap of its country for the next six months. Kristersson is at the helm of a center-right coalition government, which enjoys the support in Parliament of the far-right Sweden Democrats – this might cause some headaches in the weeks to come. The four priorities of the Presidency address security, competitiveness, green and energy transition, and the rule of law and democratic values.
In line with the latter priority, Sweden will focus its work in the area of culture on the topic of freedom of artistic expression, a subject which has been featured both in the 2019-2022 Council Work Plan for Culture as well as in the new 2023-2026 strategic document, but has never enjoyed the full commitment of a Presidency. As detailed in the programme for the semester, Stockholm intends to address artistic freedom in a twofold way: both internally, linking it to the urgency of improving working conditions in the cultural and creative sectors, and externally, especially highlighting the conditions of displaced artists in view of ongoing crises in the EU’s proximity (from Afghanistan to Ukraine).
At the 15-16 May Culture Ministerial Council meeting, the Presidency will present Council conclusions on the subject of displaced artists, both in terms of protection as well as support to continue their artistic practice in Europe. On 16-17 February in Umeå, Sweden will organise a Presidency Conference under the title “Free to Create | Artistic Freedom and Cultural and Creative Sectors,” in so highlighting the link between artistic creation, artistic freedom and strong working conditions in the field.
Both objectives are included in what has been agreed at the end of November in the 2023-2026 Council Work Plan for Culture for artistic freedom.
While getting familiar with the topics and ready for the work ahead, make sure not to miss the official playlist put together by the Presidency team. Spoiler alert: of course ABBA opens it!