Presidency in the 1st half of 2023

IF/CC – 01/2023

Sweden has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in politically turbulent times. The Russian war of aggression has not only Europe-wide but also global consequences, especially with regard to energy and food supply chains. Current crises such as the bribery allegations in the European Parliament, the problems with Hungary, after-effects of the COVID 19 pandemic, high inflation and the energy crisis are having far-reaching social, employment and health consequences for EU citizens. The Swedish Presidency of the Council previously presented its priorities for the first half of 2023. They included security, resilience, prosperity, democratic values and the rule of law.

Political backing from the institutions

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson used the first 2023 plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss the priorities of the Swedish Presidency of the Council. The European Commission supports the programme, whereas the European Parliament wants to see more ambition in fighting the energy crisis and competing against China and Russia.

Social initiatives

Vocational and advanced training, lifelong learning and participation in working life are the requirements for ensuring independence, reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion and for maintaining the financing of social security systems. Creating a healthy working environment also lies at the heart of the programme. The initiatives for revising the Asbestos Directive and revising the Directive about protection of the health and safety of workers from the risks related to chemical agents at work and an initial progress meeting covering the EU's Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 are the Swedes’ main focuses. The start of the trialogue negotiations about the directive that will improve platform working conditions are expected to start in the next few months.

Continuing the revision of the Regulation on the coordination of social security systems 883/2004 is also planned in as well as preparing a strategy that covers health and social care for older people against the background of demographic change. The presentation of the final report from the "Social Welfare” high-level group, which was previously planned for November 2022, is also eagerly awaited. The Swedish Presidency also plans to continue implementing the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030.

Initiatives in the health sector

The Swedish Presidency of the Council also wants to learn more from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooperation in the public health sector will also to be strengthened through a global pandemic agreement and renewing the EU's global health strategy. Legal acts already initiated, such as the European Health Data Space (EHDS) and the regulation about quality and safety standards for substances of human origin intended for human use, will be continued. Compromise proposals are to be expected for both dossiers. Implementing the plan to fight cancer is also on the agenda, e.g. through a proposal to revise the regulatory tobacco framework. A cancer conference is also planned for 1 February. Sweden will also focus on the loneliness issue and its resulting health risks. The European Commission wants to present a Mental Health Strategy in June.

The Swedes' programme also includes revising the Medical Device Regulation (MDR). Revising the basic pharmaceutical legislation as well as the amendments to the specific regulations for orphan diseases and paediatric medicines aims to improve access to, availability and the affordability of medicines. In this context, a new proposal to amend the European Medicines Agency (EMA) fee legislation will also be submitted as well as an amendment to the legislation covering Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs). Progress will also be made in combating antimicrobial resistance and dealing with bottlenecks. Implementing the Medical Devices Directive will also continue to be monitored in this context.