Sweden took over the rotating European Union
presidency, Wednesday, following a troubled six-month tenure under the Czech
Republic that saw Prague's government collapse. Stockholm faces big challenges
ahead - from tackling the economy to climate change.
Analysts are hailing
the new Swedish presidency of the European Union as bringing stability to the
27-member bloc in troubled times. The previous Czech presidency was a
particularly rocky one, marked by the collapse of Prague's government and
internal power divisions - with Czech President Vaclav Klaus a prominent
Analyst Philip Whyte, of the Center for European Reform in
London, sums up the sentiments of many observers.
"I think the overall
assessment of the Czech presidency is that it was a relatively chaotic one,
although in fairness to the Czechs, they had a pretty horrible legacy," he said.
"They took over from the French and when they took over from the French, the
French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy almost looked as if he was continuing
France's presidency of the EU. It was a difficult transition. And, the Czech
presidency was obviously affected by political instability, with the government
The Swedes will not have an easy ride. On their plate is the
fate of a key EU reform charter, known as the Lisbon Treaty. Irish voters are
expected to approve the treaty during a referendum in October, after rejecting
it the first time. But, if they reject it a second time, the EU will plunge into
The bloc is also trying to figure out how to fund ambitious
promises to tackle climate change and to coax big carbon-dioxide emitters like
the United States and China to make more cuts before a key climate change summit
Whyte says the economic crisis tops the priority
"First of all, it's obviously got the economic context and the
trouble is the EU presidencies don't really have very much power to deal with
that because a lot of the economic instruments are in the hands of national
governments," he said.
Still, Whyte believes Sweden will do a good job
heading the EU. In addition to having a stable government, Stockholm is known as
being consensus-oriented and favoring an outward looking and economically
liberal European Union - qualities, he says will be appreciated at the EU
headquarters in Brussels.