May 15, 2009
Fredrik Reinfeldt

...

Ipek Cem: This trip to Turkey, it is following the trip of Prime Minister Erdogan last year, again in April, in early April to Sweden. What kind of progress has been made in bilateral relations between Sweden and Turkey?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, first of all, I think that Turkey is the number one country for Swedish tourists to actually be travelling to and we also see an increase in the business interest from Swedish business life. Then of course we share a deep interest in integrating Turkey into Europe and therefore it is very important to have bilateral talks now as we also had in Stockholm last year.

 

Ipek Cem: When you talk about "integration into Europe", this is a long-standing issue in Turkish politics, in Turkish life, starting from the 1950s the EU has been part of Turkish politics, and part of Turkish life. We have a feeling here in Turkey that the talks are stalled, and I know you will be taking the helm of the Presidency in July of this year. What is your outlook on how things could progress further?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, to be very frank, there is a feeling among some member countries that the enlargement should stop for a while. It has gone up from 15 up to 27 countries in a very short while, and of course there are those who said that "just let it wait for a while", and especially pointing that Turkey being a big country, being basically a Muslim country, opens up questions of a sort that needs its time. That's what some will say. I will say that "Well, we have said that Turkey is an applicant country. We have criterias for becoming a member, and as long as the progress is made to be able to meet these criterias, Turkey should be welcome". And it's very important to say that Turkey is a part of Europe and that EU would gain form getting Turkey inside the European Union, as I think Turkey would gain from coming into the European Union.

 

Ipek Cem: Is it also about the philosophy of the European Union project? Because a European Union with Turkey in it gives a different message to the world than a European Union without Turkey. At least I think so.

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well I think, basically, politics is very often about power, and of course a feeling is that while EU is expanding that also shifts the balance of power inside European Union, and to say the obvious: with a big country like Turkey coming in that would definitely take in a major player inside European Union, and of course there are those who say we should wait a while. There is also, of course, concerns that the reform process is not fast enough, that it is a long way to go for part of the Turkish society to be able to be a part of a free trade area, open migration area, inside European Union. Because, of course there are a lot of conditions to be a….under rule of law, democratic values, market economy, but then again, the reform process who was very speedy before 2005, and actually led to the opening up of the membership negotiations is actually also changing Turkey. So it will be a Turkey that will be able to come into European Union once the reform process is coming to an end.

 

Ipek Cem: I have been reading about the possibility of opening some new chapters during your Presidency. Which chapters are under consideration?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, first of all I should say we were hoping to see opening of chapters already now during the Czech Presidency. This has not been able to do so far. I know that there would be a great interest to open up, for instance, the energy chapter, because Turkey is so important with its geographical situation linked to energy support, so that's just mentioning one. But again, I see the risk… I think we have 18 frozen chapters in the negotiations. (Yes) There are those who are waiting to actually go even further. So I will hope to see an opening of chapters, but it will again come back to the talks I will have with Prime Minister Erdogan to keep on the reform process so that we will be able to open chapters.

 

Ipek Cem: In particular, which reforms, or lack thereof, are giving you concern?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: I think the one biggest opener of the process would be a change in the Cyprus issue, because Cyprus is now a member of the European Union. There is, of course, an increased feeling that it might be a time, now, for an opening of the process since we have two partners who are now discussing… have discussions which are more fruitful. We hope that the Turkish influence could be used in a way that we could see a break through of progress. That would definitely be like a vitamin injection into the negotiations.

 

Ipek Cem: There is the new elections that happened in the Turkish part of Cyprus, and you know there was a change. Some people feel this could impact the pace of negotiations with EU. Have you looked at this issue – it's a very new issue.

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, I saw the election results, but still Talat has his mandate, and they seem to be very committed. Then again that just shows the importance of trying to use this opportunity where we have two leaders who indicate that they want to come further. So I hope that we will see this, and I am sure that both on the European Union side, and with the UN negotiatariot also helping, and with Turkish influence I hope to see this come a little further in the autumn.

 

Ipek Cem: Clearly the Cyprus issue is an important obstacle. At the same time, let's say be some miracle it was resolved then what would be….what we… sometimes the Turkish constituency feels it's just another excuse. What would be the obstacle, or would there be a major obstacle after such a miraculous happening?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well… last spring, in Stockholm, in my talks with Prime Minister Erdogan, we mentioned also minority rights, Kurdish issue, and we had very good talks about that, and I know there has been an opening of a television facility in Kurdish. This is very important, because a lot of the European Union member countries have minority rights question, and of course we would like to see the respect of minorities as part of the European idea. So to say that that was good. But then again that opens question: could it go on further? There, of course, have been discussions regarding the penal system, that is very often very important to able to conduct rule of law. Those were very important questions linked to Romania and Bulgaria, and of course that will also be very important regarding Turkey. But I feel that those who are in favour, we are trying to get these progresses in the reform process and to show the others that look there are things happening. But then again, as I said, there are of the members who are very reluctant, who would like to see a stop in the negotiation process totally. So I think it's fair to say it's a balance also inside European Union. But Turkey has its friends, and I think it's very important to say that Sweden is one of them, but we are not the only one.

 

Ipek Cem: When we talk about Turkey and the EU, and in fact when we talk about the world today we can not but think about the economic crisis. Sweden faced a severe crisis in the 1990s, a banking crisis early 1990s, but actually was able to get out of that and is even used as a model for today, but at the same time you are also, you have been hit, clearly, like other countries. How does that affect the European Union cohesiveness?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, I would say that we are all hit by the economic downturn. I think now 90% of the world is in economic recession. And it differs very much from our experience in the early 90s. That was more a Swedish-Finnish problem. Now we are feeling the problems from others. I would also say that this has, at this time, we saw a lot of European leadership, because we thought you can't solve this problem on your own. It's actually that the problem… the solution for one country could be the problems for your neighbours, so by coordinating our answers we have been able to meet up with some of the problems, but the financial crisis is not solved. We have exposure in eastern Europe, specifically close to Sweden, the Baltic States where there is still more job to do before we are out of the financial crisis.

 

Ipek Cem: Do you feel that there now is more of a cohesive outlook by different European countries to the crisis, because Europe as a generality, was compared to the US saying that they fell behind in the response. Do you feel that people are more in charge right now at the European Union level, as well?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, I think some of the answers are now put in place. There are more money to the multilateral organisations. IMF, very important, we have seen this is the case of Latvia, Iceland, Hungary, Romania, that we need the support of IMF. We have coordinated also facilities in our different European legislations how to support the banking system. Most of us have put it in place. It has been reluctant banks who are trying to stay out of the system, but they are extremely important because they will send a signal of confidence throughout the markets, so a lot of things have happened, but the main problem is there are still a lot of bad assets, it's still a problem basically coming form the United States, and they also have some *??* left before they have solved their financial crisis, finally.

 

Ipek Cem: When we talk about Turkey's accession to the EU, sometimes we assume that the countries within the EU are very pro-EU, and this is not the case. There is always consensus building within different countries, even in Sweden, and from what I know you are very much pro-EU. How is that consensus within your country going in terms of the pluses and the minuses of being part of the EU?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: We… it was very near in time that Sweden came in to the European Union. It was only in 1995, and it was a referendum of the autumn with a quite a narrow margin that we got a "yes". And the basic feeling on the "no" side was a feeling that we are losing our sovereignty; the decisions are moving somewhere else. Those of us who are on the "yes" side were saying "Well, you can't solve all the political problems in the world by nation states, you have to solve them at an international level", and you need to be a strong international political answer. That's where we need European Union. We even need political decisions to open up markets, because otherwise we will see a lot of protectionism. If we hadn't had European Union now, with the financial crisis, we would have seen a trade war in Europe, with a lot of protectionism, I am very sure of that. So there are still some division with the Swedish people, but now with nearly 15 years as members you can see that it is becoming everyday life, they are becoming used to it. From 1st July we will for the second time be in the Presidency of the European Union, so we see a shift in the opinion gaining support for Swedish membership. But I could definitely understand the feeling – I hear this from Croatia, from other countries who also are in the negotiations – the feeling is that they are asking so much, and we are giving away our sovereignty. We have been there as well. So I can definitely see if that's the feeling also in Turkey.

 

Ipek Cem: Basically, when we look at the consensus in Europe, there is also a fear of further immigration in Europe. This is prevalent in the negotiations with Turkey, but there is also a rising population of immigrants in Europe – in your country as well – of Turkish origin, or from Islamic countries. How does Sweden, because it is known for its open, let's say more open immigration policies, how does Sweden look at this part of its population?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, first of all, I am very worried about signals in Europe trying to say that we should try to keep people out. This is an aging Europe who needs labour in the future. And a lot of this labour must come from outside. So it is a little bit sometimes to understand. Sweden has a tradition of being more open, more liberal. We have the discussion, "Will we provide a good life, jobs, for those who are actually coming to Sweden". I come now from Kulu, South of Ankara…

 

Ipek Cem: Konya.

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: …in Konya… Of course… somewhat 30,000 people left Kulu for Sweden, and a lot of them got a job, a new future in Sweden. Some of them have actually come back to Kulu. That is a good example of what migration could be. Now in Kulu they tell me that they are now racing… raising in population having migration from eastern parts of Turkey, because they are now more developed, have better economic standards than they used to have in the 1960s. I mean that's the kind of development we have seen in Sweden. That's the kind of Europe we should have. More open, more making good conditions for working for migration. There are differences, definitely in today's Europe, in the views of this, and we are seeing a lot of political forces saying we should close down, and pointing at people that you are not part of us, and I am very worried about those tendencies.

 

Ipek Cem: Was this your first time in Kulu? I assume…

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: First time in Kulu, absolutely.

 

Ipek Cem: I assume. And what kind of shocked you, or surprised you?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, coming to Kulu and finding that a lot of people understand Swedish is of course a shock coming from a country where we have a very small language, and also the feeling of friendship because these were people who have a great link to my home country. Most of them can talk about a part of Stockholm, capital of Sweden, where they had sisters, brothers, nieces who were living or working, so it was a fantastic time between Turkey and Sweden that I got an example out of.

 

Ipek Cem: We were just talking about Sweden and the outlook on the EU, and one of the things, you still didn't switch to the Euro. You are using Krona, right? Is this a work in progress? I there support for a switch into Euro?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, we actually just the other day got an opinion poll showing that it was now with a little margin with a positive majority. But we had a referendum in 2003 where the Swedish people, with a clear majority, said "No" to entering the Euro. We have said that we will respect this result at least ten years, and I would also like to see a more thorough majority over longer time before we would go to a new referendum on this issue. Then again, we are very much affected by the fact that now we have a financial crisis, now we can see that having a small currency next to a big currency in time of turbulence will put pressure upon your own currency and that is also what has happened now with the Swedish Krona.

 

Ipek Cem: Basically when we look at your policies, the environment plays a very big role and in fact during the G20 meeting with President Obama this was a big topic. Do you feel now that there is more spotlight on the environment, and more knowledge about environmental damage? Do you feel that there is now going to be more of a shift to make this policy material as opposed to just, you know, kind of a dream for some people?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: But it needs to be a clear shift, because we have now the knowledge that our way of living is not sustainable, and that we have, actually, climate change which is man-made. That's the bad news. The good news is that we can do something about it with known technology, by using steering mechanisms, putting a price on carbon emissions, introducing alternative to fossil fuel usage. We have a lot of experience of this in Sweden. We are now say that until the year 2020, half of our energy consumption will come from renewable energy, and we know that this could also be done in other countries.

 

Ipek Cem: And I believe that there is also the European initiative to reduce carbon emission levels to the 1990s levels by 2020.

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: That's right.

 

Ipek Cem: Do you see this feasible? I mean, your own goals are very aggressive, you just mentioned, for Sweden, but for the whole of Europe?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, European Union is quite unique in the world today, because we have not only stated a target – reducing 20% by 2020 – we have also shown how to do it. We have a burden sharing among EU27, and of course we would like to seethe same kind of commitment from the United States, from Australia. I know that there are now talks and signals from these countries, also to engage. But of course we know that the most developed parts of the world need to do a lot. After that also the major emitters, the ones who have the rapidly growing emissions like China, India, Mexico, Brazil, they also need to do more. The Kyoto Protocol in its time was unique and very good, but not enough, because a lot of countries are actually have no kind of targets, no pressure on them to reduce or stop the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Ipek Cem: Do you mean like China, or India, or the US?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Yes. Absolutely. And I mean it's not acceptable as it was that the United States stands outside, but we now have new signals from the Obama administration. The problem is that at that time everyone thought if we say that the industrial part, the OECD part of the world take on themselves targets for taking down their emissions then it's OK, but the finding is that that is not enough. Even if we were to totally take away the emissions done by the OECD countries, the global warming would still exist and continue because the emissions coming from China and India are so big. Therefore we are trying to say "Hey,we are in this together. It is a global problem , that needs a global solution, and every one needs to take on a greater responsibility."

 

Ipek Cem: You are a young leader. You were in politics from a very young age, as a student activist, as a student leader from the grass roots, and you were elected at the age of 41 in 2006. (Yeah) Is there a changing of guard in Europe with new generations coming in, or would you say that your case is unique?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, no. I would say definitely in my family, on the centre-right, there has been a clear shift following with interest the work of David Cameron in the United Kingdom. We are exactly the same age, and we also have, I would say, the same kind of changing of how we work on the centre-right. More linking to the interest of the general public of having good standards and quality in the welfare systems, if we lower taxes we try to do it more for low income earners to create jobs rather than to pin-point it at high income earners, so I think there is also a policy shift that is quite interesting, and from that we can see a gain of support in the centre-right in Europe. If you look also who is actually in governments throughout Europe.

 

Ipek Cem: I was reading about the new Moderate movement which… your movement… which exactly was doing what you were saying. Is that kind of creating a political vacuum on the right, or do you feel that the right is moving that way?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, a vacuum on the right could be seen in two ways, otherwise xenophobic more falling out against immigrants. There is a risk also in Sweden that we could get that kind of movement that we have seen in neighbouring countries throughout Europe. Very important to keep on showing people that migration means that people are coming, getting jobs, getting an active life, being a part of creating a new Sweden. If that's the feeling, then people are more positive towards immigrants, then we will get no such movement... another part of being at the right could be more market liberal. Talking about taking away progressive taxes or things like that. For the moment I think that kind of direction is very weak, but again I think that the renewal of the Moderate Party in Sweden, as we can also see others like the Conservatives in the United Kingdom, is done in a way which meets with the need for pragmatism, the needs to listening what people want, and I think is a very modern kind of leadership.

 

Ipek Cem: This economic crisis also brought with it the questioning of capitalism, or pure capitalism, let's say. Many people are questioning the ideology behind all the institutions and this free laissez faire approach that has been taking place. And your country, Sweden, is always seen from other parts of the world as a different model of a state, the relation between the state and its citizens. What you are doing also is in line with that, I am seeing. How is that model of working with the economic constraints that you are feeling every day?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, I see it as a Nordic welfare model, and it's of course… it was made possible by our growth – economic growth – and the fact that we got very rich. So we have a lot of commitments towards people on welfare, which is automatic in a crisis, so we don't need to take several packages to support people. This is done automatically in our economy. And I think this is very good, and I support this. What we are trying to do to develop the model, if we can call it, for the future, it needs to be more job creative and more entrepreneurial in its way of working. It can't stand still. It has to meet new questions of competition, and we have done a lot to support it. There also needs to increase the quality of the school system, because you in today's world you need to have a good education to come out to the labour market and make a difference. But given that, I think it has proven very sustainable, especially as we are now also pointing that we are taking great care over public finances, because if you lose control of your public finances and have these automatic stabilisers then you will get great deficits, and of course that will create huge increase in state deficits which is problematic on rates and on the feeling that we will need to raise taxes in the future.

 

Ipek Cem: When we look at Sweden there is of course also the Royal tradition, in Sweden, and in our part of the world we kind of cannot see modernity and royalty at the same time, but it is coexisting. How would you describe the relationship between the State and the Royal family, how that's being changed for the 21st century, let's say?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: There's a very strong support for the monarchy in Sweden. We will actually have our Crown Prince to marry in the early summer of next year. I think it's done in a way where we have a very modern royal family who do not keep away from the people, but are very present, very modern, and therefore very appreciated. They are always graded as the most popular people we have in Sweden. And that's how they will survive into the future because it's a symbol of Sweden. It's not a political symbol, because that is taken care of by democracy in the elections, but it's another kind of symbol for Sweden keeping us together, making us known in the world. I think we have found the balance since they play no political role, and therefore are very deeply respected.

 

Ipek Cem: We talked previously about the EU Presidency of Sweden, and we talked in detail about the Turkish component of that, how the relations could play out with Turkey. What are some of the other priorities you have for the months starting with July?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, the climate issue will be very important. We have the Copenhagen conference in December. I will try to keep European Union together, because also on this issue there are differences, very clearly. We need an active Europe, a European leadership to be able to get an international agreement. Financial crisis, economic downturn will definitely be headlines also during our Presidency. Keep on coordinating our answers to meet the financial crisis. Then we are also conducting a programme how to meet international crime, in a new Stockholm programme for the next five years. So those are some of the main items, but we have learned one thing from the Czech and the French Presidency, and that's to prepare for the things that you can't prepare, because there are a lot of things happening in the world and every one is asking for Europe today. So you need to prepare and be present for when it happens.

 

Ipek Cem: Just one last question. I know that with the Obama administration there is the willingness from Europe to enhance relations with the US: European Union and the United States to become closer in policy issues, to cooperate further. How will this play out in the next several years?

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Well, I see this is very important. The link between Europe and the United States; Trans-Atlantic link is a link for democracy, for openness, for working together both at the financial crisis, on security matters, on climate change. So we have asked for a deepening of contacts with the Obama administration, and we also feel that there is a shift, there is a greater interest to have these talks with Europe. So it is a promising start, but of course it also has to deliver on substance, and we both have our part in that.

 

Ipek Cem: Thank you so much for your time.

 

Fredrik Reinfeldt: Thank you.

 

This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, NTV networks and Ipek Cem cannot vouch for its accuracy.