Ambassador of Sweden to Spain
Jesús González / Canal Europa
Teppo Tauriainen, Swedish Ambassador to Spain, answers questions on the Canal Europa programme “Europe on Trial”. During the interview he spoke about Sweden’s current rotating presidency and his forecasts for the Spanish presidency, the war in Ukraine and his feelings about Europe.
What does Europe mean to you?
For me, Europe without borders and free movement has been very important, because we are different, but we are in the same context, and I personally have enjoyed this possibility to move without limits.
It is also important to share values. I have especially noticed this when I have been as a diplomat in posts outside Europe. It is very noticeable there that with European colleagues we have a very close community and that we are different, but we have a lot in common. This is very much appreciated in Europe and that is why the idea of a European Union without borders and making this closer interaction between us possible is very important.
As you said, Europe is enormously diverse and pluralistic, with very old and different cultures and histories. How do you manage that identity? How much of a Swede and how much of a European are you?
In Europe we have our nationalities and our differences, but it doesn’t matter, because in diversity we can be strong. I feel Swedish, but also European.
What would you as a European ask of the European project, and what do you think is missing or needs to be improved at the moment?
We have to further develop the European project, in the sense that there are still barriers and things that hinder our interaction. We lose a lot in bureaucracy, so we have to try to remove those problems and restrictions in our interaction. Also, we have to see where we really need to cooperate and coordinate our activities in order to be more effective and have better results.
I think we are on the right track, but there is always room for improvement. We have to renew ourselves. We, as a country, have renewed ourselves and thanks to that we have been able to compete in the world.
Moreover, I believe that we should never be satisfied with the European context, but that we should always demand more from the project.
What are the Swedish presidency’s objectives for this six-month period? A complicated six months due to the situation we are experiencing with the conflict in Ukraine, what does Sweden have in mind?
We don’t have an official motto, our presidency has been characterised by offering a safer, greener and freer Europe. This has to do with the geopolitical situation in which we live, which is very present in all areas.
How is Putin’s invasion of Ukraine being experienced in Sweden? It is a new security situation, which has even led Sweden, a historically pacifist country, to apply for NATO membership. How is Swedish society experiencing this?
This has changed Sweden a lot. It has changed our defence policy and has had a lot of influence on national policy in general.
It has also changed people’s mentality. It’s not that we believe that Russia is going to invade Sweden, but Ukraine is quite close to our country and the Swedish population notices how terrible what is happening in Ukraine is. We see it in the news and that also influences people’s mentality.
It is Sweden’s turn to pass the baton to the Spanish Presidency and you have the dual condition of having the six months now with the Swedish Presidency in office and then, on 1 July, passing to the Spanish Presidency as Swedish Ambassador to our country. What legacy would you like to leave behind? What is your success rate so that the Spanish Presidency does not have a “bad legacy”?
Every presidency has to think about Europe because we are there for Europe, we are not only there for Sweden. So, coherence and continuity is very important.
Sweden is going to try to move the agenda set so that Spain can also continue with the relevant issues, and I believe that, in terms of priorities, although the priorities of each presidency may be a little different, we cannot change the agenda. That is why I am sure that my government will do everything possible to make progress on all the issues on the table, of which there are many.
This is our third presidency and I believe that we have done a good job in the past and we are going to try to do the same now. We have had a dialogue with the Spanish Government on this, because we are part of a trio with France and the Czech Republic, but this must not be restricted to a dialogue with the trio, but we must also talk to the future presidency, and in this sense we have talked to Spain. We are continuing the dialogue with the Spanish government to make sure that there is continuity between our presidencies.