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Why Swedes support EU more after Brexit vote

Swedish support for staying in the European Union has grown in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, a new poll shows.

Why Swedes support EU more after Brexit vote
The EU flag outside Stockholm's city hall. Photo: Emma Löfgren/The Local

The survey carried out by pollsters Novus for Swedish broadcaster TV4 suggests that 63 percent of Swedes would vote to remain if a referendum on Sweden’s EU membership was held today, up from 58 percent in a previous Novus study conducted prior to the Brexit vote last June.

Political scientist Ian Manners, who works at the University of Copenhagen and is a Brit living in Sweden, says the shift is a sign that the Brexit vote has made Swedes think about the EU in more detail.

“It’s easy to say the key factor is simply the chaos in the UK itself, but I think that’s secondary,” he told The Local.

“The average Swedish person doesn’t think or care much about the EU, but Brexit brings it to the fore. The UK referendum made a complicated issue real, and people in Sweden are suddenly forced to think about what the EU is, rather than just having a vague opinion on it.”

The Novus survey also suggests that Swedish confidence in the EU has grown significantly. While in June, confidence in the union among Swedes polled at 38 percent, it is now up to 48 percent, and political scientist Manners puts that surge down to three factors.

“There are political, economic, and social factors at play. The potential for political chaos, for economic trauma, and the possibility of a single-issue referendum on immigration, as happened in the UK,” he explained.

“All feed the changing perception on the EU in Sweden. Sweden can look on at Britain with horror and think ‘what do we have, and what do we not want to have?’”

The TV4/Novus poll took in the opinions of 1000 people aged between 18 and 79, and was carried out after the June 23rd UK referendum. 

Anti-EU campaigners in Sweden have previously said that they hoped Brexit would create a breeding ground for future questions over Sweden's EU membership. 

ENERGY

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

European governments are announcing emergency measures on a near-weekly basis to protect households and businesses from the energy crisis stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine.

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

Hundreds of billions of euros and counting have been shelled out since Russia invaded its pro-EU neighbour in late February.

Governments have gone all out: from capping gas and electricity prices to rescuing struggling energy companies and providing direct aid to households to fill up their cars.

The public spending has continued, even though European Union countries had accumulated mountains of new debt to save their economies during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

But some leaders have taken pride at their use of the public purse to battle this new crisis, which has sent inflation soaring, raised the cost of living and sparked fears of recession.

After announcing €14billion in new measures last week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi boasted the latest spending put Italy, “among the countries that have spent the most in Europe”.

The Bruegel institute, a Brussels-based think tank that is tracking energy crisis spending by EU governments, ranks Italy as the second-biggest spender in Europe, after Germany.

READ ALSO How EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

Rome has allocated €59.2billion since September 2021 to shield households and businesses from the rising energy prices, accounting for 3.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

Germany tops the list with €100.2billion, or 2.8 percent of its GDP, as the country was hit hard by its reliance on Russian gas supplies, which have dwindled in suspected retaliation over Western sanctions against Moscow for the war.

On Wednesday, Germany announced the nationalisation of troubled gas giant Uniper.

France, which shielded consumers from gas and electricity price rises early, ranks third with €53.6billion euros allocated so far, representing 2.2 percent of its GDP.

Spending to continue rising
EU countries have now put up €314billion so far since September 2021, according to Bruegel.

“This number is set to increase as energy prices remain elevated,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, told AFP.

The energy bills of a typical European family could reach €500 per month early next year, compared to €160 in 2021, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The measures to help consumers have ranged from a special tax on excess profits in Italy, to the energy price freeze in France, and subsidies public transport in Germany.

But the spending follows a pandemic response that increased public debt, which in the first quarter accounted for 189 percent of Greece’s GDP, 153 percent in Italy, 127 percent in Portugal, 118 percent in Spain and 114 percent in France.

“Initially designed as a temporary response to what was supposed to be a temporary problem, these measures have ballooned and become structural,” Tagliapietra said.

“This is clearly not sustainable from a public finance perspective. It is important that governments make an effort to focus this action on the most vulnerable households and businesses as much as possible.”

Budget reform
The higher spending comes as borrowing costs are rising. The European Central Bank hiked its rate for the first time in more than a decade in July to combat runaway inflation, which has been fuelled by soaring energy prices.

The yield on 10-year French sovereign bonds reached an eight-year high of 2.5 percent on Tuesday, while Germany now pays 1.8 percent interest after boasting a negative rate at the start of the year.

The rate charged to Italy has quadrupled from one percent earlier this year to four percent now, reviving the spectre of the debt crisis that threatened the eurozone a decade ago.

“It is critical to avoid debt crises that could have large destabilising effects and put the EU itself at risk,” the International Monetary Fund warned in a recent blog calling for reforms to budget rules.

The EU has suspended until 2023 rules that limit the public deficit of countries to three percent of GDP and debt to 60 percent.

The European Commission plans to present next month proposals to reform the 27-nation bloc’s budget rules, which have been shattered by the crises.

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