The Government must gain support for its EU policies in the Riksdag ahead of meetings in the Council of Ministers. When it is time for a decision, the Government therefore consults a special body in the Riksdag known as the Committee on European Union Affairs. It also consults the Committee on EU Affairs before meetings of the EU heads of state and government in the European Council. The Government must gain support for its EU policies in the Riksdag ahead of meetings in the Council of Ministers. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand Consultations with the Committee on EU Affairs do not only concern final decisions. They also concern the Government's position in negotiations. In some cases, the Government consults one of the parliamentary committees before the matter is raised in the Committee on EU Affairs. Members from all parties The political composition of the Committee on EU Affairs is similar to that of the parliamentary committees. There are currently six Social Democrats, four Moderates, two Sweden Democrats and one member from the Green Party, Centre Party, Left Party, Liberal Party and Christian Democrats in the Committee on EU Affairs. Members of the Committee on EU Affairs are also members of the parliamentary committees. In this way, the parties can follow-up the previous handling of a matter in the committees during the final consideration in the Committee on EU Affairs. Consultations ahead of decisions in the Council of Ministers Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democratic Party) consulting the Committee on EU Affairs ahead of a meeting of the European Council. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand It is the Government that represents Sweden in the Council of the European Union, also known as the Council of Ministers. It is the Council of Ministers, together with the European Parliament that adopts laws in the EU. The Council of Ministers comprises ministers from all EU member states, in different constellations. The Government must consult the Committee on EU Affairs on issues that the Council of Ministers is ready to take a decision on. Before this, however, the Government needs to adopt a number of positions during negotiations in the Council which may be difficult to retract later. Therefore these positions must have the support of the Committee on EU Affairs. During negotiations in the Council, matters with different contents are often linked together. In order to have success in one area, Sweden may have to back down in another. Unlike the parliamentary committees, the Committee on EU Affairs has an overview of all decisions that are due to be taken in the EU, and of how one matter can affect another. The Government's consultations with the Committee on EU Affairs are, to a great extent, about deciding what position Sweden should adopt, with regard to the greater picture. Consultations in the Committee on EU Affairs usually take place on Fridays, ahead of Council meetings the following week. Sometimes decisions need to be taken quickly, in which case the Government can consult the Committee on EU Affairs in writing. During especially delicate negotiations, however, the Government may need to consult the Committee regarding a new Swedish position by phone from Brussels. The Committee on EU Affairs is a body for consultation. This means that it does not prepare proposals for decisions by the Riksdag as the parliamentary committees do. Ministers meet the Committee on EU Affairs Which minister is to attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers depends on the issues to be discussed at the meeting in question. If, for example, VAT issues are to be discussed, the finance ministers will meet. The Minister for Finance will then visit the Committee on EU Affairs a few days before the ministers' meeting. During the consultation in the Committee on EU Affairs the Minister for Finance will discuss Sweden's position on specific issues. The discussions may lead to changes or supplements to the Government's original position. Discussions on each matter end with the Chair of the Committee on EU Affairs concluding either that a majority of members are in favour of, or that they oppose, the Government position. Consultation ahead of EU summits The Government also consults the Committee on EU Affairs ahead of meetings of the European Council (summits). The European Council consists of the member states' heads of state and government and the Chair of the European Commission. The Prime Minister consults the Committee on EU Affairs ahead of these meetings. Politically-binding mandate According to the rules, the Government is not obliged to act in compliance with the Committee on EU Affairs' opinions. However, the Committee on the Constitution has stated that the Government should act in compliance with the Committee's advice and opinions. The Committee on the Constitution has also stressed that if the Government does not act in compliance with the mandate it has received from the Committee on EU Affairs, it must have very good reasons for its actions. If the Government does not follow the mandate given to it by the Committee on EU Affairs, it risks criticism, and ultimately, a vote of no confidence in the Chamber of the Riksdag. Declaration of no confidence Openness during consultations The Committee on EU Affairs can decide that a consultation will be open to the public. As a rule, the consultations ahead of meetings of the European Council are open to the public. During all consultations in the Committee on EU Affairs, a shorthand record is taken. After a fair copy has been made and approved, these are official documents, which everyone can access on the Riksdag website. However, certain information is secret and cannot be disclosed. Such information may involve the final stages of negotiations in the Council, other countries' positions in negotiations, or Sweden's reserve position should its primary position not be successful in negotiations. Cooperation with EU affairs committees in other parliaments The Committee on EU Affairs cooperates with its equivalents in the parliaments of the other EU countries. These committees in the various parliaments meet every six months in a special conference, known as COSAC. Representatives of the European Parliament also participate. An important task in COSAC is to exchange experiences about how the parliaments can monitor the governments' actions in the EU.