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What has the EU done for Sweden? (and vice-versa)

In 2014, during the European Parliament elections period, a publication was made in Sweden under the name “Vad har EU gjort för Sverige – och vad har Sverige gjort för EU?” meaning “What has the EU done for Sweden – and what has Sweden done for the EU?” 

The publication was written by Fredrik Erixon (ECIPE) and Stefan Fölster (Reforminstitutet). Both writers are known in the public debate and working for market-liberal think tanks.

One of the main ambitions of this publication was to provide arguments and findings in favour of Sweden as an EU-member state and country. Another ambition was to analyse and compare different results, as economic and welfare development, since 1995 when Sweden joined the EU after a popular referendum.

Their analysis relates to a government survey called Consequence Inquiry (Konsekvensutredningen) from 1993, when the Swedish government analysed the accession process. Here is a summary of the main conclusions: 

  • Since 1995, Sweden’s external trade has grown faster than anyone could predict. The same can be said with direct investments from Sweden to other EU-countries. 
  • Swedish trade has been specialised and the high intensity of “EU:s defensive trade policy” has probably not had any notable influence on Sweden’s total amount of trade.  
  • In the agricultural sector, Sweden went from a more regulated and protectionist system to a similar system based on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
  • Food and provisions prices became adjusted to other EU-countries and were reduced to around 20 per cent compared to different prices. 
  • Imposing EU:s deregulations followed by the membership process influenced trade in sectors as telecommunications, but there has not been a substantial effect on public procurements across state borders. 
  • Employment levels have changed little, while real wage growth has been phenomenal with an increase of 44 per cent since 1995
  • The most significant immigration took place after Sweden decided to abstain from transition rules in 2004 when the EU was enlarged with ten new countries as Poland and Estonia. 
  • Wage dispersion is in principle unchanged since Sweden became an EU-member state. 
  • There is a surprise regarding the membership fee since it became 10 billion SEK (around 900 000 Euros) lower than officially expected.
  • The taxation system has been affected differently, and Sweden has lowered the taxation burden since the membership. Some tax-competition within the EU may have influenced. However, it was mostly due to lower interest rates on government debt, lower membership fee. 
  • Total consumption increased by 20 per cent, and the feared increase in alcohol-related damages did not occur. 

In their summary, Erixon and Fölster write that it can be said that during the 1994 referendum, neither concerns and misgivings of the “No side” (against EU-membership), and optimism and hopes of the “Yes side” (in favour of EU-membership) were fulfilled. 

For more information, the publication “Twenty five years of Swedish reforms”, also written by Stefan Fölster, and Johan Kreicbergs.  

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