On 5-7 February, the Speaker Andreas Norlén travelled to Brussels together with a delegation of members of the Riksdag for a three-part visit to Belgium, to the EU institutions in Brussels and to the NATO Headquarters.
The delegation consisted of members of the Riksdag Hans Ekström (Social Democratic Party), Chair of the Committee on the Constitution, Åsa Westlund (Social Democratic Party), Chair of the Committee on EU Affairs, Eskil Erlandsson (Centre Party), Deputy Chair of the Committee on EU Affairs and Ingvar Mattson, Secretary-General of the Riksdag.
The programme during the bilateral visit to Belgium included meetings with the Speakers of the Belgian Federal Parliament - Siegfried Bracke, Speaker of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and Jacques Brotchi, President of the Senate - as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders. Topics during these meetings included the challenges and opportunities of democracy, constitutional issues and other bilateral issues.
In the Parliament, the Speaker Andreas Norlén held a seminar together with the Belgian Speakers, the Chair of the Standing Committee for Constitutional Review Kristien van Vaerembergh and the Secretary General of International IDEA Yves Leterme. The seminar opened with a presentation of the Riksdag's celebrations of the advent of democracy in Sweden one hundred years ago, and then moved on to the democratic challenges today in Sweden and Belgium, and how the new political landscape affects, for example, the formation of government today and in the future.
“I would like to use our Swedish democracy centenary as a point of departure for discussions on democracy yesterday, today and in the future, together with parliamentarians and others in the countries I visit,” says Andreas Norlén.
The EU part of the visit, focused on the important EU dimension of both domestic and foreign policy. The delegation visited the EU institutions for an exchange of experiences and discussion on topical issues, for example, the role of the national parliaments in EU cooperation, the future of the EU and current political issues such as Brexit and how to strengthen democracy in the EU.
The visit included meetings with the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, Vice President Mairead McGuinness, Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs Danuta Hübner, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and the Commission's Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier. The Speaker Andreas Norlén and delegation also spoke to Swedish MEPs and with the staff at the Swedish Representation.
“My first official visit as Speaker went to Helsinki last week, and I wanted my second visit to be to Brussels, in order to send the message that I and the Riksdag prioritise EU affairs, as what the EU does is Swedish domestic policy, and not just foreign policy. The EU's decisions have a direct impact in Sweden, and it is important that the Riksdag monitors and can influence developments,” stresses the Speaker.
The visit ended with meetings at the NATO Headquarters for talks with, among others, NATO's Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller and Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy James Appathurai.