Swedish Red Cross working to influence the Swedish Council Presidency
With Sweden currently holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the Swedish Red Cross has mobilised to influence the Swedish Presidency’s priorities and share the views and expertise of National Red Cross Societies at EU level. The Swedish Red Cross has been focussing on three priority issues.
“The Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU has taken place at a pressing time for Europe and the world. It has been an opportunity for us to highlight the importance of these issues, joined by the other 26 National Red Cross Societies in the EU,” says Martin Ärnlöv, Secretary General of the Swedish Red Cross and Chair of the Red Cross EU Office.
Respect for humanitarian principles and International Humanitarian Law
On top of immense humanitarian challenges, record-level displacement, hunger and worsening poverty, the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine continue to disproportionately impact vulnerable communities. Humanitarian organisations such as National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are obliged to adhere to humanitarian principles including impartiality, neutrality and independence during their operations. The Swedish Red Cross has been calling on the EU to continue supporting humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law. The EU and Member States must protect humanitarian personnel and respect the need of humanitarian actors to adhere to humanitarian principles, including when sanctions and EU restrictive measures apply.
Migration and protection
The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is committed to supporting migrants on their journey, focusing on their needs and vulnerabilities, regardless of their legal status. Seeking to ensure that all migrants receive the assistance and protection they are entitled to under international and domestic law, the Swedish Red Cross had been raising key concerns related to migration polices on the EU agenda, including in context of the ongoing negotiations of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum. The proposed legal EU instruments will determine how migrants are treated when entering EU territory and what space humanitarian actors will have to deliver assistance to them. Fair, accountable, and high-quality migration and asylum procedures and dignified reception facilities throughout the EU should be at the heart of EU’s migration and asylum policy.
The climate crisis as a humanitarian crisis
Climate change exacerbates humanitarian crises by driving food insecurity, water scarcity, health issues and displacement globally[i]. Over the past decade, 83% of all disasters were caused by climate-induced extreme weather events, with grave humanitarian consequences being felt by billions of people. While the EU addresses climate change through initiatives such as the European Green Deal, the Swedish Red Cross has been calling for a stronger EU response to the humanitarian impacts of the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, scaling up adaptation with a focus on protecting and supporting the most vulnerable communities, and making climate finance more accessible, including for local responders.
Over the last few months, the Swedish Red Cross has also organised and participated in a number of events connected to the Presidency, including an event presenting the IFRC World Disasters Report on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how these can feed discussions on pandemic preparedness and health within the EU and global contexts. The Swedish Red Cross also hosted a presentation of the World Disasters Report in Sweden, featuring a complementary report on lessons learned from COVID-19 in the Swedish context.
Furthermore, the Swedish Red Cross also actively engaged in the preparation for the 2023 edition of the European Humanitarian Forum. The forum offered an opportunity to strengthen cooperation and partnerships among countries affected by the crises, donors, international stakeholders and the EU and Member States. Among several seminars and roundtables, the Swedish Red Cross co-hosted a Humanitarian Talk with the Netherlands Red Cross on challenges to humanitarian action posed by sanctions and EU restrictive measures.
For National Red Cross Societies in the EU, the Presidency represents an important opportunity to highlight key concerns with leaders and help claim civil society's space in national and European debates and decisions. In the 18-months of the current trio Presidency that sees France, Czechia and Sweden chairing the EU Council until June 2023, the French Red Cross, the Czech Red Cross and the Swedish Red Cross have been working together to draw attention to the needs of the most vulnerable people on the EU stage.
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