Future European Leaders
As the United Kingdom presidency of the European Union draws towards its end - with the ongoing European Council meeting being the key event - agreement has been reached on which countries are going to be in the presidency for the rest of this decade as well as the next.
Sweden will - which we knew previously - have the presidency during the second half of 2009. This means that this will be one of the key responsibilities of the government that will be formed after our September 2006 elections.
The most interesting presidency during 2009 will be the preceding one, which will be the Czech Republic. The reason for that is that will be the presidency primarily responsible for chosing the person that will be president of the European Commission during the coming five years. But it can certainly not be excluded that this responsibility will spill over into the Swedish presidency as well.
But after that there is no presidency for Sweden on the horizon.
But during the years to come we will see the Baltic countries assuming this heavy responsibility.
Lithuania will be in charge during the first half of 2013. If things go as I would like them to go, this might well be a crucial period in concluding membership negotiations with key Balkan countries. I would like both Bosnia and Serbia to conclude their membership negotiations under the Lithuanian presidency so as to be able to enter as full members by 2015.
Next in line of the Baltic countries will be Latvia, taking over the first part of 2015, then perhaps presiding over a European Union that would have perhaps 100 million more citizens than today. I'm then including Turkey as well.
And then Estonia will be the EU presidency during the first half of 2018.
By then, much will be different. If Estonia is able to keep its present growth rates and its reform path during the years until then, it would then have reached a level of economic development which might well be even somewhat above the average of the member states of the European Union.
Europe is changing - and rather fast.