The concerns of European Union-member Sweden have focused on the loss of national sovereignty, independence and integrity have guided the relationship Sweden has enjoyed with other member nations and the European Nation as a single entity. While membership in the European Union has provided economic benefits and ease of travel for Swedes for almost 20 years now, Swedish identity has been a driving force in shaping the nature and degree of the relationships granted under union membership. Initially reluctant to join, Swedish membership in the continental economic model was gradually seen to be inevitable for the purposes of remaining economically competitive and viable, much to the chagrin of many nationalistic Swedes themselves. While there have been considerable benefits enjoyed due to joining the European Union, Sweden seeks to distinguish itself from other member-nations and states by retaining its governmental system, culture, language, customs and economic system.
The Swedish government is a constitutional monarchy defined by retaining a titular head of state, currently King Carl XVI Gustaf, who has reigned since his coronation in September of 1973. The King and other members of the royal family enjoy ceremonial, representational and official duties, and often serve in ambassadorial roles on behalf of the Swedish kingdom. Sweden’s monarchy has persisted since before recorded history, and writings by such notables as the Roman Tacitus note that, in the first century BC, Swedes had a king and royal family ruling the nation. While complete histories of monarchic succession are not known, oral histories in the form of Norse Sagas serve to provide some information as to the names, duties and eras of rule enjoyed by many of Sweden’s rulers.
Notable to Sweden’s monarchy are the limited powers kings and royalty have enjoyed. Historically, Swedish kings possessed powers of legal judgement, priesthood and war-time leaders, rather than the all-encompassing political powers claimed by many continental heads of state. In the 19th century, and formation of a national constitution divided governmental powers between the monarchy and a parliamentary government, and further reforms in 1917 led to a considerable reduction in the powers reserved for the king. Since then, Sweden has been an electoral democracy governed and ruled by a parliamentary model.
With considerable pressures and national debate, Sweden reluctantly joined the European Union in 1994. Many individual Swedes, both private citizens and appointed officials, considered membership to be a loss of national sovereignty insofar as member nations were required to swear allegiance to the new political union ahead of any individual national loyalties. Further, membership in the European Union resulted in the citizens of individual states being subject to over 10,000 new laws over which they held no power of national referendum. The independence and cultural identity of Sweden was considered threatened, and in this light it was determined that the most effective means of preserving identity and sovereignty would be to assume a leading role in the governance of this new political and economic body. To this end, Sweden has been a vociferous player in the legislation and governance of the European Union, even going so far as to choose which laws and legislation enacted by the EU it wished to follow or ignore completely.
In this light, Sweden has determined its course of public health in concert with the European Union. The European Union has designated electronic cigarettes nebulously in terms of public health, whereas many member nations have determined for themselves the efficacy of allowing new nicotine-based delivery systems under law. In Sweden, electronic cigarettes are only allowable with the liquid-filled cartridges inside of these devices containing product that does not contain nicotine. Smoking throughout Europe and European Union member-states is common, but increasingly inhibited by legislation and taxation. Sweden has taken a proactive course, and banned the sale of nicotine-infused cartridges that serve as the inhaled product of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarette use in the United States has been banned in individual states, and Sweden has taken this model to heart, employing its own considerable clout to manage and direct the future of its public health legislation both internally and as a leader in the European Union.