In a media conference attended by The Local following the meeting on Tuesday, Löfven began by praising Merkel and highlighting the shared interests between Germany and Sweden:
“I value Angela Merkel, her leadership and friendship. We share fundamental values, and Germany plays a major role in the growth of the EU and the world.”
“It is no secret that we now face major challenges. It is deeply regrettable that the USA has suspended all travel from citizens of seven countries. That's anything but good. The EU plays an important role for values and human rights,” the PM added.
“Fighting terrorism does not justify going against an entire group of people from a specific faith,” Merkel noted, reiterating her comments from earlier this week.
Both leaders spoke extensively about the EU response to the refugee crisis. Sweden received a record 163,000 asylum applications during the peak of the crisis in 2015, with the number then dropping to 29,000 in 2016. Meanwhile a total of 1.2 million sought asylum in Germany over the last two years.
“We need a more harmonized legislation and for all countries in the EU to share the responsibility of taking in refugees,” Löfven insisted.
“I think there are two important aspects. One part is that we get international agreements with different African countries, similar to the one the EU has with Turkey. And considering how the situation looks in Italy for example, European solidarity is also important,” he elaborated.
“We must cooperate internationally,” Merkel added, mentioning the need for talks with North African countries like Egypt and Morocco.
Löfven said he “shares the Chancellor's views” on refugee policy, noting that more work needed to be done to ensure people do not need to flee in the first place, but also that “Europe's outer border must also work and all countries should take their responsibility”.
Merkel and Löfven speaking to the media in Stockholm. Photo: Christian Krug
On the subject of Brexit, Merkel said that Germany and Sweden regret Britain's decision to leave the EU, but added that it is important to have a good relationship with the UK going forward.
“Of course we regret the result of the British referendum, but now it's important that all of the countries who remain cooperate so that we can have a continued good relationship with the UK,” she explained.
“At the same time we won't forget our own tasks, for example to create a digital single market and fight against unemployment, while also not forgetting the youth, that is very important.”
The meeting on Tuesday was also used to announce a new innovation partnership between Sweden and Germany, which will include a joint study on the electrification of roads, similar to a trial scheme which has already been rolled out in central Sweden.
Article by Lee Roden and The Local contributor Christian Krug.