1. The Eastern Neighbours and Russia

Protests, chill, and an uncertain future

The Swedish gov­ern­ment is strong­ly crit­i­cal towards Russ­ian aggres­sion against Ukraine, includ­ing the ille­gal annex­a­tion of Crimea and oth­er activ­i­ties in the area. The provoca­tive way in which Russ­ian mil­i­tary forces behave around the Baltic Sea, vio­lat­ing the ter­ri­to­ry of Swe­den and oth­er coun­tries, is anoth­er rea­son for Swedish crit­i­cism. Among them are also the increased num­bers of intel­li­gence oper­a­tions and activ­i­ties to influ­ence coun­tries in the region as well as the sim­u­lat­ed attacks made by Russ­ian air­craft against the Stock­holm area and south­ern Swe­den. A sub­ma­rine hunt in Octo­ber of 2014, in the Stock­holm arch­i­pel­ago, result­ed in con­fir­ma­tion of the pres­ence of a small for­eign sub­ma­rine. While no coun­try was named by the author­i­ties, the con­clu­sion of ana­lysts was that its ori­gin was in all prob­a­bil­i­ty Russian.

The Russ­ian activ­i­ties have had a strong impact on Swedish defence pol­i­tics. They have led to a strength­en­ing of ongo­ing and planned increas­es in defence capa­bil­i­ties cen­tred on ter­ri­to­r­i­al defence and with a par­tic­u­lar focus on the island of Got­land, seen as par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble. It has also brought on increased defence coop­er­a­tion with oth­er coun­tries, in par­tic­u­lar Fin­land, as well as NATO.

Swedish-Russ­ian diplo­mat­ic rela­tions have been deeply affect­ed. Swe­den has protest­ed about the ille­gal annex­a­tion of Crimea, against Russ­ian vio­la­tions of Swedish air­space and against repeat­ed Russ­ian inter­fer­ence with the cable-lay­ing for the under­wa­ter elec­tric­i­ty cable, Nord­balt, between Swe­den and Lithua­nia, which by con­nect­ing the Swedish elec­tric­i­ty net with the Baltic ones will reduce Baltic depen­dence on Russ­ian gas. Russ­ian respons­es have been made in a harsh tone. Russia’s ambas­sador to Swe­den, Vik­tor Tatar­int­sev, also declared in an inter­view, pub­lished in Dagens Nyheter, that if Swe­den joins NATO, Rus­sia would take action and admon­ished Swe­den that it should be aware of the risks involved with a poten­tial membership.

Tatar­int­sev has also, while still stat­ing that he seeks a strength­ened dia­logue with Swe­den, accused the coun­try of being respon­si­ble for the chill in the atmos­phere between the two coun­tries. Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs Mar­got Wallström’s answer has been that there is indeed a chill in Swedish-Russ­ian rela­tions but that they do not depend on Swe­den but rather on the way in which Rus­sia acts.

A large major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion share the views of the gov­ern­ment. Accord­ing to a sur­vey con­duct­ed in late 2014, four out of five Swedes were wor­ried by the devel­op­ments in Russia.

As stat­ed in the government’s Defence Bill (Sweden’s Defence Pol­i­cy 2016 – 2020), pro­posed for the par­lia­ment on 23 April 2015, the Swedish gov­ern­ment believes that these devel­op­ments will con­tin­ue. At the same time, it sees the Russ­ian pol­i­cy as errat­ic and the devel­op­ment of the secu­ri­ty of the region as hard to predict.

At the moment, all mil­i­tary con­tacts with Rus­sia have been sus­pend­ed but, as declared by the For­eign Min­is­ter Wall­ström, in spite of the present Russ­ian pol­i­cy Swe­den must main­tain its bilat­er­al rela­tions and the EU its con­tacts with Russia.


A Policy More Needed than Ever

The present (Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic – Green) gov­ern­ment, in pow­er since Sep­tem­ber 2014, pur­sues the same line as the pre­vi­ous one, as shown by Ms Wallström’s declar­ing that the East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) coun­tries now need the EU more than ever. In the same vein, accord­ing to the doc­u­ment stat­ing the government’s over­all EU pri­or­i­ties for 2015 (post­ed in Novem­ber 2014), Swe­den will work to ensure that the review of the EU Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy results in an ambi­tious approach that bet­ter answers its chal­lenges and expec­ta­tions; that the EU remains unit­ed and prin­ci­pled in its response to Russ­ian aggres­sion, stand­ing up for the right of every coun­try to deter­mine its own future; that the East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit in Riga reaf­firms polit­i­cal sup­port and demon­strates sol­i­dar­i­ty with part­ner coun­tries, and that steps are tak­en to deep­en rela­tions with all part­ner coun­tries; that EU sup­port clear­ly shows the advan­tages of clos­er ties with the EU and seeks to over­come strains that deep­er free trade agree­ments can cre­ate in terms of eco­nom­ic tran­si­tion; and that the EU increas­es its focus on build­ing strong demo­c­ra­t­ic societies.

In May 2015, Ms Wall­ström vis­it­ed Moldo­va togeth­er with her Lithuan­ian col­league, Linas Linke­vičius. Inter­viewed by the news­pa­per Expressen, she stat­ed that one of the aims was to encour­age Moldo­va to increase the pace of reforms, in par­tic­u­lar with­in the judi­cial area and as con­cerns cor­rup­tion. Sup­port for reforms and the open­ing of trade and social con­tacts are, she stat­ed, the best ways to sup­port East­ern Part­ner­ship countries.

Asked about the risk that Moldo­va and oth­er East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries will face the same fate as Ukraine if they get clos­er to the EU, Ms Wall­ström agreed that this may actu­al­ly hap­pen. The choice is up to them, she said, to deter­mine which advan­tages for them lie in choos­ing Europe rather than Russia.

Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Löfven also addressed the present chal­lenges in his speech at the Riga Sum­mit by point­ing to some areas in which EaP could be improved to make it more resilient to inter­nal and exter­nal efforts to under­mine secu­ri­ty and sov­er­eign­ty. Focus should be on areas of imme­di­ate con­cern to cit­i­zens, such as the fight against cor­rup­tion, the rule of law and human rights, pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment and improved con­di­tions for trade invest­ments and work.


Limited progress acceptable in difficult times

Mar­got Wall­ström has described the out­come of the meet­ing as a reaf­fir­ma­tion by the EU and the six East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries of their sup­port for the project of Euro­pean reforms and Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. Some Swedish news­pa­pers have, how­ev­er, under­lined the very cau­tious approach tak­en in the con­clu­sions of the sum­mit as con­cerns the issue of ulti­mate mem­ber­ship of the EU, see­ing it as obvi­ous that there was a fear of annoy­ing Rus­sia too much. For­mer For­eign Min­is­ter Carl Bildt com­ment­ed in an arti­cle (see below) that in the sit­u­a­tion that exists today, with every­thing from mas­sive dis­in­for­ma­tion to tanks and sol­diers thrown against the East­ern Part­ner­ship, just stay­ing the course is a pow­er­ful sign of success.


Little Need for EU Army

The Junck­er pro­pos­al for an EU army was report­ed on the news pages but received very few com­ments. The most com­mon com­ment is that it is unre­al­is­tic and the gen­er­al view seems to be on the whole neg­a­tive. In the Swedish debate, NATO (due to its Amer­i­can com­po­nent) is dealt with as the only rel­e­vant orga­ni­za­tion in this context.

2. EU Enlargement

Unchanged Enlargement Policy

Russ­ian aggres­sion in Ukraine has not had any effect on the Swedish views on EU enlarge­ment to the east­ern neigh­bour­hood. The sug­gest­ed poli­cies remain the same and the need for an EU mem­ber­ship per­spec­tive as well. To the extent that enlarge­ment is men­tioned in the Swedish news­pa­pers and in the debate, the same strong endorse­ment can be seen in the pop­u­la­tion as well.

This does not mean, how­ev­er, that Swedish politi­cians or the Swedish pop­u­la­tion see mem­ber­ship as eas­i­ly accom­plished or as like­ly to hap­pen in the near future. Mem­ber­ship is seen to be a ways off and only after a reform process that Swe­den takes very seri­ous­ly. Since this reform is con­sid­ered to be a very ardu­ous process, it is seen as even more impor­tant that the per­spec­tive of mem­ber­ship exists to moti­vate the efforts.

Gen­er­al­ly, the events in Ukraine are not analysed in terms of a Russ­ian – Ukrain­ian cri­sis or war, even if the mil­i­tary involve­ment of Rus­sia is lim­it­ed to this coun­try only. Rather, it is put into the con­text of a new Russ­ian aggres­sive pol­i­cy in which the new ambi­tions are pur­sued using dif­fer­ent means in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. This con­cerns not only East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries but also Esto­nia, Latvia, and Lithua­nia, and relates to var­i­ous forms of influ­ence oper­a­tions through media and oth­er types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ques­tion­ing whether these states are sov­er­eign coun­tries, as well as a gen­er­al­ly aggres­sive behav­iour. Swe­den and its neigh­bours are already today objects of oper­a­tions aim­ing at influ­enc­ing secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy and under­min­ing sov­er­eign­ty. There is there­fore in Swedish think­ing no clear bor­der line between what is hap­pen­ing in Ukraine and in the Baltic Sea region, includ­ing against Sweden.


Enlargement Creates Stability but Russian Policy Endangers the Project

The pos­i­tive Swedish view on con­tin­ued enlarge­ment of the EU as regards the West­ern Balka­ns and Turkey has remained unchanged even after the Russ­ian aggres­sion in Ukraine and the change of gov­ern­ment in Sep­tem­ber 2014 into one led by the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the Greens. It is shared among all polit­i­cal par­ties, with the excep­tion of the Swe­den Democ­rats, and in the lat­ter case only with regard to Turkey. Also among peo­ple in gen­er­al the sup­port for enlarge­ment is very high when com­pared with oth­er coun­tries with­in the EU.

Two key fac­tors form the basis for Swedish views on EU enlarge­ment. The first one is Arti­cle 49 of the Treaty on Euro­pean Union which states that all Euro­pean democ­ra­cies have the right to apply for membership.

The oth­er key fac­tor is the strong belief that enlarge­ment is ben­e­fi­cial for the whole of the EU. First of all it enhances sta­bil­i­ty in Europe. This belief has been part of Swedish pol­i­cy since it entered the Union and Swe­den fought hard for all the three Baltic coun­tries to join the Union. Enlarge­ment of the EU was there­fore impor­tant among the pri­or­i­ties of the Swedish Pres­i­den­cies of 2001 and 2009 and the East­ern Part­ner­ship was a Pol­ish-Swedish ini­tia­tive. Dur­ing the 2009 Pres­i­den­cy, impor­tant steps were tak­en towards mem­ber­ship as regards both the West­ern Balka­ns and Turkey. The con­vic­tion that enlarge­ment leads to sta­bil­i­ty is also seen to apply to these coun­tries and con­se­quent­ly leads to the con­clu­sion that coun­tries which, regard­less of their own efforts, do not have any per­spec­tive of ever join­ing the EU, are seen as more prone to lis­ten to nation­al­is­tic and extrem­ist preach­ing and may there­by become a prob­lem for oth­ers as well.

In addi­tion, enlarge­ment is also seen to make a con­tri­bu­tion to Euro­pean pros­per­i­ty by increas­ing the Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct (GDP), not only in the new mem­ber states them­selves but also in the old­er ones.

Fail­ing to inte­grate the Balka­ns is fur­ther­more con­sid­ered to affect the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice and the EU as a whole. Such fail­ures in its own back­yard would have an impact on its attempts to be a glob­al actor.

As expressed in the government’s doc­u­ment on over­all EU pri­or­i­ties for 2015, the gov­ern­ment also con­sid­ers that progress in one country’s rap­proche­ment to the EU also cre­ates momen­tum for oth­er coun­tries in the region.

Fur­ther­more, nego­ti­a­tions must pro­ceed on their own mer­its and be based on con­di­tions relat­ed to the acquis com­mu­nau­taire, and that bilat­er­al issues should not be linked to enlarge­ment negotiations.

The spe­cif­ic ambi­tions for 2015 are to seek to ensure that the EU enlarge­ment pol­i­cy remains unchanged and shows com­mit­ment to Turkey’s mem­ber­ship process, that rela­tions between Ser­bia and Koso­vo are nor­mal­ized, that reforms in Bosnia con­tin­ue with a view to future EU mem­ber­ship and to open­ing nego­ti­a­tions with Macedonia.

Anoth­er Swedish ambi­tion in terms of enlarge­ment is that the qual­i­ta­tive review of can­di­dates is rein­forced con­cern­ing key polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic issues and that the eval­u­a­tions made by the EU are made more trans­par­ent and comparable.

Among key con­cerns is the lack of progress regard­ing these reforms. The Swedish efforts for the West­ern Balka­ns with a view to increas­ing its pace towards the EU aim towards (1) enhanced eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion with the EU and devel­op­ment of mar­ket econ­o­my, (2) strength­ened democ­ra­cy, greater respect for human rights and a more ful­ly devel­oped state under the rule of law, and (3) a bet­ter envi­ron­ment, reduced cli­mate impact, and enhanced resilience to envi­ron­men­tal impact and cli­mate change. As for Turkey, expect­ed results of efforts focus on strength­ened democ­ra­cy, greater respect for human rights and a more ful­ly devel­oped state under the rule of law.


This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘East­ern Neigh­bours and Rus­sia: Close links with EU cit­i­zens’ (ENURC) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with TEPSA (Trans Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion). The project focus­es on devel­op­ing EU cit­i­zens’ under­stand­ing of the top­ic of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood and Rus­sia and aims at encour­ag­ing their inter­est and involve­ment in this pol­i­cy which has an impact on their dai­ly lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is map­ping out the dis­cours­es on these issues in Euro­pean poli­cies all over Europe. Research insti­tutes from all 28 mem­ber states are invit­ed to give overviews on the dis­cours­es in their respec­tive countries.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2015. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2015. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the recent­ly relaunched EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.