Swedish EU Presidency and Swedish defence issues

The presidency issues

Many of the issues to be put in focus dur­ing the Swedish Pres­i­den­cy have been men­tioned above. Cli­mate, ener­gy and envi­ron­ment are often men­tioned as the most impor­tant issues. Anoth­er one is employ­ment, growth and com­pet­i­tive­ness; a third one is a safer and more trans­par­ent Europe; a fourth one is the Baltic Sea region and rela­tions with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries; and a fifth one is the EU as a glob­al actor togeth­er with con­tin­ued enlarge­ment. A fur­ther theme is that of effi­cien­cy: mak­ing the EU work bet­ter. This has been brought up by Cecil­ia Malm­ström, Min­is­ter for EU Affairs, men­tion­ing cri­sis man­age­ment, which today is a respon­si­bil­i­ty shared by sev­er­al Com­mis­sion­ers rather than hav­ing one per­son respon­si­ble for it.

Baltic Sea initiative

The core of this ini­tia­tive is to deal with all the prob­lems and chal­lenges relat­ed to the Baltic Sea region togeth­er: ener­gy, envi­ron­ment, trade etc. The back­ground to the ini­tia­tive is that the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in the region is very uneven; the finan­cial cri­sis has hit cer­tain coun­tries very hard, and the envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems of the Baltic Sea are con­sid­er­able while at the same time there is much traf­fic across the waters. Ger­many is also behind this project and the Com­mis­sion is engaged in devel­op­ing a strat­e­gy for the Baltic Sea region.[1]

Swedish defence forces and the defence of Sweden

Dis­cus­sions on Swedish defence have recent­ly become heat­ed. Repeat­ed cut-downs of Swedish defence forces com­bined with con­tin­ued empha­sis on inter­na­tion­al cri­sis man­age­ment as com­pared with defence of Swedish ter­ri­to­ry is one part of it. The oth­er part of the dis­cus­sion is the con­flict in Geor­gia, which has caused some to ask for a new analy­sis on Russ­ian pol­i­cy and the Swedish threat sce­nar­ios. The third com­po­nent of this dis­cus­sion con­cerns the Swedish rela­tions to NATO and its present sta­tus of non-align­ment.

The cut-downs of the Swedish forces and the empha­sis on the inter­na­tion­al tasks have been a recur­rent theme for some years. Inter­na­tion­al mis­sions are gen­er­al­ly endorsed, includ­ing by the Swedish pub­lic (see below), and the dis­cus­sion has there­fore been on the effects on Swedish ter­ri­to­r­i­al defence. Dur­ing the autumn anoth­er reduc­tion was announced as well as plans aimed to give faster reac­tion time, based on pro­fes­sion­al sol­diers and officers.[2] The supreme com­man­der, Håkan Syrén, has under­lined that a nation­al defence capa­ble to with­stand a vast attack on Swe­den by a major coun­try is since long been an unre­al­is­tic lev­el of ambi­tion for a small state. It should, how­ev­er, be strong enough to deter the attack­er. Close coop­er­a­tion with oth­er coun­tries is nec­es­sary today, exer­cis­ing, train­ing as well as devel­op­ing and pur­chas­ing equip­ment togeth­er with oth­ers. Above all, efforts are made to devel­op Nordic mil­i­tary cooperation.[3]

Inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion has since the end of the Cold War been sub­stan­tial and, while remain­ing non-aligned, Swe­den con­sid­ers itself tied by oblig­a­tions to the EU and Nordic states. The Par­lia­men­tary Defence Commission’s reports and oth­er doc­u­ments con­tain what has been called a “uni­lat­er­al Arti­cle 5”: “There is broad con­sen­sus that Swe­den will not remain pas­sive should anoth­er EU mem­ber state or Nordic coun­try be struck by dis­as­ter or attack. By the same token, we expect these coun­tries to do the same if a sim­i­lar cri­sis were to befall Sweden.”[4]

The Swedish public’s views on these mat­ters are com­plex. The major­i­ty of Swedes pre­fer con­tin­ued non-align­ment, even though sup­port for NATO affil­i­a­tion has gone up marked­ly dur­ing the last year. Among the respon­dents of a sur­vey, 36 per­cent believe that Swe­den should join NATO now or in the future, where­as 38 per­cent think that Swe­den should remain out­side and 26 per­cent do not have a view on this. Since 2005, the sup­port for join­ing NATO has increased by six per­cent­age points each year.[5]

On the oth­er hand Swedes do not gen­er­al­ly see non-align­ment as the deci­sive fac­tor for secu­ri­ty in Swe­den: while 43 per­cent see mil­i­tary non-align­ment as hav­ing a pos­i­tive effect on peace and secu­ri­ty for Swe­den, oth­er fac­tors are con­sid­ered to be even more impor­tant: 52 per­cent see Swedish mem­ber­ship in the EU as being pos­i­tive, 52 per­cent see Swedish par­tic­i­pa­tion in Com­mon For­eign and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy coop­er­a­tion as pos­i­tive, and 49 per­cent see Swedish par­tic­i­pa­tion in Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty and Defence Pol­i­cy mis­sions as being pos­i­tive for peace and security.[6] As men­tioned above, the Swedish pub­lic in gen­er­al, like the gov­ern­ment, sees enlarge­ment as a peace-pro­mot­ing fac­tor: 40 per­cent of the respon­dents see EU enlarge­ment as pos­i­tive for Swedish peace and security.[7]




[1] Cecil­ia Malm­ström: Why do we need a Euro­pean Union strat­e­gy for the Baltic Sea region?, speech, Almedalen 7 July 2008, avail­able at: www.regeringen.se/sb/d/7415/a/108721 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009); Angela Merkel/Fredrik Rein­feldt: Ökat Öster­sjösamar­bete i EU [Increased Baltic Sea Coop­er­a­tion in the EU], Dagens Nyheter, 4 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[2] Sten Tol­gfors, Defence Min­is­ter: Försvaret klarar idag inte att vär­na Sverige, [Today’s Defence Can­not Defend Swe­den], Dagens Nyheter, 7 Novem­ber 2008.
[3] Håkan Syrén, supreme com­man­der of the Swedish forces: Att pri­or­it­era är att väl­ja (bort)! Anförande av över­be­fäl­havaren, gen­er­al Håkan Syrén, vid Folk och Försvars rik­skon­fer­ens i Sälen den 18 jan­u­ari 2009 [To pri­or­i­tize is to choose (take away)!], state­ment by the Supreme Com­man­der at the Annu­al con­fer­ence of “Peo­ple and Soci­ety”, Sälen 18 Jan­u­ary 2009.
[4] Carl Bildt, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, in: Swedish par­lia­ment: Kam­marens pro­tokoll, 13 Feb­ru­ary 2008, p. 4, avail­able at: http://www.riksdagen.se/Webbnav/index.aspx?nid=101&bet=2007/08:63#{35F8E6AD-3FA4-4C88-8F1B-9C59FF4AD3C1} (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[5] Göran Stütz (ed.): Opin­ion 2008, Om den sven­s­ka allmän­hetens syn på samhäl­let, säk­er­het­spoli­tiken och försvaret [Opin­ion 2008, Swedes’ Views on Soci­ety, Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy and Nation­al Defence], data col­lec­tion: 25 August-13 Octo­ber 2008, Styrelsen för psykol­o­giskt försvar [The Nation­al Board of Psy­cho­log­i­cal Defence], 2008, p. 77.
[6] Ibid., p. 55.
[7] Ibid.