Tuesday

11th Dec 2018

Focus

Sweden tightens Nato ties

  • The parliament endorsed the deal despite divisions on Sweden's relations with Nato. (Photo: Melker Dahlstrand)

Swedish MPs voted for closer ties with Nato on Wednesday (25 May), making it easier to base Nato troops on Swedish territory.

The Host Nation Support agreement also prepares the Nordic country for receiving assistance from alliance troops in case of emergency situations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

A similar agreement is already in place in Finland.

Both countries have traditionally remained outside military alliances.

But Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist told MPs that security policy must reflect the times.

”The Russian aggression against Ukraine breaches international law and challenges the European security order,” he said.

He spoke of increased spying in the Baltic region, "nuclear rhetoric" and breaches of Sweden’s airspace by Russian jets.

The situation means Sweden should rebuild its military capacities and strengthen cooperation with potential allies.

”Host nation support is just one element of a broader strategy,” Hultqvist said. He referred to foreign and trade policy and civil society contacts as other parts of Sweden's security policy.

Russian aggression against Sweden is unlikely, but could be discouraged further by sending signals about Sweden's resources and networks, Hultqvist said.

"The goal is to prevent such a situation," he explained.

Nuclear fears

Some 291 MPs backed the agreement and 29 voted against, but those figures mask bitter divisions.

Until Tuesday, it looked like the agreement could be delayed.

The Left Party filed a motion to postpone the deal, saying it would allow Nato to place nuclear weapons on Swedish territory.

"Nato's doctrine on nuclear weapons is clear," Left MP Stig Helmersson wrote in the motion.

He referred to a Nato document stating that nuclear weapons are core to the alliance's deterrence and defence.

"Nuclear weapons, let alone Sweden's position on the issue, are not mentioned in the agreement itself and we must assume that nuclear weapons can be placed on land, travel through Swedish territorial waters, enter Swedish ports with nuclear submarines and fly over Swedish soil on board of warplanes," the MP feared.

The far-right Sweden Democratic Party's security spokesman Mikael Jansson backed the motion to adjourn.

”Host nation support risks to undermine international confidence in Swedish neutrality. We will vote to postpone the case,” Jansson told news agency TT on Sunday.

If both parties had backed the motion, it would have reached the threshold of 58 MPs needed to put off the deal.

But Jansson was reprimanded by party leader Jimmie Akesson. The Swedish Democrats opposed the agreement but would not act to stop it, Akesson said.

”There’s a broad backing for host nation support in the Riksdag [parliament]. We could postpone it for a couple of weeks only. That wouldn’t be serious,” Akesson explained to TT.

Both governing parties - the Social Democrats and Greens - were internally split on the issue for similar reasons as the left and far-right.

In the end, only the Left and four Green members voted against the agreement.

The defence minister said the debate had been rife with errors.

"I have sometimes wondered if there has been deliberate disinformation," Hultqvist said.

He said the agreement changed nothing about Sweden’s neutrality and did not allow for nuclear weapons.

Finland had agreed a host country support deal and none of these problems had materialised, he said.

'Psychological defence'

Sweden is also likely to join the Nato strategic communications centre of excellence, Stratcom, in an effort to strengthen the country's counter propaganda efforts.

In April, the government sent a letter to Latvia state secretary Janis Garisons, stating its wish to cooperate and requesting a director position at the centre.

The government had also invited Janis Sarts, director of the centre of excellence, to meet with ministers already two weeks ago. But the date was cancelled and delayed by the prime minister's office.

It has now reappeared on the government's meeting agenda for Thursday (26 May).

Earlier this year Swedish security police warned that Russian agents were working in Sweden to rally opinion against the Nato deal.

News in Brief

  1. Lead MEP on Morocco resigns position on trade file
  2. EU gives green light to new human rights sanctions
  3. May pulls vote, seeks to renegotiate Brexit 'backstop'
  4. Report: May cancels Tuesday's Brexit vote in parliament
  5. Belgium left with minority government after UN migration pact row
  6. EU court: UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50
  7. UK remains largest arms producer in western Europe
  8. Macron to address French nation in bid to calm tension

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. EU aviation agreement with Morocco in legal hot water
  2. Anti-semitism 'disturbingly normalised' in Europe
  3. Help consumers take cruelty away from EU's Xmas buffet
  4. EU court adds to knife-edge Brexit drama
  5. France and Germany back Dutch on human rights sanctions
  6. COP24: vital to keep big polluters away from climate policy
  7. EU foot-dragging puts rule of law at risk in Hungary, Poland
  8. Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us