Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Swedish non-alignment and EU?

Fellow blogger The European Citizen discussed ’Neutrality and Europe’ in a blog post 9 March 2009, primarily from an Irish perspective:


The post concluded that the existence of the internal market and membership of the EU has changed the political context for neutral European states. This doesn't automatically mean that military integration should be adopted, but a range of options should be discussed.


I have nothing to object to the conclusion that rational discussion is needed in the countries outside the security policy mainstream of the European Union.

What caught my eye was a detail, the opening sentence where The European Citizen described Ireland, Sweden and Austria as both neutral and EU member states, and asked but can you really be both.

In a comment on an earlier blog post, I had noted that Finland has narrowed down its definition to “military non-alignment”, because the country sees itself as politically aligned through EU membership, including the CFSP and the CSDP.

I also commented that I was unsure of how Sweden defines itself nowadays, although it continued to use both “non-alignment” and “neutrality” when Finland had ceased to utilise these defining terms.

For this comment off the cuff, I did not take the trouble to research the Swedish position. But when Swedish neutrality cropped up in the new post, I decided to take a look.



Traditional Swedish non-alignment aiming at neutrality in war seems to be in a flux. In the Foreign Policy Declaration of the Government of Sweden 18 February 2009 (Regeringens deklaration vid 2009 års utrikespolitiska debatt i Riksdagen onsdagen den 18 februari 2009), Foreign Minister Carl Bildt mentioned neither non-alignment nor neutrality.

Bildt mentioned the successful foreign, security and defence policies of the European Union and the good cooperation between Sweden and NATO in crisis management. He went on to declare that the Government is going to present a position paper on NATO relations during the spring.

Bildt mentioned Swedish security policy as firm, but in addition he mentioned the proposals for improved Nordic defence cooperation made by Thorvald Stoltenberg. The Swedish Government will consider them in a positive spirit and it promises a Bill on defence policy this spring.


In other words, by deliberate omission Sweden is neither “non-aligned” nor “neutral”, but two Government papers will further define NATO relations and (Nordic) defence policy.

I don’t expect any sudden shifts, but Swedish foreign, security and defence policy is changing, although at glacier-like speed.

Ralf Grahn