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


  1. Thanks for the info on Sweden; it's probably the one I know least about in terms of neutrality. The debate there might be slow (and perhaps not widespread), but at least they're considering their options.

  2. Eurocentric,

    I appreciate your well reasoned and pertinent blog posts, and I have noticed that the Swedish Government and Parliament are less than active in translating press releases, so if issues or details do not get picked up by international agencies (media) it is hard to find material.

    Therefore I thought I could give you a hand.

    Of the six(?) non-NATO EU member states there seems to be some cautious movement in Finland and Sweden.

  3. Eurocentric,

    I notice that I was a bit unfair towaards the Swedish Government this time around.

    The full text of tue Statement on Foreign Policy is available in English


  4. Thanks for the link.

    It's a very interesting document - though the focus is very much on the kind of peace and multilateralist line which looks like a traditional neutral state's policy writ large,* the Nordic and NATO cooperation hints point to a revision of the neutral stance.

    *Though these policies are pretty much the kind of policies of non-neutral European states too.

  5. Eurocentric,

    You are right about the presentation.

    Am I just a cynic thinking that most EU countries speak to their more or less pacifist populations by praising the virtues of humanitarian and peace-building missions before they mention hard defence? And even more so in (former) neutral states?

    Not unlike energy, where every possibility to develop alternative (green) power has to be mentioned before governments reach the point where they say that they need a few nuclear power plants(?)

  6. I would tend to agree, to a degree, but I think that the governments do see things that way as well - it's just that hard policy choices aren't always (well, never, really) between the options you'd like to have.

    I've posted on my blog about this, though the article is a bit more wide-ranging, and perhaps less focused on the question. I suppose my basic point is that mutlilateralism and humanitarianism are probably vital aspects of any good/effective foreign policies we may want/need to adopt in our region.


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