Wednesday 21 September 2011

Sweden in Europe: EU defence cooperation?

The Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt read the Statement of Government Policy at the opening of the parliament (Riksdag) 15 September 2011.

It left me wondering if the government's short descriptions of its EU policies were accurate, or if consumers of public information should be offered some additional facts and viewpoints.

Three paragraphs positioned Sweden in the European Union. The first one is relevant to security and defence.

Solidarity clause

Prime minister Reinfeldt alluded to the solidarity clause, Article 222 TFEU, which entered into force with the Lisbon Treaty. Sweden is ready to help its Nordic partners as well, if struck by a disaster or attacked. Sweden expects reciprocity:

It is clear that our country will not remain passive should another EU Member State or another Nordic country be struck by disaster or attacked. By the same token, there is an expectation that these countries take similar action should Sweden be so affected.

Defence policy

However, who would wait until an armed attack has taken place? Military cooperation and preparation are better done well in advance (Si vis pacem, para bellum), hopefully preventing military aggression from taking place.

Thursday to Friday (22-23 September 2011) the defence ministers of the EU member states meet informally in Wroclaw, Poland, to discuss the priorities of the Polish Council presidency in terms of the military aspect of common security and defence policy, CSDP issues in general and the working schedule for the next six months.

In addition to military engagements elsewhere, the ministers of defence are expected to discuss issues having a bearing on the progressive framing of a common defence policy, ultimately leading to a common defence (Article 42 TEU):

* Work progress related to the development of the EU military potential
* Weimar Triangle initiative
* the “pooling and sharing” mechanism
* relations of the EU and its international partners as part of the CSDP
* relations with other organisations (NATO, UN, and the African Union)

France, Germany and Poland (the Weimar Triangle) have been joined by Italy and Spain to propose the establishment of an operational military headquarters (OHQ), through permanent structured cooperation following the veto by the United Kingdom.

A new EU defence core seems to be in the making, but I found no government information about how Sweden and Finland are going to act, nor how the Swedish minister of defence Sven Tolgfors or the Finnish minister Stefan Wallin are going to contribute to the discussion and the initiative.

Leaving the public in the dark seems a wee bit negligent.

Ralf Grahn

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