Published 24 September 2021
Joint Statement by
Florence Parly, Minister for Defence, France
Peter Hultqvist, Minister for Defence, Sweden
We live in uncertain times. The geopolitical challenges today are more acute and complex than in recent decades. Russia just concluded the military exercise Zapad, displaying its military capabilities with a substantial volume of forces, while highlighting in its National Security Strategy presented last July that “Russia is preparing for a long-term conflict with the West”.
In the Mediterranean unilateral actions jeopardise regional stability and undermine the unity of the West. China is using its economic might and expanding global military presence to shore up political influence and leverage in many parts of the world. International and domestic politics are marked by polarisation. Growing extremism and terrorism pose threats. International norms and rules are facing increasing pressure. Disinformation and hybrid activities sponsored by state actors such as China and Russia are part of a new normal.
Examples of this can be found in the Arctic, Northern Atlantic, Baltic and Black Sea regions, the South Caucasus, the ongoing war in Ukraine and in the policies of the regime in Belarus. In the Sahel, extremism, terrorism, human trafficking and the drug trade threaten not only the people of the region but also the security of Europe. This is a threat to both our internal and our external security. As global commons, such as space, cyber, sea and air domains, become more and more contested, European countries must jointly defend their interests and values, and international law. This is our duty if we are to maintain security, freedom of access and navigation. We must act together because no one will do so on our behalf.
European countries, together with our transatlantic partners, must meet these challenges together. In the aftermath of the events in Afghanistan we need to have an open and frank political dialogue on the lessons learned on international engagements and global commitments. Our credibility is linked to a strong political will and military capacity to act, combined with our ability to coordinate with our allies and partners. In this context, we cannot afford to leave the scene to terrorist organisations or to state actors who contest the international rules-based order. The security of Europe is first and foremost the responsibility of Europeans themselves. Europe’s security should strengthen European strategic autonomy in a way that directly benefits transatlantic and global security.
France and Sweden are partners with shared interests, values and history. When international institutions and norms are challenged, we emphasise our commitment to democracy, human rights, multilateralism and international law. Today, we will sign an agreement on defence cooperation. Our aim is to work together more efficiently, reinforce our interoperability, foster synergies in capabilities development and develop a common strategic culture in order to be able to deploy alongside each other in military operations when needed. By doing so, we honour our commitment to the European Union and solidarity as manifested in the Article 42(7) of the Treaty, an article that enabled Sweden to support France in 2015 after the terrorist attacks in Paris. We also honour our strong operational cooperation in the fight against terrorism, as demonstrated by the Swedish involvement in the Takuba Task force in the Sahel.
As close partners committed to trust, transparency and cooperation, France and Sweden are coordinating their upcoming presidencies of the Council of the EU in the areas of crisis management, resilience, capability development and partnerships. We firmly believe that the EU and NATO are complementary partners in a transatlantic security web that includes other forms of bilateral, multilateral, and regional cooperation that vary in purpose and geographic scope. We are prepared to consider how regional groups of Member States could assume regional responsibility and act on behalf of the EU in a more flexible and reactive manner, building on the model of the Takuba Task Force.
It is our firm belief that French-Swedish defence cooperation promotes stability in the Baltic Sea Region, in Europe as a whole and beyond. As part of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence, France has deployed 300 troops in Estonia, contributes regularly to Baltic Air Policing missions and takes part in numerous regional exercises (Arctic Challenge, Aurora, Northern Coasts). Another concrete example is in the Sahel region, where our joint forces are promoting human rights and restoring security. French and Swedish Special Forces operate side by side in the most demanding environment in direct support of local armed forces fighting against terrorism. This joint effort is critical to maintaining the security and the stability of our neighbourhood, and thus contributes to our own security.
Today, we will meet with Defence Ministers from the European Intervention Initiative, EI2, in Stockholm. We will discuss how like-minded European partners can achieve more together and ways to improve cooperation and common efforts. EI2 is an effective incubator and catalyst for concrete efforts, gathering the political and military communities of our countries. In this regard, France and Sweden are firmly committed to promoting international law and upholding the European security, with Europe assuming its responsibilities as a security provider and through a strong, balanced and mutually beneficial transatlantic relationship.