Stockholm, 10 February 2023
Opening speech by the Minister for Defence Pål Jonson at the conference on security and defence within the framework of Sweden’s presidency of the EU on 30 January 2023, Uppsala.
Check against delivery.
Dear distinguished guests,
Welcome to Sweden and Uppsala.
It’s great to see such a strong turnout from EU Member States and institutions as well as from the Union’s strategic partners. I hope you all get to enjoy this historic city and its castle, in addition to taking part in discussions here today and tomorrow.
The new Swedish Government has now been in office for three months. We face a tall order with regard to the security and defence agenda.
Support for Ukraine, the NATO membership process and being the NORDEFCO Chair and holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the same time, to mention but a few. I will touch upon all of these aspects in my opening remarks.
But let me start by saying that I briefed the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence last week on the Swedish Presidency’s priorities. I also visited both the European Defence Agency and NATO HQ on the same day.
The message that I wanted to convey to all the interlocutors during those meetings was twofold:
The new Swedish Government sees no contradiction between a stronger EU and a stronger NATO. We intend to be fully engaged in both organisations. We want to be at the heart – not on the fringes – of the CSDP – and we strongly believe that our future NATO membership will make us better able to play an active and constructive role in European defence matters. A sign of Sweden’s increased engagement in these matters is that we are now stepping up our activities in the fifth wave of PESCO projects.
Secondly, Sweden welcomes deeper and more-effective EU–NATO cooperation. The EU and NATO have never worked as closely as they have done in the run-up to and during the war in Ukraine. Our common response to Russia’s aggression has been unity, determination and solidarity.
Now as you all know, Sweden has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at a crucial time for our Union. Europe is facing the greatest defence, foreign and security policy challenges since the Second World War.
Unfortunately, we need to be prepared for a long war. Russia’s strategic goals remain unchanged.
A Russian victory in Ukraine would have catastrophic geostrategic, political and military consequences for us all.
It may be self-evident, but it is worth underlining that as much support as possible must be provided to war-torn Ukraine – political, financial, military and humanitarian.
At the same time, other challenges to Europe’s security have not disappeared. Increased great-power competition, an increasingly assertive and aggressive China on the international stage, the growing presence of the Wagner group in Sub-Sahara Africa, to mention but a few.
The EU cannot take a strategic time-out from these challenges if it intends to be a security provider with a global reach.
We must have the bandwidth to handle a multitude of security challenges at the same time even though Ukraine will be, and should be, at the top of our agenda.
The NATO process
In light of the deteriorating security situation, I would like to say a few words about the path to joining NATO that Sweden decided to embark upon last year.
First of all, let me stress that Sweden greatly appreciates the speed at which 28 of the 30 Allies have ratified our NATO accession protocols. Continuing Sweden’s political and military integration into NATO and becoming fully fledged members as soon as possible are the Swedish Government’s highest priority.
Sweden will be a credible and reliable Ally contributing to the security and prosperity of the whole Euro-Atlantic community. We are willing and able to contribute to the security of the Alliance in the most effective way, be it NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, air policing or NATO’s standing maritime forces, for example.
Secondly, as an Ally, Sweden will over time, and with a 360-degree approach, take part in the Alliance’s joint planning, exercises, operations and initiatives.
Thirdly, the Government is determined to continue to substantially strengthen the capabilities of the Swedish Armed Forces. Last year, a political agreement was reached to increase Sweden’s defence appropriations, and my Government intends to reach the 2% level by 2026 at the latest.
Now I will turn my attention to the EU Presidency. There is a need for a strong Europe that takes greater responsibility for European security within the framework of the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.
This must be done in close cooperation with partners around Europe and across the Atlantic. The Transatlantic pillar remains the cornerstone of European security, in which NATO is the provider of collective defence.
At this decisive juncture for our Union, a great responsibility rests with the Swedish Presidency, whose priorities are therefore intended to focus on and address the challenges ahead. In the area of security and defence, Sweden has three main priorities:
- Support to Ukraine;
- The implementation of the Strategic Compass; and
- Strategic partnerships.
Firstly, the top priority is support to Ukraine. The new Swedish Government has great ambitions and has provided Ukraine with extensive bilateral support, including military equipment.
In the last three months, we have presented two support packages worth approximately EUR 750 million.
They comprised a winter and air defence package in November and a land warfare package announced last week.
We did so to support Ukraine with the heavy and advanced weapon systems that it desperately needs. But also because we knew that our Presidency would require us to lead by example when it comes to military support for Ukraine.
The last package will include up to 50 CV90 combat vehicles in support of the build-up of Ukrainian mechanisation efforts and additional anti-tank weapons, such as Carl Gustaf, AT4 and NLAW. Preparations are underway to send the Archer artillery system to Ukraine. We are also having a constructive dialogue with the other members of the user group of the main battle tank Leopard and intend to contribute also to this endeavour.
Last autumn’s launch of EUMAM Ukraine was a significant step in the EU’s efforts, with most Member States contributing to the training of Ukrainian soldiers on EU territory. Sweden is providing EUMAM Ukraine with instructors and staff officers.
In line with this priority, Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda of the informal meeting of defence ministers in Stockholm in March. Here we can, at an early stage, take stock of EUMAM Ukraine in order to ensure the mission can deliver on Ukrainian needs.
The European Peace Facility (EPF) is playing a crucial role in facilitating Member States’ donations of military equipment to Ukraine. There is now a much-needed implementation of the top-up of EUR 2 billion for the EPF, which we will support during our Presidency.
To summarise, the overall ambition of the Swedish Presidency is that support to Ukraine is on the agendas of all relevant meetings, both in Sweden and Brussels.
I also hope to welcome my Ukrainian colleague, Defence Minister Reznikov, to the informal meeting of defence ministers on 7–8 March.
The Strategic Compass
Secondly, another priority for us is the implementation of the Strategic Compass. With a full-scale war in Europe, it is evident that the EU needs to develop into a stronger and more coherent geopolitical actor. The Strategic Compass is a move in the right direction.
But history is changed by good decisions that are implemented. And there are more than 70 action points in the Strategic Compass that need to be implemented.
Based on the ambitions of the Strategic Compass approach, I will elaborate on each of the four pillars: act, secure, invest and partner.
With regard to the Act pillar, we will support the development and implementation of the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity (EU RDC). The Swedish Presidency recognises the need to further strengthen the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) for it to be able to conduct the EU RDC Missions and Operations from 2025 onwards.
In addition, during the Swedish Presidency, we will focus on the Civilian CSDP Compact. Providing support to the areas of the rule of law and security sector reform but also tangible support to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are very important.
The nexus between internal and external security is really an area in line with the integrated approach, where the EU can provide added value and make a difference as a security provider. The Civilian Compact will advance this cause further and also help strengthen the resilience of some of our partners.
With regard to the Secure pillar, the war in Ukraine has highlighted the importance of access to, and the vulnerability of, space-based services.
Sweden advocates that the upcoming EU Space Strategy for Security and Defence addresses the whole spectrum of threats in space, and that the strategy promotes cooperation with partners.
For Sweden as a space nation, having welcomed the Commission to Kiruna and Esrange a few weeks ago, this is an important priority. Europe’s first orbital launch site is a strategic asset to the EU and also to the whole Euro-Atlantic area.
I would also like to underline the importance of increasing the EU’s resilience against hybrid and cyber threats. An important step in doing so will be advancing the work on the Cyber Defence Policy.
Resilience and whole-of-government approaches are first and foremost a national responsibility and start at home. But since the threats recognise no borders, our cooperation must be of a cross-border nature.
As for the Invest pillar, it’s clear that the European defence industry plays an increasingly important role in helping the EU to become a stronger geopolitical actor. Sweden stands ready to advance the negotiations on EDIRPA. During our Presidency, we will highlight the importance of well-balanced proposals in the trialogue with the European Parliament and the European Commission.
We will strive for a stronger defence industrial base in Europe that is driven by excellence. The best way to achieve this will be by opening it up to competition and diversity.
Consolidation will come if and when there is a change in customer behaviour. Right now, what we need is a vibrant defence industrial base that can ensure the security of supply and the rapid delivery of platforms and systems on time.
The Partner pillar of the Strategic Compass is one of the three main priorities of our EU Presidency. I’m sure you’re all aware of this specific priority and its importance for building security. It is something that Sweden has been advocating for a long time, and we think that the conditions for this are better than ever.
The need for unity and collaboration between various defence cooperations has never been greater. As stated in the Strategic Compass, we need to strengthen our cooperation with partners in order to address common threats and challenges.
A prominent example of such cooperation is the close strategic relations between the EU and NATO. It was most welcome that the third joint declaration was signed and presented three weeks ago. Sweden will promote the implementation of this key document.
There are many new important areas of cooperation, such as defence, climate and space, as well as emerging and disruptive technologies that will make the EU and NATO better equipped to deal with common challenges.
During the Swedish Presidency, we aim to continue the work of the Czech Presidency of arranging cross-briefings in the North Atlantic Council.
Sweden also hopes to welcome NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the informal meeting of defence ministers in Stockholm in March as a sign of close EU–NATO relations.
As for the EU’s bilateral strategic partners, the relationship with the US is crucial to the security of Europe and the mutually reinforcing Transatlantic link. An important step in this relationship will be the signing of the Administrative Agreement between the European Defence Agency and the US Department of Defense.
In addition to the US, the UK, Norway, Iceland, Canada and Türkiye are countries of strategic importance for European security. Many ongoing initiatives are further deepening the cooperation, but more can be done.
I have read with great interest the report on partnerships that Gustav Lindström and his team at EUISS have produced for the next session. It includes many interesting and useful ideas.
One of them was the observation that we only operate with a single set of forces. We also only operate with a single set of defence ministers.
Thus, we should make sure that the various defence formats generate not only meetings but also real defence capabilities. I liked that idea in particular, and I am confident that these two days in Uppsala will actually generate that end result.
Thank you for your attention.
Source – Swedish Government