|Secure and Safe Neighbours are Good Neighbours|
Secure and Safe Neighbours are Good Neighbours
Speech by Dr. Björn von Sydow, Minister for Defence of the Kingdom of Sweden at the Baltic Defence College in Tartu, Estonia, June 20, 2002. Source: MoD, Stockholm.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to have the opportunity to address colleagues, staff and students on this particular day at the Baltic Defence College. I feel that I am among friends.
By now almost five years have passed since the Baltic and Nordic Ministers of Defence met on the Estonian island of Saaremaa, and agreed to establish a joint Baltic educational institution for senior officers staff training. The aim, as you all know, was to ensure the quick development of a pool of qualified Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian officers who would be able to lead the development of their respective countries defence structures.
It is no secret that this project, seen from a Swedish viewpoint had and still has non-altruistic aims by strengthening the development of modern national armed forces under democratic control in our neighbouring states. Since independence from the Soviet Union, a close cooperation between the three Baltic States and Sweden has been established in political, economic and cultural fields, and not the least within structures regarding security policy.
I believe that the nations in the Euro-Atlantic community are all part of a "Security Community". The Yale professor, Karl Deutsch, first launched this concept in 1957. In his study, a security community was defined as a group of people that had become integrated to the point that there is a real assurance that the members of that community will not fight each other physically. Instead, disputes will be settled in peaceful ways.
The Nordic countries were considered by Deutsch as a Security Community already during the 1950’s. I am quite pleased that that group of countries, since some time by now, has grown to include the three Baltic States. Security Communities were once a regional phenomenon, and for states, security once meant military security. But as you all know, states have more and more come to identify new security issues that revolve around economic, environmental, and social welfare concerns and have, as I already have mentioned, ceased to concern themselves with military threats from others within the community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a member of the EU and as an active partner to NATO, Sweden follows the process of NATO enlargement closely and with great interest. Clearly, the enlargement of NATO is an important factor in the development of the European security architecture.
The right for each country to make its own security policy choice is a fundamental principle. Sweden has consistently and strongly advocated this right, not least with respect to our three neighbouring Baltic states. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have chosen their security policy objectives – being membership in the EU and NATO, and good neighbourly relations.
Sweden supports these aspirations. Secure and safe neighbours are good neighbours. The accomplishment of these goals will – and I would like to emphasize this - strengthen the security in the Baltic Sea region as a whole.
Furthermore, I am convinced that the bilateral cooperation between Sweden and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will continue to grow and gradually assume the character of close neighbourly cooperation in all areas. This intensified cooperation will also include the various security-related areas covered by our security-enhancing cooperation programme.
We regard this cooperation as a long-term effort, based on mutual bilateral and regional interests. It is also important that the dialogue concerning annual defence planning with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is further developed and that plans agreed upon are fully implemented.
Let me say a few words about another neighbour, Russia. My vision is that we – some time in the future – can include Russia into the Nordic-Baltic family. So far we have a good cooperation with Russia and there is definitively a potential to go further.
The developments so far with the renewed relationship between NATO and Russia give us impetus in this direction. Furthermore, a closer cooperation between Russia and the European Union has a great potential to contribute to the development of the Baltic Sea region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Swedish security-enhancing cooperation projects with the three Baltic States are now being evaluated and scrutinized. The main conclusion from different evaluations is that the Baltic Defence College is very successful. This makes me very proud. Having been granted the opportunity of closely following this project has been very rewarding for me personally.
I think the time has come to stop referring to the College as a project, and instead refer to it as a well-established Baltic Institution, an institution that generates qualified senior officers.
These officers will also be able to work with future NATO and EU assignments, but I would ask graduated officers and responsible officials not to forget the important task to fill out the assignments that are required for the homeland defence structures, and not the least, the assignments required here at the Baltic Defence College.
This is vital for the success of the "Baltification" process, which I am pleased to hear, is proceeding as scheduled. From the Swedish side we realize that it will still take some time before the main part of the teacher staff is "Baltified". Sweden will do its best to continue the support with teachers and instructors until the Baltification goals concerning this aspect is fulfilled.
The College does not only generate qualified senior officers, today it also offers the much needed "Civil Servants Course", which soon will have graduated its second class. It is my sincere belief that the College will continue this development towards the formation of an international educational institution in line with the academic traditions the city of Tartu inhabit.
Furthermore, I also hope that the Baltic Defence College will continue to be a joint venture for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In my opinion it is important that all three countries reaches broad agreements about the future direction of the college.
Before I leave the floor to the next speaker I would like to congratulate the graduating students of the third Senior Staff Course and the first Colonels Course here at the Baltic Defence College. Congratulations and good luck with your future assignments wherever it will take you!
Thank you for your attention!