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Sweden: From a Defence Against Invasion to a Mobile Defence

Sweden: From a Defence Against Invasion to a Mobile Defence

Speech delivered by Björn von Sydow, Swedish Minister for Defence, at the conference "Defence and Security in an Uncertain world" in Brussels, May 17th, 2002. Source: MoD, Stockholm.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First I would like to thank you for inviting me to this seminar. Being a dedicated supporter of the European Union I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you here today.

I have spent a great deal of my life in the academic world and as a professor in political science I find the European Union very interesting to study. An important thing to observe in political science is where the power lies in an organization. Unlike heavy diplomatic organizations like the OSCE, which is run by the foreign ministries, the EU has several different power centres.

There are so many and distinctly different activities going on in various fields that no one can control all aspects of the work being done within the Union. We have national parliaments and a European Parliament, we have the member states and the Commission and further more – we have two courts supervising part of the ongoing activities. The list can be made longer.

Some observers criticise the Union for being too bureaucratic and too legalistic. I admit that things can take time and seem complicated. But think of the alternative. Some 40 different European countries all of them with their own ideas and approaches to everything from economic and social issues to matters of security and defence. If we are to be competitive on a global scale, both in economics and for that matter security policy, we have to lay our bricks together and play the same game.

The Union come together at the highest level at least twice a year in a massive forum of political strength – the European Council. Those two or maybe four yearly occasions constitutes the melting pot of political will and force to create new and improved initiatives for the good of Europe in all areas.

The pressure to come to conclusions on those meetings is high, almost unrealistic when you have meetings that often. The process is far from logic and transparent in all aspects, considering the long and endless nightly negotiating sessions or unexpected coalitions that form out of nowhere.

However, the end-result always reflects a position taken by the Union that is within acceptable limits and standards to the vast majority, both in terms of national politics and international commitments and obligations.

This way of gradually integrating not only nations but also its people, organizations and companies creates a feeling that we are building Europe together. This is – and I would like to stress it – one of the fundamentals with the success of the Union, that the cooperation goes beyond governments.

During the last years the Union has focused more on the CFSP and furthermore developed the ESDP. The Union has a great potential with its wide spectrum of instruments. To mention one thing the Union is the biggest donor of aid. To use aid as a carrot in order to promote changes can be successful, while most international actors only have the stick to use. I believe that the actions taken in Macedonia demonstrate this clearly.

Furthermore, the structure of the Union makes it less vulnerable to sudden changes. A new government in one country does not constitute a new policy for the Union. EU cannot be accused of acting in a national interest. This paves the way for continuity. However, as the high representative Javier Solana has said, the Union has a common foreign and security policy – not necessarily a single policy.

Built in checks and balances causes a small element of reflection that in some cases may slow done a process. On the other hand, that element of reflection ensures the basic legal foundation for EU-action in many aspects. Not the least when it is involved in conflict management.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A short answer to an often posted but complex question is: YES - Europe has its role to play in global security and EU is undoubtedly the main European actor. But to fill this costume EU will have to face several different and difficult challenges.

  • Let me touch upon three major challenges ahead.

First, EU and NATO will have to work together and create additional value to the respective organization’s special features in dealing with crisis management issues. All initiatives working in this direction is more than welcome. I therefore note with interest the initiative launched here today. Sadly enough, we can also conclude today in the aftermath of two important high-level meetings in the EU and NATO this week, that it there is not much optimism on finding a solution to this issue in the near future.

Secondly, we must ensure access to relevant and competent military capabilities to put to the Union’s disposal for crisis management operations. The answer is not only a simple cry-out for elevated defence spending. Existing resources must be used effectively and decisively.

This is why the Swedish Armed Forces is currently undergoing a major reconstruction program from a defence against invasion to a mobile defence designed to act wherever it is most needed – be it for Swedish national security interests or for international crisis management purposes. Our method for transforming our forces is to develop a network-centric organization.

I am of the opinion that the main responsibility for dealing with the short falls rests with the Member States. Improvements are necessary but must be done on a voluntary basis. Naturally the European defence industry has a significant role to play in developing and producing material needed by the Member States and EU.

Furthermore, I truly believe that Europe’s collective capability to act in conflict prevention and crisis management will increase with new members entering the Union. New members will bring additional capabilities and contribute to the legitimacy of future EU-led missions.

The Union must have an open approach to cooperation with its partners. Besides the candidate countries there is a need for a close co-operation and a solid partnership with Russia. My sincere belief is that there is a tremendous potential in this cooperation. In the latest General Affairs Council an agreement on cooperation with Canada, Russia and Ukraine was adopted. I really welcome the measures taken in this direction.

Thirdly, we need to find a civil-military approach to Crisis Management Operations.

At the European Council in Laeken the European military and civil crisis management capability was declared partly operational, and in 2003 we will meet the goals set up in Helsinki in 1999.

The challenge for the EU is now to find new goals to reach after 2003. I would like these goals to focus on how to redefine and further develop the crisis management structure and instruments at the disposal of the Union.

We need to find the overarching meaning for the EU as a conflict manager. The strength of the Union is the wide spectrum of instruments at its disposal that makes it able to interact in today’s complex crisis. It is important that these instruments are able to interact in a swift and coherent manner in order to make EU Crisis Management effective and trustworthy. It is especially important that we can find a way to make the development processes for civil and military instruments one instead of two parallel processes, as it is today. This will effect how EU plays its future global security role.

Let me end with a few worlds about the ongoing Convention. I believe that the issues dealt with within the second pillar will be emphasised in one way or the other. There is room for growth within the second pillar without loosing the important perspective of the Member States. To predict the outcome of the Convention would be pertinent, but it would surprise me if the fight against terrorism does not make a distinct footprint in the next Inter Governmental Conference to come in 2004.

Aspects of defence materiel procurement as well as industrial issues are already high on the agenda in some Member States and will most likely be included in the work of the Convention. This is an area where there exists an almost self-generating prophecy that the Europe and the United States is drifting apart rapidly. To some extent that is the naked truth – at least for the moment. If we do not take this issue seriously under consideration, the gap will continue to widen.

Why is there a gap between Europe and the United States – not only in the area of defence materiel and industry but also in the general approach to conflict management? I would say that it has largely to do with the fact that Europe and the European Union does not always work in the same way that the United States does. The political climate in the US tends to be more right-oriented than before. And even though Europe is seeing some right-tendencies, the difference is large.

We may eventually come to the same end-state, especially in security and defence policy, but the ways and means of getting there is to a considerable extent different from time to time. Therefore, let us all focus on what can be done to ensure a successful relationship between the US and Europe, using our differences in a constructive way.

Thank You!


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).