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Swedish Vision of Future Europe

Swedish Vision of Future Europe

Speech by the Swedish Minister for Defence, Dr Björn von Sydow, at the National Defence College in Bucharest, Romania, April 10th, 2002. Source: Swedish MoD, Stockholm.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me express my gratitude for being given this opportunity to address you today. It is an honour for me to share with you some of my thoughts on Europe and European cooperation. On where we come from, where we are and, most importantly, where we are going.

Yesterday, when flying from Stockholm to Bucharest, I couldn’t help reflecting upon the vast changes that have occurred in Europe this last decade. It is true that the most concrete of these changes have to do with the development of international relations, legislation, trade and so on. But to me, the most fundamental change of all, the most important change of all, has to do with the way we think about how we want to shape the future of Europe. What really signifies the changes since the cold war is that we have left a period of static thinking far behind us. Our thinking on security needs to be more dynamic than before. Changing old patterns of thought might not always be easy. But in this period of transition, it is necessary.

The transformation of Europe is at the same time a transformation of us. Of our thoughts and interactions. Of our relations and patterns of cooperation. Of our dreams and aspirations. That is why our task is such a challenge. And that is why it is so important.

The patterns of security have changed and they continue to change. But at the same time the threats to our security change.

The threat of a large-scale conventional war in Europe seems as distant as the horrors of strategic nuclear war. The strategies of Mutual Assured Destruction, Flexible Response or Follow On Forces Attack are now subject only to studies in history. This is truly something to be grateful for.

But new threats to our security have emerged. They may not look like the threats of yesterday, but they are in some respects equally challenging. Sadly, they are also, as in the threat from biological weapons, equally dangerous.

The international community has been able to address some of these new threats in new ways. Even if much may be said of our perplexity when first facing the crises in Former Yugoslavia, these crises have led to profound changes in the way we conduct and prepare for international crisis management operations.

The crises in Former Yugoslavia have taught us many things. Firstly, of course, they have reminded us that we can never take peace for granted. We must never forget this lesson.

Secondly, we have learnt that the international community can react to, and manage, such crises. Although, they represent a new and complex pattern of conflicts to handle. An important point here is the international community’s ability to act as a community. In the case of the Balkans, this would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier. Frictions remain. Much is still to be learnt, but we have come a long way since then.

Thirdly, an important lesson has been that we need to prepare together to increase our ability to contribute to international crisis management operations. This lesson has had vast implications. The wish to enhance Europe’s ability to contribute to such operations is the rationale behind the development of the European Security and Defence Policy with its stated Headline Goal. It has also been one of the driving factors in the development of the cooperation within Partnership for Peace, including its Planning And Review Process.

Europe was not prepared to handle the crises in Former Yugoslavia when it needed to be. But determined efforts from the European Union and its member states and from the nations of Partnership for Peace are quickly changing this. By acting concertedly, we address common problems with common solutions. This new thinking is necessary to address the threats of today and tomorrow.

In a European decade of liberation, national self-determination, of integration and re-integration, but also of regional conflict and ethnic cleansing, it is clearer than ever that the security of Europe as a whole at the same time is the security of each and everyone of us.

September 11th last year put terrorism on the agenda in a brutal way. A different perspective that changed the world and also gave terrorism a new face. That is why it is so important that all European nations share the same fundamental values that we all share a vision of a Europe, whole and at peace, democratic and prosperous, with a security order including all countries from Russia in the east to Ireland in the west and stretching across the Atlantic to Canada and the United States.

As a member of the European union, Sweden is a part of a community based on solidarity. We shall pursue a policy of non-participation in military alliances. And we are definitively a part of the internationalisation.

The reform of our Armed Forces takes into account all the changes of recent years. We are integrating new technologies; we are developing our military doctrine and our training concepts.

The technological development and the demands from more and more complex operations requires us to utilize our forces in new ways. We can no longer afford to build separate systems for separate branches. We can no longer afford to let the branches of our Armed Forces operate separately. The concept of joint operations needs to be taken further. We need to develop a capability to conduct network centric warfare. In short: We are undergoing a Revolution in Military Affairs.

Network centric warfare will allow us to make the best use of our joint forces in all types of conflict. It will also allow us to get the right force in the right place at the right time. And it ensures that the political and military decision-makers get the relevant information at the right time.

Not least important, network centric warfare means to connect our modern weapons systems into an information network, allowing us to achieve true joint ness and to get the maximum effect from our systems. Or in other words: To get the maximum effect from our defence budget.

The adoption of a network centric warfare doctrine means that all our investments in modern weapons systems such as the Gripen aircraft, radar surveillance, stealth corvettes, amphibious battalions, mechanized units etc, etc, comes to best possible use.

This leads me to say a few words about the Swedish Defence Industry. At present slightly more than 50% of the equipment for the Swedish armed forces is produced in Sweden. However, vital components and subsystems are to an increasing extent purchased from, or developed in cooperation with European and US defence companies.

Sweden has one of Northern Europe’s biggest and most advanced defence and aeronautical companies, SAAB Technologies. Together with British Aerospace, it represents 30% of Europe’s aerospace industry.

One of the more famous export products is the Gripen aircraft. As you may know there is a great interest for the multi-role Gripen fighter plane, not least from the new NATO members. Besides Swedish and UK technology, approximately 30% of the plane is US produced.

The future defence industry cooperation will, however, be more multilateral to its character than today. The restructuring of the European defence industry constitutes an important step in strengthening the European industrial and technological defence base. And Sweden has taken a clear role in this endeavour.

In this forum I would like to say a few words about training and education. The pressure on reform of the military training to keep up with and adapt to the transformation of the Swedish defence system should not be underestimated.

Our personnel supply is, and I would like to stress this, still based on the conscript system. Participation in international operations is voluntary for the soldiers, though not for the active officers. Increased internationalisation and higher demands for technical competence will put our personnel supply system to hard tests.

We will therefore adapt the conscript system to include fewer soldiers, but with more flexibility regarding length of training and service. This means that we also will develop the system with reserve officers and reservist soldiers and contracts for Peace Support Operations. Furthermore, we will focus on more specialised and civilian personnel in all levels including more women.

The officers we train today are crucial for the success of the flexible and adaptable network-based operational defence of tomorrow - a defence system, which has to back up our commitments to peace and security in the international arena. And which has to build up a broad capability to meet new and different threats. Civil and military crises management are increasingly intertwined and this must be reflected in all training of officers.

The share of courses at the Swedish Defence College with focus on civil defence is under constant growth and the creation of alternative career paths within the Armed Forces has begun. The greatest challenge for the Swedish Armed Forces in the future may be to compete with society at large to recruit personnel from a variety of backgrounds representing broad expertise.

My belief is that a sound system of recruitment as well as advanced and reformed training of officers is essential for the integration of Armed Forces in our modern and democratic societies and the best way to guarantee good quality in military capability to meeting future threats. And in this very important development – ladies and gentlemen – our defence colleges play a key role.

To sum up: we will continue to support the establishment of a European crisis management capability within the European Union. We will continue to enhance our cooperation with NATO. We will continue to contribute to the development of Partnership for Peace and the EAPC. And we will continue to enhance our bilateral cooperation with all countries that share our values.

I’m glad to say that Romania is one of these countries in the European family. Your active participation in the Partnership for Peace, your quest for membership in NATO, your involvement in peace keeping in the Balkans, your recent Presidency in the OSCE, and maybe most of all your endeavours to join the European Union speaks for itself. I’m therefore convinced that cooperation between our two countries will grow in the years to come.

As an example, I can mention the exercise Strong Resolve that took place in Poland a month ago. There I met Swedish troops as well as troops from your country, and they were exercising together. This is part of our vision of the future of European cooperation. Part of our vision of the future Europe.

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).