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Anchoring Baltic Countries Firmly in the European Security Framework

Anchoring Baltic Countries Firmly in the European Security Framework

Speech by H.E. Dr. Björn von Sydow, Swedish Minister of Defence, in Cesis, Latvia 25 January 2001. Source: MoD, Stockholm.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud for the opportunity to address this important event, where politicians, academicians officers and others interested in security policy can meet to exchange ideas and thoughts. It is indeed a pleasure to see the extensive participation at this seminar.

In this northern region in Europe, stability reigns and the region is becoming increasingly prosperous. Indeed, the region is becoming an example to other regions of Europe. I hope and expect that this development will continue.

Today the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea participate in an ever-deeper regional co-operation through a number of new institutions and fora. Soon, almost all littoral states will be EU members. In due course, there may also be a majority of NATO members around the Baltic.

The political development in Russia constitutes an uncertainty for us and a challenge for the Russian government. It is facing a number of difficult issues, most of them connected with the crucial democratisation process. There is still a lingering insecurity regarding the domestic political development in Russia, and as to the consequences for the country’s relations with the rest of the world. The armed confrontation in the volatile northern Caucasus is expected to continue.

Last year Sweden and the EU reacted strongly with regard to the Russian rhetorics directed against Latvia. We hope that this helped pushing the dialogue in a more constructive direction.

At the same time as we have to notice and acknowledge the insecurity regarding the development in Russia, it is important to continue to build upon the positive changes also taking place. Russia must continue to pursue reform. The outside world must continue to provide support, remain willing to cooperate and seek more far-reaching integration. I sincerely hope that we will soon see a development of this important issue that will make it possible to increase EU-Russian co-operation again. The EU-Russian relationship and co-operative patterns is one of the priorities for Sweden during the Presidency of the EU.

Nowhere else in Europe has subregional co-operation become so profound and intense in the post-Cold War period as in the Baltic Sea Region. The volume of the practical co-operation within their framework is incomparable to other subregional organisations, and they are underpinned by a formidable network of specialised organisations ensuring a lot of meat on the bones. However, when looking at security in a regional framework, we always have to remember that the Baltic region is part of a larger Euro-Atlantic context. As I have said before - the Baltic Sea region is important for Europe as a whole, and also for the United States.

I and my German colleague, Mr. Rudolf Scharping, this summer took an initiative of enhancing the practical defence-related co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region. The intention is to take stock of achievements made, and to discuss steps to further develop practical PfP co-operation in the region. The process began with the Hasselbacken meeting in Stockholm where under Swedish-German co-chairmanship senior officials from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States met to pave the way for the Defence Ministers’ Meeting in 2001. A Working Group under the Chairmanship of Denmark convened last week in Copenhagen, where practical cooperation was discussed.

From my point of view, it is important that all littoral states to the Baltic Sea, but also countries having military structures in, or in the vicinity of, the Baltic Sea, such as US, UK and Norway participate in this enhanced co-operation.

Regional co-operation of the kind that I have mentioned can be helpful in strengthening security and stability. In this way, we can create the conditions for anchoring the countries of the region even more firmly in the European and trans-Atlantic security frameworks.

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are asking for membership in both the EU and NATO. The perspective of EU membership given by the European Council in Luxembourg in 1997 is of great importance to their security. It is also positive that the three states, in accordance with a decision at the NATO Washington Summit, are now described in the same way as other applicants for NATO membership. It is important that the principle of each country's right to choose its own security policy be respected. The process of overcoming the divisions of the past is not yet finished. The Baltic area is one of the areas in Europe where the security architecture has not yet been finally settled. This will only be achieved when the EU has expanded to include the present candidates, when the Baltic States have reached their security goals, and when Russia's ties with the EU and NATO have grown to include much more substance than now.

Multinational measures to promote the security in our region are by no means in conflict with individual efforts of small states to strengthen their national security. Sweden’s historical experience supports a broad approach to national security, including, i.a., the democratic basis, a community founded on the rule of law, the integration of minorities, a stable economy, a firm and predictive foreign policy, and also a well functioning national defence system.

Since 1991, Sweden has been a committed supporter to the Baltic states in most of these respects. Our motives should be well understood. It is true that there is an altruistic element to them. But our main incentive is deep interest in the stability and security of our neighbours.

As to defence, there has been a gradually increasing Latvian-Swedish, as well as Swedish-Estonian and Swedish-Lithuanian, cooperation particularly since the mid-90s.

The profile of our assistance has adapted to developments on the Latvian side. Today, within the general principles of democratic control, territorial defence, and total defence, we increasingly provide assistance in the form of broad packages. Those might include, beside the relevant equipment, also organisational concepts, tactics and training, the air defence battalion and the infantry battalions being the predominant illustrations. As a matter of fact, the first infantry battalion will be solemnly transferred at a ceremony tomorrow.

Since 1997, we also have a continuous cooperation in the area of general defence concepts and planning on the ministry and defence headquarters levels. As a part of this, and also associated with the battalion transfers, we foresee an increasing Latvian interest in total defence planning, to which we will be very happy to contribute.

During this period, we have observed a rapid development with respect to most aspects of Latvian defence, as well as the defence forces of your southern and northern neighbouring countries. In particular, the gradually increasing emphasis on long-term planning is both necessary and gratifying. Should you find that there is still a deficit of some human and material resources in your system, you can take comfort from what has been achieved in such a short time. Remember that it took decades of patient work to establish the defences of many Western European states.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ultimate responsibility for developing Latvian defence is of course with Latvia itself. But I hope you feel and understand that you are among friends. Many states, including the Nordic ones, are eager to assist you. Sweden is proud to belong to these states.

Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.


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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).