Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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Statement of Foreign Policy 2015
Published · Updated
We share a common destiny, and we do so at a time of greater insecurity.
When this chamber debated foreign policy a year ago, the Russian aggression against Ukraine was beginning – the greatest challenge to European peace and security since the end of the Cold War.
In 2014, the civil war in Syria deepened and ISIL commenced its barbaric offensive.
State violations in the east and state breakdowns in the south also have repercussions for Sweden.
They lead to tension in our neighbourhood, flows of refugees and a growing proportion of our population who bear the painful memories of war and conflict.
And the defining issue of our time – climate change – also constitutes a global security threat.
But increased insecurity must not overshadow global progress. Extreme poverty and infant mortality are declining. Technology is advancing. Our interdependence is growing.
Our common destiny confers two main tasks on Swedish foreign policy. We must make the most of the benefits, which are so significant. And we must manage the risks.
Our foreign policy is therefore focused on broad international collaboration and cooperation:
with our neighbours, within the European Union, and as a more active member of the United Nations.
Sweden's voice in the world is stronger when joined with those of the other EU Member States.
We welcome the fact that the European Union has presented a united response to the developments in Russia and Ukraine. Sweden will continue to strive for a policy that is as clear in its demands for respect for international law as in its support for the right of every country to determine its own future.
We support the efforts being made right now to find a political path towards easing tensions.
And perhaps most importantly: we must help Ukraine to be successful, just as we will contribute to the continued development of the EU's Eastern Partnership as a lever for those countries that have chosen the European path, whereby bloodshed on the battlefield is replaced with patience at the negotiating table.
In this spirit, Sweden is pushing for an open EU that is committed to Turkey's accession process, to the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and to continued reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a view to future EU membership. Sweden supports the UN-led negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus.
The EU needs broader international engagement, a concerted global strategy and strengthened crisis management capabilities. Sweden will soon command the EU naval operation Atalanta, and a Swedish-led rapid reaction force – the Nordic Battlegroup – stands ready for deployment by the EU during the first half of 2015.
We cooperate within the EU – and the EU must cooperate with others. Strong and concerted EU action is in our interests. Sweden will strive for better European dialogue with other regions and countries. In more uncertain times, close transatlantic collaboration between the EU and the United States is particularly important.
Sweden's security policy remains firmly in place. Threats to peace and to our security are best averted collectively and in cooperation with other countries. Sweden does not participate in any military alliance. It is impossible to imagine military conflicts in our region that would affect only one country. Sweden will not remain passive if another EU Member State or Nordic country suffers a disaster or an attack. We expect these countries to act in the same way if Sweden is affected. Our country must therefore be in a position to both give and receive support, civilian as well as military.
While the situation in our neighbourhood makes it necessary to strengthen Sweden's defence capabilities, we are continuing to develop our military cooperation: with Finland, with our other Nordic neighbours, with the Baltic countries and with NATO. In the latter case we, together with Finland and others, are now taking new steps as part of an upgraded partnership. Sweden will continue its active engagement and participation in international operations under the aegis of the UN, the EU, NATO and the OSCE.
At global level, the United Nations plays an absolutely crucial role for peace and security. It therefore needs to be strengthened – and the UN's place in Swedish foreign policy is therefore now being restored. We want and are able to take responsibility for joint solutions through the UN. Sweden's candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2017–2018 is a concrete expression of the Government's desire to influence the course of global politics.
One expression of our belief in a global peace policy is our contribution to the UN operation in Mali. This will be our first major contribution of personnel to a UN-led operation since 2006. We are also participating in a number of other operations, many under the aegis of the UN, including in South Sudan, Liberia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Middle East. The Government believes that Sweden should take part in more UN-led operations.
Together with other members of the UN, the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, we defend the human rights that apply to every individual. We do so wherever these rights are attacked, and regardless of whether the people affected are in a magazine's editorial office or a supermarket in Paris, in a market in Nigeria, or on an idyllic island in Norway.
International law demands respect for the Charter of the United Nations and for the principles of territorial integrity and prohibition of violence enshrined in it. Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious international crimes must be combated and punished.
The work of the International Humanitarian Law Delegation must be reinforced, and should also focus on disarmament.
Safeguarding human rights is a cornerstone of Swedish foreign policy. A strategy for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is now being drafted.
Economic, social and cultural rights are crucial to people's working conditions and welfare. But in today's global economy, human rights are frequently violated in working life. Sweden will fight different forms of forced labour and child labour, and defend a person's right to form and join trade unions, negotiate and take industrial action.
Safeguarding human rights also implies a responsibility to fight racism and the collective labelling of various groups, for example in terms of religion. At the same time, freedom of expression and freedom of the press must be defended. We cannot stand idly by while freedom of speech is threatened, or while journalists are imprisoned, kidnapped and killed. Defending human rights includes taking a stand against states claiming the right to execute, torture or imprison people in contravention of international norms.
For decades, Sweden has led the way on sexual and reproductive health and rights. We want to increase understanding of these rights, and strive for their inclusion on the new global development agenda. Oppression on the grounds of people's sexual orientation must be countered.
In 2014, more than 100 million people needed humanitarian support and more than 50 million were forced to flee their homes. This is the most serious situation since the Second World War.
The international community must take action by improving the situation of refugees and ending the conflicts that force them to flee. Sweden is one of the largest donors to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and will contribute SEK 640 million in non-earmarked core support in 2015.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs now has a strong and evolving crisis response organisation. Protection of and support to Swedes abroad is a priority, whether it is a matter of a lost passport, a serious illness or detention.
The distinction between foreign and domestic policy is becoming blurred. In a connected world, policy areas are intimately linked and the concept of security has become broader.
Through the UN we can take a number of important steps, and 2015 is a key year for global efforts. To achieve peace and development, we need initiatives for democracy, sustainable development, gender equality and prudent use of our natural resources. At a time when the ecosystems that support life are being depleted and a changing climate poses a threat to our future, it is crucial that fresh progress is made.
At this year's climate conference in Paris, Sweden's goal is to reach a global, fair and legally binding climate agreement that will keep the average increase in global temperature below two degrees.
By strengthening our climate ambitions in Sweden and the EU we can contribute to reduced emissions and impacts from climate change throughout the world. This year, Sweden will contribute to deeper analysis of the impacts of climate change on peace and security.
Alongside a new, strong climate agreement, another priority will be the formulation of new global sustainable development goals that must apply to all countries. Financing for sustainable development is crucial and requires a coherent policy on development. Sweden will be a bridgebuilder and have a strong voice in international development policy. The Government stands by its commitment to contribute one per cent of gross national income to aid.
Taking a broader view of security, gaps between rich and poor must be regarded as a cause of tensions and conflicts. Combating poverty and inequality is also a security policy task. Aid and development cooperation are important components of these conflict prevention efforts.
We will continue to seek effective and common tools to fight international terrorism, without compromising the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law that we must defend.
Among the new security threats that must be fought, we are seeing cyberattacks, espionage, cybercrime and digital propaganda wars. Acute outbreaks of epidemics, such as Ebola, are another reminder of the threats to our security. This also applies to the increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance, which is a danger to health and the environment. The Government wants more effective efforts within the WHO and other bodies to address the challenges to our health.
The Government therefore intends to invite experts and representatives of civil society and government to a special conference. The Government will hold cross-party talks about the broad security challenges facing Sweden and how they can be addressed.
In these unsettled times, it is crucial that we take resolute action for disarmament and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Sweden will work together with like-minded countries to draw attention to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
We will work for more effective implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the universal adherence to and implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
Decisions on life and death cannot be delegated to machines. We therefore want to see continued discussions on autonomous weapons systems. North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons are a cause for concern. The Government wants to contribute to disarmament and peaceful development on the Korean peninsula through a policy of critical engagement.
A conclusion of the negotiations on Iran's nuclear technology programme will be very important or the region and for the goal of non-proliferation.
We are concerned by the tensions between Israel and Palestine. Sweden will push for intensified EU engagement for lasting peace, together with the UN and other parties in the region, and the rest of the world.
The Government values continued broad and good relations with Israel, and we are showing our long-term commitment to Palestine by introducing a new five-year aid strategy with significantly higher aid volumes.
The radicalisation that grows out of hopelessness must be countered. Young Israelis and Palestinians must be convinced to believe in a better future. Through our recognition of the State of Palestine, Sweden wanted to demonstrate that the two-state solution is not merely an abstract vision. There is a political path away from hopelessness and violence.
The situation in the Middle East remains worrying, and in some places desperate. The whole international community must support the peace efforts in Syria led by the UN. What began as a popular uprising against Assad's repressive regime has developed into a umanitarian disaster, ith repercussions far beyond Syria's borders. We must all give our support to the moderate rces around the region that seek consensus across geographical, ethnic or religious boundaries.
Sweden, like the rest of the EU, is part of the broad coalition against ISIL. We are one of the argest humanitarian donors. The Government is looking into the possibility of sending Swedish ilitary personnel to Iraq to help train troops fighting ISIL.
Atrocities must be recognised for what they re. ISIL's violence and terrorism are of the most pervasive and heinous kind. There must be consequences for such crimes. Those guilty must be held to account and punished, be it for genocide, crimes against humanity or other mass atrocities. The Government, together with the other EU countries, has urged the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
In large parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia, important developments are under way.
Sweden needs to continuously review and renew its cooperation and dialogue with an Africa undergoing rapid change. Our cooperation and dialogue are rooted in a historically established commitment that spans the entire African continent. Conflicts are still occurring, international crisis management operations remain necessary and the rules for conflict minerals need to be tightened. But we must also embrace sustainable economic growth and greater regional responsibility, not least on the part of the African Union.
In Latin America, Sweden looks forward to deepening political contacts and economic relations, especially through our broad strategic partnership with Brazil. The EU's free trade agreements provide opportunities to develop Sweden's economic exchange with a number of countries, based on long-term Swedish support for freedom and democracy development.
The rapprochement between the United States and Cuba is historic and inspires hope. One important component of the Government's commitment to democracy, human rights and reforms in Cuba is the re-establishment of a bilateral dialogue.
The economic, political and demographic developments in Asia in recent decades are unparalleled. Sweden must make use of the resulting new opportunities opening up there. We want to contribute to sustainable social development on a democratic foundation and with respect for human rights.
The Government is seeking closer economic and political cooperation with China, and it goes without saying that this will involve a frank dialogue on human rights.
Sweden is strengthening its civilian involvement in Afghanistan, with a focus on the situation of women and girls. The security situation remains a challenge. Since the beginning of this year,
Sweden has been participating in the NATO-led military training and advisory mission – the Resolute Support Mission – and we are involved in the EU Police Mission.
Sweden will promote free and fair world trade. The WTO must be strengthened as an organisation. We attach great importance to the Doha Round and to negotiations on environmental goods and services.
Special priority will be given to concluding the negotiations between the EU and the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, TTIP. In addition to economic reasons, the agreement is strategically important in order to strengthen the transatlantic link. A free trade agreement between the EU and the US should be both deep and comprehensive, and cover all important aspects of trade and investment. The Government's goal is to achieve as ambitious a result as possible to support growth and employment – without impairing the possibility of strengthening environmental protection, the interests of wage earners and the health of people and animals.
The Government will work for progressive international trade agreements and to dismantle trade barriers. Within the EU, Sweden will push for a free and fair trade policy and a deeper internal market. Priority will be given to efforts aimed at entering into free trade agreements between the EU and other economically important actors. In the OECD, we will act to reduce protectionist tendencies, including from the G20 countries.
Promotion of exports, imports and investment in Sweden is an integral part of foreign policy and thus the responsibility of the entire Government. An export strategy will be prepared so that more small and medium-sized enterprises are able to enter an international market, and so that more Swedish companies are able to enter markets with high growth potential.
A presence in new growth markets requires active efforts on sustainable business practices. We want to see the innovative capacity of Swedish companies mobilised so as to contribute to more jobs, greater growth and sustainable development.
A feminist foreign policy is now being formulated, the purpose of which is to combat discrimination against women, improve conditions for women and contribute to peace and development. Women's participation in decision-making must be strengthened in countries at peace, countries in conflict and countries in which reconstruction is under way. This will also strengthen the sustainability of our societies.
Concrete steps to promote the status and rights of women are also being taken through increased cooperation with civil society and with our partners in the EU and the UN. Together with our Nordic EU friends, we have proposed appointing an EU representative for gender equality and the implementation of Resolution 1325, which was adopted fifteen years ago this year. We will also continue our efforts to combat impunity for gender-based violence, which is necessary both in times of peace and in connection with armed conflicts.
UN Member States should advance efforts for the human rights of women and girls, their right to economic empowerment and their right to control their own bodies. It is particularly important this year, when the international community is to affirm the commitments concerning women's conditions that were made in Beijing in 1995. These conditions must be improved – not undermined.
A feminist foreign policy will be an integral part of activities throughout the Swedish Foreign Service, and aims to strengthen women's rights, improve women's access to resources and increase women's representation.
The insecurity in our region, the ruthlessness of terrorism, the irrefutable fact of climate change, the vulnerability of the cyber society and the injustice of inequality all serve as a reminder. It is precisely at this moment – in unsettled times – that we must not hesitate.
The values that guide Swedish foreign policy still stand out as an uncommonly modern basis on which to organise a community. Cooperation with our neighbours, to guarantee peace and create common security. Solidarity that knows no borders, aimed at increasing equality and eradicating poverty. Gender equality and a feminist foreign policy, since human rights are also women's rights. Sustainable development, in light of the fact that last year the world was warmer than at any time since records began in 1880.
These are the building blocks for a foreign and security policy to feed into a broader discussion in our country. A policy that is guided by the necessity of common security and the realisation that we share a common destiny. Where my destiny is your destiny, and the destiny of others is our own.
The Government is determined that, in these unsettled times, Sweden will take global responsibility by being a strong voice in the world. For freedom, peace and human rights. For democracy, equality and solidarity.