Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs


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Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs at Folk och Försvar (Society and Defence) Annual National Conference 2018


Sälen, Sweden, 14 January 2018. Check against delivery.

Your Majesties,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

"When thy next neighbour's house is all on fire,
'Tis thy concern to make his flames expire."

These are the words of the Roman poet Horace from two thousand years ago. The same applies today, even if the security challenges have become global and much more complex.

Climate change, communicable diseases and water shortages are real threats today in the same way as traditional threats from military conflicts, terrorism and cyber attacks, or the serious threat to our security in the form of nuclear weapons. Our neighbourhood has become global and foreign policy is becoming domestic policy, as we have clearly seen in the war in Syria.

I have been asked to speak about the security policy challenges in a globalised world. This is an important aspect, since broad foreign and security policy is needed more than ever.


The task for policy, the Government and myself is to protect the safety of citizens. The aim must be for every person to feel secure individually, in their family, and also in their society, their country and the world.
Building security together with others is – and has long been – central to Swedish security policy. It characterises our approach both to our neighbourhood and in relation to conflicts in the global arena.
Breaking the false logic of confrontation, deterrents and zero-sum games with the aim of creating shared advantages for everyone involved is the essence of common security.

Our deepened bilateral and multilateral cooperation with countries and organisations in our neighbourhood and globally is therefore a linchpin of our security policy. In the EU, cooperation is increasing on a broad front; in the Nordic region and the Baltic Sea region, together with Finland, in the UN and with NATO and via a strengthened transatlantic link. Sweden's voice is also being heard in the OSCE and the Council of Europe when our common security is undermined by the murder of journalists, the manipulation of elections or the erosion of the rule of law.


The Government is building Sweden's security in all areas. From increased national defence capability to international operations. Our long-term security policy doctrine of non-participation in military alliances is the starting point.

Today, I would like to talk about three areas I believe are central for understanding current security policy global challenges.
1. What are the global challenges?
2. What trends do we foresee?
3. What concrete measures can be taken to tackle them?

Global challenges
For the past few years, we have found ourselves in a very changeable security policy situation. We are seeing this at all levels – global, transatlantic and European, and in our own neighbourhood. You could perhaps say that the post-Cold War era ended in 2014. We still don't have a name for the new era, but many people are talking about a world that is out of balance.

We are in a time of upheaval, when institutions, values and norms that have formed the basis of the rules-based multilateral international order are questioned or undermined from various quarters.
The path we follow must be based on Sweden's basic, long-term interests and values. Our foreign policy is uncompromising in its defence of the rules-based multilateral order.

It has always been very important for small- and medium-sized
countries to have their rights and choices respected. In addition, Sweden is – and will continue to be – an open country, closely connected with the rest of the world in all areas. We therefore also have a great need for a well-functioning international order with clear rules.
The core of the international order is the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Charter. Sweden acts daily to ensure that the Security Council takes its responsibility for international peace and security, and the UN Charter is upheld.

The 70 years that the UN has been in existence unfortunately show how time and again these rules have been ignored and have in many cases even failed in their purpose. But a world without rules, based on the right of the strongest, would have been much less secure.
Sweden is now halfway through its two-year term on the Security Council.

Since beginning our work in January 2017, we have established Sweden as a credible and influential member. Achieving results requires sensitive and active diplomacy, combined with political courage.
We stand up for our values, international law, human rights, gender equality and a humanitarian perspective.

The Government's work on the Security Council for the prevention of conflict is of the utmost importance for our own security. Local crises quickly escalate into regional conflicts and risk ending in intractable wars between both states and non-state warring parties.

This is something that in our globalised world can also have consequences for Swedish security in the form of increased risk of terrorist attacks.

In our neighbourhood, we are seeing the Russian actions in Ukraine challenging the European security order in a way that we have not seen since it was established 25 years ago.

Even though Ukraine is no longer a member of the UN Security Council, Sweden will act to keep Ukraine on the Security Council agenda. A discussion is now under way concerning a possible UN peacekeeping operation in Ukraine. This is something that Ukraine has also requested.
Such a mission must restore Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and operate throughout the conflict area, including the border with Russia. Should this succeed, it would be a crucial step towards a political solution.

Instability in the Middle East is another clear example. The most discussed conflict has been Syria, where the repeated use of vetoes has obstructed the road to a diplomatic solution.

In Yemen, the humanitarian situation is still very serious and millions of people are now entirely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. Sweden has been pushing for humanitarian resolutions to be adopted in the Security Council on both Yemen and Syria.

The situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar is beyond appalling. The scale and systematic nature of the abuses we have seen reported show that they may constitute crimes against humanity. Therefore, the Security Council's continued involvement in the situation is crucial, which Sweden has repeatedly highlighted.

In all three of these examples, Sweden has actively pushed to improve access for the UN and humanitarian organisations and demanded that international law must be respected.

But Sweden's contribution to peace and security extends beyond the Security Council and permeates all international cooperation.
Take global warming, the greatest long-term threat to humanity's survival: Sweden has an ambitious goal of becoming one of the world's first fossil-free welfare nations and we are providing the most aid per capita to developing countries via multilateral climate funds.

Take poverty reduction: Sweden is one of the countries that gives most to development cooperation. We are world leaders in humanitarian aid, which mitigates the effects of war, conflicts and crises.

Take international crisis management: Sweden makes a key troop contribution to the UN mission in Mali. We show solidarity by participating in the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are one of the few countries that have contributed to all of the EU's crisis management operations. Sweden is world-leading in civilian crisis management.

Take trade: within the EU and globally, Sweden is one for the strongest advocates of defending free trade. History shows the risks that a vicious circle of protectionist and isolationist measures also have on international peace and security.

Take the Government's initiative for a feminist foreign policy. Research shows that gender-equal societies are more peaceful. During Sweden's first year on the Security Council, women were mentioned in all Security Council statements on crisis situations; the corresponding figure for 2016 was 69 per cent.

Here I would also like to remind you of the Anna Lindh professorship that is to be set up at the Swedish Defence University this year; a professorship to conduct research into the role of women in conflicts and peace processes, a much-neglected field.

Furthermore, North Korea's illegal nuclear weapons programme is probably the most serious threat to global security. Sanctions against the country have been tightened via a series of resolutions.
Sweden is now emphasising that all UN members must take their responsibility and implement the sanctions. But sanctions are not enough; diplomatic contacts must be employed to achieve a peaceful solution.

The crisis on the Korean peninsula and our continued support for the nuclear deal with Iran – but also other developments around the world – demonstrate the necessity of concrete progress on the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The risk of nuclear weapons actually being used is currently assessed as greater than it has been for a very long time. Passivity is not an option.

The crucial challenge will be to end the polarisation that characterises international cooperation on these issues. This requires strong and determined political engagement.

One primary task will be to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its role as the central framework in this area ahead of the important review conference in 2020.

To make the review conference a success, Sweden wants to immediately push for negotiations that produce results. Therefore we will take initiatives to counteract the prevailing polarisation on disarmament.
Together with both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states, we intend to actively contribute to proposals that support the NPT and nuclear disarmament. Risk reduction, transparency, disarmament of tactical nuclear weapons and negative security assurance are particularly important issues.

We will fully utilise all the multilateral forums available to us, including the UN Security Council, the IAEA and the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

I would like to reiterate what the Prime Minister said in his speech. We must never lose focus of the goal of a world free from these terrible weapons of mass destruction. All options must be explored in this work, and we are not afraid of taking the lead.


All of this is part of a whole. It is an investment in conflict prevention and, ultimately, our own security. And it is an investment in upholding and developing the international order we are so dependent on.

The alternative is a development towards an 'I'm all right, Jack' system – everyone is out for themselves and the right of the strongest applies. This would be a dystopian scenario both for security in our part of the world and for global developments.

For this reason, we will never bend in our defence of the rules-based international order and the European security order, whose core is every country's right to independently make its own security policy choices – a right we defend for our own and other's sake.

What trends do we foresee?
For Sweden, an EU that acts resolutely in the area of security policy, stands together and takes joint action on the basis of mutual solidarity and shared values is indispensable.

This is something we should never take for granted. Last year, the foundations were shaken following the Brexit vote and ahead of the Dutch and French elections.

We have to be honest and admit that Europe's challenges are far from over; the threats to EU cohesion are very real.

But the EU has also strengthened our security in recent years in crucial ways. For example through the negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme – and by upholding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was negotiated.

By leading the historic dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo and preventing a conflict that threatened to break out in Macedonia last year. Through its united and clear response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.

Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security. The Government wants to continue strengthening the EU as a foreign and security policy actor on a broad front. The EU Global Strategy is the compass for this. We must be at the core of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Sweden will therefore actively contribute to the EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the area of defence. PESCO will make it easier for the EU to achieve a higher level of ambition in external crisis management.

Essentially, this is about strengthening the EU's freedom of action and credibility in the area of security policy. It is important that the EU has the actual capability to implement all of the measures we say we can, and for which we see a security-policy need.


It is equally important to strengthen the EU's civilian capabilities to prevent and address conflicts. It must be the role of the EU to be a world leader in peacebuilding.

No other actor will be able to take on this responsibility. Sweden is leading these efforts together with Finland and Germany. There are five areas where I would like to see clear progress in 2018.

First: the EU's rapid response ability must be further strengthened. Sweden is prepared to put at the EU's disposal a specialist team of civilian capabilities from throughout the judicial chain.

Second: Sweden is prepared this year, through the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, to begin providing a strategic stock of necessary materiel and equipment that will get new missions off to a quick start.

Third: a substantial civilian capability development plan to establish how we can reduce the gap between what the EU currently has the ability to do and what a deteriorating security situation requires the EU to do. Already this year, this should be followed by a pact to strengthen civilian common security and defence policy – a kind of civilian PESCO.

Fourth: over the course of the year we want to expand the EU's civilian stabilisation force in Iraq, which came about as a result of a Swedish initiative to support the country now that Daesh has been militarily defeated. The mission will continue to work in close cooperation with the UN.

Fifth: enhanced cooperation with partner countries. It is of strategic importance that the EU and the United Kingdom continue to maintain close and deep cooperation in the area of security and defence policy in future. But I also see new opportunities to strengthen cooperation with other partners, such as Norway and the countries in the Eastern Partnership.

This is necessary if the EU is to be an international actor to be reckoned with – which is in Sweden's security policy interest.

Concrete examples of confidence-building measures
As a final area, I would like to talk about the importance of confidence-building missions and measures to build security.

One of Sweden's national security interests is to promote stability and security in our neighbourhood. Upholding the European security order protects the basic principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as independent security policy choices.

Through confidence-building measures for greater transparency and predictability, we help reduce the risk of military conflicts. We also help to improve the conditions for constructive dialogue between countries and organisations.

The OSCE's broad security concept, in which democracy, human rights and the rule of law are integral elements, is crucial in this regard.

During the preparations for the combined-arms exercise Aurora 2017, we informed both the OSCE and NATO about the exercise. We issued an invitation for voluntary inspection in accordance with the Vienna Document to all coastal states around the Baltic, including Russia.
A third example is that we have provided additional resources for 2018 for peace and security-building in our neighbourhood and in Europe.
In 2017, Sweden took over the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. These are arenas where we maintain continuous contact and dialogue with Russia and where concrete cooperation projects are implemented. This regional cooperation – which also includes Russia – helps to build confidence. It strengthens the ties between countries and peoples in the Baltic Sea region and thus contributes to stability and security in a broad sense. This people-to-people contact is important.

Sweden will also chair N5 and NB8 in 2018. These are important supplements to other cooperation, such as the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO.


Ladies and gentlemen,
To return to my starting point – it certainly is our concern when our neighbour's house is on fire.

As our world becomes less secure, isolating ourselves or withdrawing from the international arena is not the way to go. The Government will continue its international efforts to achieve a more secure world.
We are doing this on the UN Security Council, where our second year of membership has just begun; we are doing it with a stronger foreign policy together with the EU; we are doing it in our clear policy for conflict prevention – we are doing it through more, not less, cooperation.

This is what ultimately strengthens Sweden's security.