In the seventeenth century, Sweden represented one of the major European powers, a position that was gradually losing – together with its territorial possessions – already in the course of the following century. The current Swedish borders were outlined, however, only in 1905, with the dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway, created a century earlier following a brief conflict. Precisely the war fought against Norway in 1814 – to counteract its secessionist instance – marked the last military involvement of Sweden, which later established itself as a neutral country even in the two world wars. With the end of the Cold War, while maintaining the policy of neutrality and the traditional support for multilateral cooperation forums , Sweden has deepened its collaboration with NATO, joining the Partnership for Peace in 1994 and sending its troops to peacekeeping missionsin Bosnia-Herzegovina (1996), Kosovo (1999) and in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan (2003). The process of approaching the Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures was completed in parallel with the Swedish entry into the European Union (Eu), which took place in 1995. Part of the Schengen area of free movement, Sweden however rejected the adoption of the euro through a referendum (with 56% of the preferences against), supported by the social democratic government. A common response to the economic crisis, the fight against climate change, the development of the common foreign and security policy and, finally, support for the Stockholm Program – which aims to strengthen security measures while safeguarding the rights of individuals – were the areas on which the Sweden has invested more in the community. And his semester of EU presidency in 2009. The strengthening of external projection and regional cooperation with the European neighborhood is focused on these areas is another priority theme of Stockholm’s foreign policy which, not surprisingly, has been combined to Poland the promoter of the Eastern Partnership with the six former Soviet republics of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine). In this sense, the recent behavior of neighboring Russia during the Ukrainian crisis did not fail to cause concern.
The same logic includes the promotion of the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea region – aimed at greater economic and environmental cooperation – and support for the enlargement of the Union to include Turkey and the Western Balkans. Cooperation with other Nordic Council members and cooperation in the Baltic, Arctic and Barents Sea areas is also of great importance for Sweden. Sweden is a parliamentary monarchy in which the king is head of state, but exercises a predominantly ceremonial and representative function. The Riksdag, Sweden’s unicameral parliament, has traditionally been hegemonized by the Social Democratic Party (Sap), which has maintained an advanced welfare and a high tax system. This trend, unchanged since the 1930s, was reversed following the 2006 elections, which marked a retreat of the Social Democrats and the formation of a government alliance called the Alliance for Sweden and led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfledt – between four center-right formations: the moderate party (the major), the liberal party, the Christian Democrats and the center party. The Social Democrats returned to power following the elections in September 2014, but failed to establish themselves with the majority necessary to avoid a coalition government. The new Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has in fact formed a minority coalition with the Green Party, but it will necessarily have to count on the occasional support in parliament of the left-wing parties outside the coalition and of the center-right in order to govern. In addition, the far-right party of the Swedish Democrats (SD) is growing. Starting from an anti-immigrant populist platform, the SD managed to gain access to the European parliament in the elections of May 2014, and about 10% of the votes in the legislative elections of the following September.
Defense and security
Sweden has not been part of military alliances since the 19th century and has not participated in wars since 1814. The current defense policy, which was revised in 2002, however recognizes that participation in a political alliance, such as the European Union, involves that members are collectively responsible for its security and that all should therefore be able to provide or receive military support in the event of an attack. Sweden, therefore, is among the promoters of an intensification in the Community security and defense policy, as well as, again in this field, is active in promoting greater cooperation with the other Nordic and Baltic countries. Within the Nordic Council, Swedish troops, along with Finnish, Norwegian, Estonian and Irish troops, participate in the Nordic battalion. For Sweden defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.com.
The aggressive behavior of Russia on the occasion of the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis (with violations of Swedish airspace), have revived the debate on Sweden’s accession to NATO, on which, however, the new democratic government seems divided. For now, as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, Sweden is participating in missions in Afghanistan (ISAF) – from which it completed its withdrawal in 2014 – and in the Balkans (Kfor).
The 2004 defense law introduced a profound restructuring of the military sector. Having failed to prevent a potential invasion as in the Cold War period, the armed forces have been reduced, rationalized and made more flexible and ready to be deployed on international missions. Military spending in 2013 fell to 1.17% of GDP compared to 4.3% in 2007. In December 2010, the first Islamic terrorist attack took place in Sweden, in the heart of Stockholm, by a Iraqi-Swedish. Although the attack did not have dramatic effects (there were only two injured), the country, already part of the major international anti-terrorism conventions, has decided to promote greater cooperation with other countries already engaged in this area.
Sweden’s international commitment
Sweden has long promoted international cooperation and effective multilateralism. In the 1950s, the Swedish Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961, was a leading figure in the international community. Today, respect for international law and human rights is one of the cornerstones of Swedish foreign policy: Stockholm confirms its strong commitment to promoting sustainable globalization and strengthening the interaction between human rights, democracy and development. Particularly active in the field of development aid, Sweden is also at the forefront of defending freedom of expression and protecting freedom and security on the Internet. The Swedish commitment to the environment dates back to the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, continued with the Rio Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 and today continues with the fight against climate change. Another priority issue is the promotion of treaties on nuclear non-proliferation, on the arms trade and, in general, on disarmament.