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Speech from Peter Hultqvist

Speech by Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist at video conference of foreign affairs ministers (defence)


6 April 2020

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It is important that we move forward in the spirit of solidarity in our response to this crisis, both internally and externally. Actions taken by the Swedish government to combat the spread of COVID-19 are based on the evolving assessments of our national experts’ assessments.

The current situation in Sweden is as follows: Sweden have 7206 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infected individuals. 590 people have been treated at intensive care units. We have 477 deceased.
The Swedish Armed Forces is providing military assistance to civilian national authorities. The assistance includes:

  1. Deployment of two field hospitals and medical units.
  2. Support with tents, medical equipment and protective masks to hospitals and medical facilities.
  3. Support to the Public Health Agency with a mobile laboratory and staff.

Having said that, I want to underline that the Swedish Armed Forces’ main focus is to ensure continued endurance regarding readiness and operations, both nationally and internationally. The core task for the Armed Forces is to defend Sweden.

The crisis affects some planned activities, such as training and exercises. Last Friday, the Swedish Armed Forces took the decision to postpone the Aurora 2020 exercise. However, those Swedish conscripts that are at the end of their training cycle, will still carry out some exercise acitivites. Furthermore, national air and naval excercises will be conducted.

When it comes to international operations, Sweden greatly appreciates the work our personnel continues to carry out, despite the current situation. Our intention is to maintain our engagement in the international operations we are represented in. Sweden believes that it is important that international military operations can continue to the extent possible, but we must also ensure the health of our soldiers.
When it comes to EU coordination of military assistance, then I would like to underline the importance of coordinating with civil authorities, focusing specifically on transport and other logistics. The starting point should be to use already existing coordination mechanisms, in order to avoid duplication. One concrete example is the Movements Coordination Centre Europe.

Furthermore, the EU must counter the efforts of Russia, China and others that seek to advance their agenda through disinformation, propaganda and other hybrid threats. This is clear in the context of COVID-19, where we have seen a disinformation campaign directed at the EU and its member states. A key message from these actors is that the EU or individual member states are not able to handle the crisis. The campaign includes false narratives, conspiracy theories, and incorrect health advice, which could have harmful consequences for public health.

We need long-term resilience and a coordinated strategic communication approach. We must make full use of our collective resources in detecting and countering disinformation. The Rapid Alert System, the EEAS Stratcom Task Forces, and the “EU versus Disinformation” website are important tools in this effort.
Moreover, we must counter disinformation by acting proactively. It is of strategic importance to counter the false narrative. We support the High Representative’s efforts in this.

Finally, I think its important to keep each other updated and maintain our close international cooperation. Thank you!