Speech by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at Karlberg during State Visit from France
January 30, 2024.
Check against delivery.
Your Majesty, Mr President, Your Excellencies, officers and cadets, ladies and gentlemen
France and Sweden’s friendship is extraordinary.
There is probably no better symbol of this than the origins of our Swedish Royal House. And the fact that you, Mr President, today are the third French President to visit Stockholm during His Majesty’s reign.
But our relationship is surely not primarily based on shared history, but on shared values and aspirations for the future. The French Revolution taught us that ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ are fundamental principles for building good societies. These principles still unite us today.
More than most people realise, ideas and values determine the direction of the world. But ideas without action easily become meaningless. Or as Charles de Gaulle once said “No policy is worth anything outside of reality.”
Today, the free world is challenged by authoritarian forces in pursuit of an order where ‘might is right’.
Maintaining the rules-based world order and respect for international law are central security policy interests for Sweden and France.
As you, Emmanuel, pointed out in your speech in Bratislava last year, peace in Ukraine - and on our continent - cannot mean accepting Russia to use force in blatant violation of international law. France and Sweden do not only share values, we share a struggle.
Bilaterally and in the EU, Sweden and France have taken important steps in support of Ukraine’s resilience and capacity to defend itself. So far, Sweden has contributed around 2.6 billion Euros to Ukraine. Within the EU, we have also adopted macroeconomic support and several sanctions packages against Russia.
Brave Ukrainian soldiers are fighting every day, and Ukraine’s security and freedom are closely linked to ours - it is also our security and freedom that Ukraine is defending - almost every Swede realised that two years ago, in the morning of February 24th.
EU Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine is currently on track to train 40 000 Ukrainian soldiers. The European Peace Facility has been crucial in facilitating EU Member States’ donations of military equipment to Ukraine. As a result of a Swedish initiative, the EU is also supporting Moldova and other partner states in our close neighbourhood, to manage threats and build resilience.
These threats against Europe are becoming increasingly complex, ranging from conventional to hybrid, including disinformation, cyber attacks, terrorism, attacks against critical infrastructure and exploitation of economic dependencies.
So, what to do?
First of all, I fully agree with President Macron, on the need for a stronger and more capable Europe.
France and Sweden share the view that Europe needs to take greater strategic responsibility in an increasingly challenging security situation. Let me emphasise that a strong Europe goes hand in hand with a strong transatlantic link. Obviously, we cannot decide America’s choices for the future, but I would like to recognise the strong US commitment so far, and how important it is for the future.
We believe the EU can play a key role in strengthening Europe’s ability to act as a credible security provider, for example by investing in the European defence industrial base, enhancing military mobility, and developing capabilities to counter hybrid and cyber threats.
Exactly as Sweden and France are already partners in the EU, we will soon be Allies in NATO. On behalf of all Swedes, allow me to express my gratitude to France and to you, Mr President, for your firm support for a swift NATO accession. By joining NATO, Sweden will leave over 200 years of military non-alignment behind, and we will complete the process we started with our EU membership in 1995.
NATO is the backbone of collective defence of the Euro-Atlantic area. This is especially true in the Baltic region, where the Russian threats are present every day. The naval city of Karlskrona in the southeast corner of Sweden – actually built with inspiration from France – is closer to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad than it is to Stockholm. I strongly welcome the increased French military presence in our region.
Contrary to Russia’s aims and expectations, the EU and NATO have been united and determined in our support to Ukraine. The EU’s key role in the transatlantic community has been consolidated, and the strength of the EU’s broad toolbox - complementing NATO - has been tried and tested.
Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility. Not only for the Baltic Sea and the High North, but for the entire Euro-Atlantic area. This year, we will meet the NATO standard by spending more than 2 per cent of GDP on defence. Bearing our fair share of the security burden will be an important part of our alliance policy.
And it is probably no news to anyone in this room that we also are providing modern and well-trained armed forces. In the air, in the sea and under the surface. In the cold snow. Intelligence and special forces.
Swedish and French soldiers have worked together on the same task, in the same environment. It has been important for us to better understand the geopolitical realities of Europe’s southern neighbourhood.
Today, Sweden is facing an increased threat of attacks by terrorists and violent extremists. The experience of France in defending democracy and an open society against radical Islamism, is most valuable to Sweden in our efforts to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism on our soil. We therefore welcome our mutual decision to deepen the cooperation between our countries in the area of internal security.
External and internal security are increasingly interconnected. So are trade and geopolitics. Don’t underestimate the geopolitical dimension of trade as a way of enhancing Europe’s global influence.
Russia’s energy warfare has highlighted the need for greater focus on energy security and European energy production. It has also accelerated the need to work closer together with friends and trusted partners for increased security of supply.
Through the renewed Strategic Innovation Partnership between Sweden and France that we signed earlier today, we are deepening our cooperation in a number of fields – including nuclear energy for the very first time. Nuclear energy is key to fight climate change and strengthen security of electricity supply. I am very pleased that we have now embarked on a long-term bilateral cooperation in the nuclear energy sector.
To conclude: security is obviously about the obligation to defend your own country – physically. But its more than that. It’s about values, about principles. About dignity.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité”. I’ll teach you in Swedish: Frihet, jämlikhet, broderskap. Three complicated but equally beautiful words.