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Ukraine is priority for Swedish EU presidency, EDA conference hears

Swedish Minister of Defence Pål Jonson laid out on Thursday Sweden’s aims for its Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January, focusing on the EU's Strategic Compass, support for Ukraine and partnerships with non-EU countries.  “Europe needs to be a stronger security actor,” Minister Jonson said. “To my mind, there is no zero-sum game for a stronger NATO and a stronger EU,” he asserted.

Speaking at EDA’s annual conference “Investing in European Defence”, Minister Jonson also said his country continued to push for full NATO membership to help protect Europe from Russian revanchism. He also warned not to repeat the mistakes of the past in collaboration, saying there were lessons to be learned from the “graveyard of failures” in international defence cooperation.

“This is one of the most critical situations for European security since the end of the Second World War,” Minister Jonson told the conference, which brought together some 1,300 participants in Brussels and online.  “This raises a lot of new questions for us, both in regard to our capabilities and our defence industrial base,” he said.

In a ministerial panel chaired by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý, Jan Jireš, Deputy Minister for Defence Policy and Strategy, Czech Republic, detailed the progress during the Czech EU presidency on joint procurement. "Joint procurement can take many forms. Look at what we are doing with Slovakia, together buying from Sweden. This is not, strictly speaking, joint procurement. But we are cooperating, trying to coordinate. And there are many benefits," Deputy Minister Jireš said.


Greece’s Minister of Defence Nikolaos Panaiotopoulos also expressed his support for more European cooperation, echoing a growing sentiment by saying “if not now, then when?” “For many Member States, we will terminate the use of obsolete Russian and Soviet weapons listed in all our systems. Now is the opportunity for newly-produced capabilities in the EU,” Minister Panaiotopoulos said, highlighting the revival of shipbuilding in Greece. "I think the world is in flux. I think we are facing a not-so-subtle attack on the notion of our Western societies. We need to take that into consideration now and act with one sense of urgency," he said.

Greek defence minister

For Sweden, maintaining the EU’s support for Ukraine remains a priority, Minister Jonson said, emphasizing the need to use existing EU initiatives. He also spoke of developing standardisation of arms and ammunition, harmonising of requirements and joint procurement as the EU seeks to provide Kyiv with the capabilities it needs to fight Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We always say that we are a big, small country. But we try to lead by example, we launched our support package for the Ukraine just two weeks ago,” Minister Jonson said. “It is crucial that Ukraine regains its territorial sovereignty,” he said.

Minister Jonson said the Swedish EU presidency would focus on taking forward the Strategic Compass, particularly in cyber and space. Working close with the United States, Canada and Britain, as non-EU countries, will be a critical part of the Swedish EU presidency, he said.