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Sweden to deepen military ties with Finland

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08:37 CET+01:00
Sweden has vowed to beef up defence cooperation with non-Nato member neighbour Finland, while the government's current defence policy continues to face harsh criticism from all quarters.

In an op-ed article published in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily on Tuesday, Defence Minister Karin Enström and her Finnish counterpart Carl Haglund pointed out that their two countries already have close defence cooperation.

The two added, however, that more can be done to simplify exchanges between the Finnish and Swedish militaries. Among other things, the two ministers point to better coordination of resources, common exercises, and contributions to international operations.

"We have good possibilities to deepen and take a further step in our defence cooperation. That would strengthen both countries' defence capacities," Enström told the TT news agency.

Buying equipment together was also dubbed an "obvious" area where Sweden and Finland have scope for working more closely together, she argued.

"If we have similar needs, we can look at common procurement or development," Enström told TT, adding that the plans were not simply "nice oration but a serious initiative".

The plans come in the midst of the annual Society and Defence (Folk och Försvar) conference in Sälen, which aims to stimulate public debate about defence and security policy.

Speaking at the conference on Monday, Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven complained that the government had mismanaged Sweden's defence policy in jettisoning mandatory conscription and focusing too much on participating in international operations.

"Trust in our [defence] capacity is dwindling," Löfven said.

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Meanwhile, former Moderate Defence Minister Mikael Odenberg, who resigned in 2007 in protest over cuts to the defence budget, slammed his former government colleagues' policies.

"The fundamental imbalance still exists between the armed forces' mission and the resources allotted," he said in an interview with the Dagens Industri (DI) newspaper.

He also predicted that the opposition would likely win the 2014 parliamentary elections in September.

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