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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

The Duty to Remember and to Recall

November 12th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

You could have heard a pin drop.

Hundreds of people at Kulturhuset last night sat, silent and transfixed, as a frail, elderly woman, sipping occasionally from a water glass, and speaking without notes, told her story.

Hedi Fried is 90. And she is a Holocaust survivor.

Born in Romania in 1924, she was taken to Auschwitz with her family at the age of 20. She said goodbye, forever, to her mother at the camp gates.

There were other speakers at the seminar last night. Margot Wallström spoke of the new face of war and the importance of a feminist foreign policy. The German and Ambassador and I spoke about European security in the summers of 1914 and 2014 respectively.

But there was only really one voice, and one message.  That of an elderly lady, and of the obligation to remember, to recount, to explain.

I can understand why some people don’t believe what happened, she said. That’s why I tell my story.

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Green Light to Cut Red Tape

November 7th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

Across Europe, Governments recognise that reducing the cost of regulation is crucial for growth. Cutting unnecessary EU burdens is also vital to maintaining European competitiveness. We need a regulatory framework which fosters innovation, skilled jobs, and access to world markets.

The Commission has made progress over the last five years. We particularly welcome recent efforts to lighten the load on the smallest business (exempting micro-businesses from new EU legislation wherever possible), and to institute a more systematic approach to reform (the Regulatory Fitness or ‘REFIT’ programme). In other areas, such as financial services where the pace of reforms has been particularly intense, we have seen legislation that could have been better designed.

We need wide consultation and evidence-based and transparent policy-making to produce policy which is fit for purpose and which removes barriers to competitiveness and growth. We are pleased that President Juncker has created a new Vice Presidency to push for better regulation. And we welcome the commitment from Commissioner Timmermans to improve the quality of Commission Impact Assessments and achieve a meaningful reduction in regulation.

We have also been making a national contribution to this debate. Just one year ago our Prime Minister launched the report of his Business Taskforce on cutting EU red tape. This week the Government has published a ‘One Year On’ report, which highlights the progress that has been made and the wide ranging support for improving EU regulation.

The new report highlights that 10 of 30 recommendations from last year have already been achieved. These include removing unnecessary bureaucracy around clinical trials, the exploitation of shale gas, non-financial reporting, and environmental impact assessments. This has already prevented billions of Euros of additional costs to the European economy.

The Taskforce’s principles have also gained considerable support around Europe – they would ensure that all new EU proposals face tough tests to ensure they do not hold back growth, job creation and innovation. Major European business organisations, the European Parliament and the Commission’s own Better Regulation Advisory Group (the ‘Stoiber Group’) have supported the principles, including calls for a ‘One-in, One-out’ policy at the EU level; a target to reduce the overall burden of EU regulation; and exclusions for the smallest firms from new EU legislation.

We have made a good start, but we need to continue. So we hope we can continue to work together with member states and the new Commission to produce regulations in Europe that protect consumers but also crucially help producers, not least SMEs, to flourish and grow, bringing much needed jobs and growth to our countries.

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Unfinished Business in Bosnia

November 6th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

My first job in the Foreign Office twenty years ago was as desk officer for Bosnia. That was before the horrors of Srebrenica, the hope of Dayton and the frustrations that have followed. The international community have invested heavily in seeking to secure progress in post-war Bosnia, not least through the efforts of Carl Bildt and the contribution Swedish and UK soldiers, civilians and others have made.

This week the UK and German Foreign Ministers have launched a new initiative on Bosnia and Herzegovnia, in the wake of the elections there. Here’s the text of a joint article they’ve produced setting out their goals.

GERMAN-BRITISH INITIATIVE ON BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

ARTICLE FOREIGN MINISTERS STEINMEIER AND HAMMOND

There is one country at the heart of Europe still beset by the terrible consequences of a war which ended two decades ago. Deeply entrenched ethnic divisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina have led to political stagnation and stymied much needed reform. The result has been economic and social malaise, which was only exacerbated by catastrophic flooding in the spring of this year. Last month the country’s citizens elected a new parliament. Its performance over the next four years will be crucial in determining their future.

The UK and Germany have already invested a great deal in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last 20 years: our soldiers and police officers have taken part in NATO and EU missions to stabilise the country, and we have promoted the country’s economic development alongside our involvement at the political level. The fact that our efforts have not yet borne fruit is not a reason to give up and turn away.

On the contrary, we must redouble our efforts to help Bosnia and Herzegovina transform its fortunes.

What the country desperately needs is stability and economic prosperity coupled with functioning democratic and judicial institutions. Accomplishing this requires far-reaching reforms which have been delayed far too long. While history shows us that the prospect of EU accession can encourage countries to enact essential reforms, for Bosnia and Herzegovina, riven with ethnic political divisions, it has not been able to work its magic.   A new approach is essential.

This evening we will be presenting our ideas for recasting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU accession process, when foreign ministers from the region gather at the British Embassy in Berlin for the Aspen Institute’s conference on South-Eastern Europe. These proposals primarily focus on those economic and social policies, as well as good governance and the rule of law, which will have the biggest impact on the lives of ordinary Bosnians and Herzegovinians: policies to deliver jobs and the rule of law, and to reduce corruption and criminality.

The first step we are seeking is for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders to make a written commitment to do two things: first, to deliver institutional reforms at all levels of the State, designed to make it more functional and able to work effectively with the EU; and secondly, to agree with the EU a roadmap for a broad reform agenda to advance the country on its path to EU accession.

This approach is not about lowering the bar to EU membership. Difficult constitutional amendments, such as safeguarding the voting rights for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Sejdic-Finci problem), will still need to be addressed.  But what we are proposing is a step by step process of reform starting with a focus on genuine economic improvements and gradually increasing the functionality of state institutions – an approach that is closely bound up with progress on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s path toward the EU.

Nor is this a return to the days of the international community imposing legislation on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are making a proposal and an offer to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the politicians they have elected: if they enact the reforms then we will advocate for progress on the European path.

Germany and the United Kingdom are setting the ball rolling today; we are actively seeking the broad-based political support needed for success. We need our partners in the neighbouring states of Croatia and Serbia, as well as our partners in the EU and the USA to work alongside us. But above all, we are calling on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians to adopt an approach that demonstrates leadership for all of the country, irrespective of ethnic interests.

Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a vision for the future that matches its status as a country at the heart of Europe. Its people deserve the rule of law, low crime rates, good public services, jobs and prosperity just as much as the citizens of neighbouring European states. Today we are offering the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina a way forward. We sincerely hope they will grasp it.

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Inequality: Injustice in Action

October 16th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

16 October is Blog Action day. And this year’s theme is inequality. So here’s a blog about inequality.
Tackling inequality is an important part of UK foreign policy. Two of our six human rights priorities are specifically about inequality, including women’s rights and freedom of religion and belief.

For us, the promotion and protection of women’s rights is more than a moral obligation.  It is enshrined in international human rights law and it is vital to ensure stable and prosperous societies with women fully participating in political, economic and social life.   Former Foreign Secretary Hague said that “the greatest challenge of the 21st Century is women’s full political, economic and social participation”. The Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit, in which Margot Wallström participated, bringing her wealth of UN expertise, and the more recent Girl Summit are two examples of UK leadership.

We are committed to securing a dedicated goal on women and girls in the post-2015 development framework, on which our Prime Minister has helped lead UN efforts.  As part of this, we want to see the world agreeing to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.  Other vital areas for world leaders to agree on – good governance, peace, security and justice for all – are also fundamental to women’s safety and security.  We successfully introduced this language in Human Rights Council resolutions in June 2014.

At a country level, we support projects to increase women’s political participation around the world from the Middle East and North Africa to indigenous groups in Latin America.  We also challenge gender stereotypes of what a “traditional” women’s role is, and work with faith leaders to help ensure that the cultural application of religious doctrine does not hinder women’s development.

In my last job in London I oversaw the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which gives out millions of pounds each year to projects, usually led by NGOs, making a real difference in some of the more challenging places to operate around the world. Examples include: helping develop women lawyers in Nigeria, promoting justice, including for victims of sexual violence, in Bosnia, and supporting Mothers for Peace in Colombia.

Another key equality for us is promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief.  It is a fundamental freedom which underpins many other human rights and we believe that where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, often other basic rights are threatened too.

We work through the UN to ensure that states implement Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. This resolution focuses the international community on combating religious intolerance, protecting the human rights of minorities and promoting pluralism in society. We endeavour to speak out in the wider context of the rule of law and freedom – making the point that when one faith community is under attack, the liberty of all is under attack. This is also an area where our Human Rights and Democracy Fund supports projects and NGOs, e g in Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines, trying to make a real difference, shining the spotlight on abuse, promoting reform, trying to make a reality overseas of the rights and freedoms we can take for granted here at home.

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Challenges and Opportunities for Europe

October 13th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

A new Swedish government has taken office. A new European Commission is about to. It seemed to me a good time to set out some thoughts on some of the big priorities facing the UK, Sweden and our EU partners over the coming months. Here’s a translation of the article I wrote for Saturday’s Dagens industry, Debatt: Så kan Löfven hjälpa oss, describing what I see as the shared priorities.

For all EU countries, modernising our economies to create high quality, high value employment for the future is a shared challenge. Britain has seen employment growing rapidly in the last few years, but other European countries, not least those in the Eurozone have struggled.

Over the next 15 years Europe’s share of global output is forecast to halve.  This is partly about the emerging markets growing. But it also reflects the lack of underlying competitiveness in Europe.

So the challenge is how to create a more competitive EU, which will deliver prosperity for its citizens.  For the UK, this means making more out of the EU’s Single Market, the heart of Europe’s success over the last thirty years, but whose potential is still not fully realised.

The single market remains incomplete in services, energy and digital – the very sectors that are the engines of a modern economy – it is only half the success it could be.

The UK’s priorities, where we want to work closely with Sweden,  are therefore to advance services liberalisation, to reform the digital single market, increase innovation, advance free trade, improve regulation, deepen the single market in financial services, develop a more integrated energy market and deliver on our climate change ambitions. Taking each in turn:

Services: we want the new Commission to prioritise advancing the single market in high-value services sectors, such as construction and professional business services, by breaking down the remaining barriers. The services sector accounts for 70% of EU GDP and over 90% of new jobs, but it makes up just over 20% of intra-EU trade. This has to change.  Existing legislation should be redesigned to accommodate and encourage new ways of doing business and new proposals should be future-proofed to retain the flexibility to respond to future technological changes. Completing the Digital Single Market could alone add 4% to EU GDP by 2020.

Innovation: is key to sustaining growth for developed economies. Our companies cannot compete with the rest of the world on price alone. This requires a pro-innovation mindset, including better regulation, competitive product markets, and access to finance. In 2011 more than 70% of the world’s knowledge creation was taking place outside the EU and only 17% of the world-leading innovators in ICT come from the EU, compared to 52% from the US alone.

Trade: as consumers we benefit from free trade within the Single Market.  We need to free up the EU’s external trade. Therefore we want the next Commission to pursue an ambitious trade agenda. We’re confident Cecilia Malmström will do that.  An ambitious TTIP could bring annual benefits to the EU economy of €119 billion, or an extra €545 for every family of four in the EU.

Regulation: getting the right balance on regulation, encouraging growth, while protecting consumers, is more crucial than ever. Cutting unnecessary bureaucratic burdens is vital to developing the competitiveness of our businesses. We need a regulatory framework that promotes innovation, skilled jobs and access to world markets. A 25% reduction in EU administrative burdens on businesses could lead to an increase of 1.4% in EU GDP.

Financial Services: over the last five years the EU has undertaken a comprehensive reform of this sector, but but further work is necessary to deepen and strengthen the internal market and to ensure the sector provides financing for jobs and growth in a stable environment. The Commission should take action to improve capital markets so companies have access to the funding necessary to invest and grow.

Energy and climate: Consumers and businesses require affordable, secure and sustainable energy. By completing the internal energy market we could unlock substantial benefits for the EU. A recent report estimates the value of an integrated EU market to be as much as €40 billion a year by 2030 in electricity, and in gas as much as €30 billion a year.  Europe needs to move towards greater energy security and independence.

Above all, it also needs to offer global leadership towards getting an international climate agreement: a greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 40% could also result in gas imports falling by almost 10% from 2010 levels by 2030. Good for Europe’s economy and a crucial contribution to tackling the greatest global challenge of all: uncontrolled climate change.

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EU sanctions: necessary, effective and timely

September 12th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

Regular readers of this blog know I’ve written about the Russia-Ukraine crisis here. Today I’ve chosen to share an article by the UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington, with my readers:

This week the European Union imposed further sanctions on Russia. This decision followed months of destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia, and months of political and diplomatic efforts to restore peace and stability.

The EU did not take this step lightly. But we decided collectively that we cannot stand by, while President Putin tramples over international law and the rights of a sovereign neighbour. We cannot ignore the deaths and destruction that Russia’s actions have led to on our shared continent.

Sanctions are a critical part of the EU’s response. Not from choice, but because we believe that they are necessary, effective and timely. Let us take each in turn.

They are necessary for one simple reason: Russia’s actions in Ukraine are unacceptable. Russia refuses to recognise Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. It has annexed Ukrainian territory at the barrel of a gun; first Crimea, and then sending its army into swathes of Ukraine’s eastern regions.

This is not an idle assertion. It is fact. We know that thousands of Russian troops and dozens of Russian tanks have been operating in Ukraine. I have heard eyewitness accounts; been presented with hard intelligence; and seen media reports.

We know from Europe’s history what can happen when an independent nation is threatened and undermined by military force. As Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Merkel said last week, Russia’s breach of international law cannot remain without consequence. I am grateful for the solid and consistent support of the Swedish government on this important point of principle.

Second, sanctions are effective. They are clearly having an impact on Russia’s economy, which shrank in the first quarter of this year. Growth is hovering around 0%, and inflation is predicted to approach double-digits. Not a single dollar, Euro or Swiss Franc was lent to a Russian company in July. Eurobonds issued to Russian companies since the start of 2014 have dropped by an incredible 93%. The rouble has hit an historic low against the dollar. Capital flight will be around $80bn this year.

Not only are sanctions biting; but Russia’s own decision to limit food imports has pushed up prices of certain goods by over 30%, and up to 60% in some extreme cases, creating a new black market in imports from Belarus. The economic impact of this conflict can be felt by every ordinary family in Russia.

Third, these sanctions are timely. While a ceasefire was announced last week, we need to see Russia and the so-called separatists it backs hold to that commitment.

In such circumstances, it was the right decision to proceed with sanctions, while discussion of a peace plan goes ahead. We could always take the decision to reverse them in the future. But that requires a fundamental change of direction from Moscow.

The ball is in Russia’s court. It could withdraw its troops and arms, stop arming the separatists, let Ukraine conduct democratic elections in October and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia is a major power; it should live up to its international responsibilities.

The other option is continued meddling in Ukraine. Which would mean further violence, needless deaths and more hardship in the region.

The choice is with Russia’s leadership. I sincerely hope it avoids the needless escalation of economic measures, and the equally needless isolation of its own people.

As I discussed with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin at last week’s NATO Summit, the people of Ukraine deserve the support of the global community at this critical point in their history. And we all deserve a future of shared prosperity and stability.

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IT Startup communities in Stockholm and London: Never Mind the Gap

September 4th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

Last November I was in London with the Crown Princess and Prince Daniel. They visited Cambridge University, an inner-city London school, the Google Campus and Tech City in East London. It was the latter visits which inspired my Swedish counterpart in London and me to think about a follow-up event focusing on how the flourishing IT start-up communities in Stockholm and London can learn from each other.

Today, ten months later, the Embassy and SUP46 are organising a seminar entitled “Never Mind the Gap”, which we’re honoured is to be in the presence of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel.

The discussion will major on how to promote startup communities and make them even better – to contribute to the wider collaboration between Stockholm and London and more generally to growth, innovation and the new economy in Europe.

We have a range of great speakers, from companies already established in the UK and from those who I hope will be thinking about it, particularly after this week’s event! So many great IT companies have emerged out of Stockholm, and Sweden more generally, in recent years and have quickly gained a global reach. There are bound to be interesting lessons to learn for London.

Similarly, London has great advantages and strengths that we want to promote in the technology sector and more generally. East London’s Tech City – an area buzzing with creativity – was launched by our Prime Minister in 2010. This coincided with government policies such as the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, and improvements to the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trust schemes – all designed to incentivise investment, particularly in the early stages.

The IT sector is critical to the UK economy. Some of the IT start-ups we see are most obviously in the “fun” areas of life – making it easier to enjoy music, or films and TV. But IT start ups are also helping transform sectors such as medicine, education and financial services. The IT sector and these communities have a direct effect on the growth of our economies, for job creation, and ultimately for European competitiveness.

It has been estimated that 20% of growth in advanced economies between 2004-2009 came from Digital Technologies related to the Internet. And in the coming years the digital sector is expected to grow seven times faster than overall European GDP.

There are of course challenges, too, which we hope the seminar will address, including having access to the necessary skills and talent, not least in cities where accommodation and the cost of living are high. We won’t solve all the problems at our seminar, but we’ll be putting new perspectives and I hope some solutions on the table.

It’s all part of the UK government’s long term agenda to ensure Britain is the most business friendly country in Europe, and to show that we are open to ideas on how to make this happen. Our UK Trade and Investment team at the Embassy would love to hear from you if you’re interested in investing or starting a business in the IT or any other sector in the UK.

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NATO’s Summit in Wales: ‘Building Stability in an Unpredictable World’

September 3rd, 2014 by Paul Johnston

On Thursday 4 and Friday 5 September the UK will host the NATO Summit in Newport, Wales. It will be the largest gathering of international leaders ever to take place in Britain.

It will also be the first UK-hosted NATO Summit since the London meeting in 1990, which marked the end of the Cold War. Things feel rather different day. But this Summit is no less important. Indeed, as many commentators have said, the crisis in Ukraine may make this one of the most important meetings in NATO’s recent history.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine will, of course, dominate the Summit. But there will be other critical issues too. The withdrawal of ISAF’s active operation in Afghanistan and the future of NATO and international engagement there will be high on the agenda. The appalling events in Iraq and Syria, and wider instability, will also be on Leaders’ minds.

The UK is clear that NATO must continue to adapt and reform in order to be able to address today’s and tomorrow’s security threats and challenges wherever they may arise. Thus, the overall Summit theme will be ‘Building Stability in an Unpredictable World’. Among the priorities we want to address in Wales are therefore: Defence Spending, Deterrence, Defence Capacity Building, NATO Readiness and Partnerships.

NATO Leaders will want to look at the long-term implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and how the Alliance will continue to provide for the collective security of all Allies. NATO must take the necessary decisions to strengthen the Alliance’s ability to respond quickly to threats, including new ones, to reassure those who fear for their security, and to deter aggression against NATO states from wherever it might come. We must also be able to adapt to the variety of threats, and strengthen our ability to stop potential challenges to the Alliance – whether from Russia or non-state actors – from spiralling into crises. What will emerge from the Summit, we are confident, is a clear message that we mean what we say about providing for the collective security of our Allies, with plans to act quickly with rapid reaction forces to provide security where it’s needed.

On Afghanistan, we expect Allies to confirm our continued support to the Afghan government and people. NATO has to follow through on commitments made at the Chicago Summit in May 2012 to provide financial support for the sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). We will recognise the progress made by the ANSF as, on the basis NATO agreed in 2010, they have assumed responsibility for the provision of security across the whole of Afghanistan. And we will take the opportunity to recognise the sacrifices made by our armed forces, those of our Afghan and international partners, and the people of Afghanistan.

In discussing Afghanistan and other challenges, NATO leaders will come together with other international organisations, including the EU, UN and OSCE, demonstrating the strength and complementary nature of its cooperation. NATO is at the centre of a broad, global network of co-operating security actors and closer cooperation with those Partners will be a central Summit theme.

Last but not least, we also seek to emphasise the partnerships with individual countries, building on the friendship, trust and practical habits of co-operation developed through working together in Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans over the past two decades. Sweden has been one of NATO’s closest and most effective partners in those operations and more generally, and the Summit will underline the continuing value that NATO attaches to partnerships with key players like Sweden.

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IRAQ: THE UK RESPONSE

August 11th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

Yesterday at church I was talking to a friend who comes from Northern Iraq. He fled to Sweden at the start of the Iran/Iraq war. But he still has family in Northern Iraq, part of the increasingly small and vulnerable community of Christians and other minorities there being persecuted by the Jihadists.

It has been appalling to observe the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Like Sweden, the UK government condemns the barbaric attacks waged by the so-called Islamic State terrorists across the region, including against the Yezidi community trapped in terrible conditions on Mount Sinjar.

Our Prime Minister said on Friday that he welcomed President Obama’s decision to accept the Iraqi Government’s request for help and to conduct targeted US airstrikes to help Iraqi forces as they fight back against the terrorists and to help the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

This is about helping populations facing a humanitarian disaster but also about basic human values– the right to freedom and dignity, whatever your religious beliefs.

Therefore over the weekend the UK conducted a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq in conjunction with the US to provide help to those affected, including those in grave need of food, water and shelter in the Sinjar area.

This is just part of a cross-government response to the crisis. Late last week we agreed an additional £8m package of UK humanitarian aid for Northern Iraq, taking our total emergency aid in response to this crisis so far to £13m.

Our Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said that the UK expects the air drop operation to go on for the foreseeable future, in particular to the people who are trapped on the Mountain Sinjar.

But he also pointed out that airdropping supplies is a short term solution. The long term solution requires fundamental political progress in Iraq and concerted national and international efforts to defeat terrorism and promote a diverse and inclusive state, respectful of ethnic and religious diversity.

Therefore the process of agreeing a new Iraqi government is less visible but just as important as the military and humanitarian action now taking place.

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NATO: AN ENDURING ALLIANCE IN TIMES OF CHANGE AND CHALLENGE

August 6th, 2014 by Paul Johnston

Early next month the UK will host a Summit meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in Newport, Wales.

The last time the UK hosted a NATO Summit was in 1990 as Europe was emerging from the Cold War. The Alliance was looking forward to the prospect of a Europe free from the divisions of the recent past. If anything, some were questioning whether NATO would be able to adapt to a world where its role was less obvious than it had been for the first four decades of its existence.

NATO has transformed itself in the intervening quarter century: enlarging and modernising, conducting military operations from the Balkans to Afghanistan.

But its core purpose has remained European security, the transatlantic link and the commitment to defence of its member states.

That mission now looks as central as it has ever done, given the challenge to European security posed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation in Ukraine. This week’s tragic events in Afghanistan remind us also of the continuing international effort required there. And a glance at the newspapers or TV gives an idea of the range of other concerns that will be on NATO leaders’ minds as they prepare to meet in the UK.

Given this challenging global context, it is important that NATO Allies and crucial partner counties like Sweden approach the Summit determined to build consensus on a robust yet collaborative way of addressing future threats, wherever they arise.

With this in mind, my Prime Minister has identified a number of key goals.

First, in response to the Russia/Ukraine crisis, we need to strengthen our ability to respond to any threat and to reassure Allies concerned about their security, including through sustaining a robust presence in Eastern Europe and reviewing and rethinking our long term relationship with Russia, something the UK and Sweden also consider needs to happen in the EU as well.

Second, we must work to ensure a positive legacy in Afghanistan. The UK and Sweden have both committed much to Afghanistan and our soldiers have lost their lives there. We owe it to them and to the people of that country to ensure the fragile progress of recent years is built upon not reversed.

Third, we need to address the threats presented by an increasingly unpredictable and unstable world. To its south and east, Europe faces failed and failing states, regional conflicts and threats from non-state actors. There are places not far from Europe’s borders where terrorists plot attacks against us. Sweden and the UK both have advanced, interconnected economies that are vulnerable to cyber and other asymmetric threats, as well as to terrorism.

So NATO members and important partners like Sweden face interconnected challenges. The Prime Minister’s fourth goal reflects this; he is determined to reinforce NATO’s relationships with its partners and to work with those committed to an international rules-based system and the shared values of freedom and democracy.

For the UK, Sweden is at the forefront of this effort. We will continue to build on the close co-operation and interoperability developed by our armed forces as we have worked together in the Balkans and in Afghanistan, both bilaterally and in the context of NATO partnership activity.

The Summit in Wales will have less to celebrate perhaps than its predecessor in London 24 years ago. But the Allies and Partners there will, I’m sure, be no less determined to look hard at future challenges and opportunities and to focus on the key role NATO and its Partners can play in rising to them.

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