Defence Minister under fire for military cuts

Defence Minister Leni Björklund found herself caught behind enemy lines this week in Östersund.

About 10,000 protesters, according to Svenska Dagbladet, were on hand to express their opposition to the government’s plans to close down a military base located in the area. The closure is expected to mean the loss of about 1,400 jobs.

The protesters came from every nook of the county and were even given free rides by the local transport service. Berg municipality also excused its workers from their jobs so that they could take part in the protest.

“I certainly hope that the parliament will approve of the proposal I have made,” Björklund told the crowd, whose ensuing jeers drowned out most of what she had to say.

According to SR, Björklund told the crowd that the “well-thought out” decision to axe the base was not based on its efficiency or otherwise. Rather, the reality is that the government needs to prioritize dealing with more immediate problems closer to home.

“We have different security issues and we need to channel our resources to meet the new threats of crime and terrorism,” she said.

“We have to pay for that with cuts in the defence budget,” she added.

But that did nothing to placate the protesters. Jens Nilson, a social democrat and member of the county’s local government, told reporters that it only the government and the Greens were hell bent on seeing this decision through – and the other, non-socialist, parties were not in agreement.

“I am disappointed with Leni Björklund,” said Nilsson. “But also with the fact that the Borgerliga [the opposition coalition] parties haven’t actually made any demands for changes in the plans.”

Nilsson added that he and his colleagues in the local council would now concentrate on trying to influence the government’s decision.

The government is offering something as compensation for the closure of the facility. It says some services which could rescue 200 of the lost jobs will be moved into the area – suggesting that it may already be too late for Jens Nilsson to change the government’s ideas.

Yesterday a special group was slated to meet to discuss which services will be right for the county. The national insurance, nature protection and employment agencies are among the services on the shortlist.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR