Neutral Sweden to host Nato conference

Forty-six foreign ministers from Nato and its 20 partner countries are due to meet this spring in the Swedish ski resort of Åre. Twenty-six of the foreign ministers due to attend represent countries already a part of Nato. Part of this representation includes Germany’s Joschka Fischer, Britain’s Jack Straw, and U.S.’s Condoleezza Rice, recently named the most powerful woman in the world. Sweden’s foreign minister Laila Freivalds will attend and Göran Persson, Sweden’s prime minister, is likely to be present.

The final decision to hold the meeting at Åre on May 24-May 25, will be made by Nato’s general secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. However, the decision is practically finalized, as Nato already asked Sweden last year if it would like to host the meeting. In addition, Åre is seen as an ideal location, as it has new conference facilities and great views. Åre has already been inspected by a delegation from Nato, receiving positive reviews.

Sweden will have to prepare for its largest security force ever to properly protect against possible attacks by terrorists and extremists. Säpo, Sweden’s security service, will be in charge of the forces. There will also be additional security from other countries. The security forces combined with administrative personnel and foreign ministers brings the total to over a thousand people due to visit the small ski town.

As news of the meeting emerged, Sweden also announced that it will take part in a Nato crisis management exercise on a strategic level. This exercise is on decision making and not a practical exercise using troops. Sweden and 8 other non-Nato countries will participate in the exercise. Sweden has participated in peacekeeping missions before, noteably working with Nato within the framework of Partnership for Peace (PFP), but not on a strategic level.

Sweden is working at a more intimate level with Nato than ever before, raising questions about whether Sweden will join in the long term. Yet any attempts to become an official member of the alliance would be certain to meet with strong opposition from many in Sweden’s ruling left-wing coalition.

Sources: Göteborgs Posten, Aftonbladet

Sharon Tomcko