Greens force government to suspend unmanned fighter project

After a day of political farce, the government have decided to put on ice their participation in a multi billion crown project to develop an unmanned fighter plane.

Whilst Green party spokesman, Peter Eriksson, issued ultimatums to prime minister Göran Persson on the phone, defence minister Leni Björklund sneaked in and out of parliament to dodge journalists.

It was Eriksson who was first out with a statement that the government was to postpone their decision to invest 750m kronor in the joint venture between Saab and French defence contractor, Dassault.

Björklund then made a similar announcement, blaming the press for getting the story wrong in the first place.

“I want to discuss with our coalition partners [the Green party and the Left party] what Swedish participation in the project means. It’s not a question of a new plane, but of an international project to develop a prototype for an unmanned aircraft,” she said.

As the Local reported on 8th June, the government’s initial announcement that they planned to invest 750m kronor in a new fighter plane caused consternation, particularly from the Green party. Björklund herself appeared to accept that there was no operational need for the aircraft.

Eriksson was furious. His message to Göran Persson was that it was a “hugely provocative decision”.

“If our parties are supposed to co-operate on budget and defence issues, we have to agree on these decisions. Björklund can’t go behind our back,” he said.

After a number of telephone conversations between the two, it seems that Persson listened.

Saab responded to the news with surprise.

“This is a great opportunity, but the government decides to wait. There’s naturally a risk that the decision will have negative consequences for Saab’s future activities in Sweden,” said chief executive Åke Svensson in a press release.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, SR