Sweden ramps up NATO mission

Sweden will in 2008 make its mission to NATO in Brussels "a government authority in its own right", the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The country will also open new embassies in Afghanistan, Sudan and Belarus as it plans to increase its humanitarian and financial aid to those countries.

While Sweden already has an ambassador at NATO headquarters, its mission at the organization’s Brussels headquarters currently falls under the remit of the Embassy to Belgium.

“The conversion of the Mission into an authority in its own right, which is expected to take place in mid-2008, is in line with the importance Sweden attaches to cooperation with NATO,” the foreign ministry said.

“This cooperation is important so as to be able to contribute to international peace and security, as we are doing in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and to develop the international crisis management capability of the Swedish Defence Forces.”

Though not a member, Sweden cooperates with NATO within the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Partnership for Peace (PfP).

The Scandinavian country will also open an embassy in Kabul early next year, allowing it to better “follow political developments in Afghanistan and participate actively in international cooperation” there, the ministry said in a statement.

The new embassy is also important since Afghanistan has since 2001 “been one of the foremost recipient countries for Swedish development assistance,” the ministry said, emphasizing the Scandinavian country’s heavy involvement in the International Security Assistance Force’s reconstruction work in Afghanistan.

Sweden’s new embassy in Khartoum, also set to open at the beginning of 2008, “will enable Sweden to act more forcefully in peace and conflict management missions in Sudan,” the ministry said, adding that Stockholm today was the fifth largest humanitarian aid donor to Sudan.

In the second half of 2008, the ministry said Sweden would upgrade a section office in Minsk to an embassy, since “Belarus is one of Sweden’s near neighbours and it is important to follow economic and political developments in the country by having a local presence.”

Sweden also said Wednesday it would close three other embassies, in Angola, Philippines and Laos.