Military conscription phase out under fire

Conscription into the Swedish military will be phased out in 2010 in three stages. Recruitment to the armed forces with thereafter on a voluntary basis. However, the reform has come under criticism from the Social Democrats and the Conscription Council (Värnpliktsrådet).

When the conscription system officially ends on July 1, 2010, those who have already begun will have the choice to complete their training. Those who have been drafted but have not yet begun training may also begin an equivalent programme on a voluntary basis. Mandatory enlistment will remain in effect until June 2010.

“We hope that most or all will elect to undergo the training voluntarily. It might be a positive pressure – the training must be good in order for people to want to stay. And soldiers who have chosen to be there are better motivated and raise the quality of the armed forces,” Minister of Defense Sten Tolgfors told TT news agency.

As of January 1, 2011, the current education will be replaced entirely by a three-month voluntary military training. Thereafter, soldiers will be offered a longer education related to a particular position with the goal of creating permanent and contract-based military units.

Paulina Rehbinder of the Conscription Council told TT that there was a concern that the military would not solve current problems related to conscription if the reform was implemented gradually.

But Lars Fresker, chairman of the Swedish Military Officers Union (Officersförbundet), believes that the transition to voluntary recruitment can improve the quality of training.

“I think that the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) realizes the importance of recruiting those who are currently in the system. If we don’t succeed in keeping those who have already been drafted, how will we be able to attract others? The Armed Forces must demonstrate that they are an attractive employer,” he said.

The reform has also been criticized by the Social Democrats. Anders Karlsson, chairman of the defense committee, doesn’t believe that a sufficient number will choose a career in the military.

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PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

Sweden's Prime Minister has said that her party has brought forward the date for a decision on Nato membership by ten days, meaning a decision could be in place before a state visit by Finland's president in mid-May.

PM: Social Democrats could decide on Nato on May 15th

The decision had previously been tabled for a meeting of the party board on May 24th, but could now be taken at an extra meeting of the Social Democrats ruling committee on May 15th, Magdalena Andersson said at a press conference on Thursday. 

“We will of course discuss the issue and then we can see if we feel ready to take a decision or not,” she said at a Ukraine donors’ conference in Warsaw. 

She said that the security guarantees Sweden has received from the US and Germany for the period between a possible application and full Nato membership were significant. 

“It means a lot if Sweden chooses to send in an application, that we will be safer during the period up until we become members than we otherwise would be,” she said. 

“The party committee can take a decision then,” Party secretary Tobias Baudin he told Sweden’s TT newswire of the May 15th meeting. 

The meeting will come just two days after the Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’, which includes representatives from all political parties, is due to submit its own reassessment of Sweden’s security situation. 

“It depends on what the security policy dialogue shows,” Baudin says of the decision. “Right now meetings in party districts are going at full pace.” 

The May 15th meeting will take place on the Sunday before the week when Finland’s Iltalehti and Sweden’s Expressen newspaper last month reported Finland and Sweden had already decided to jointly announce a decision to join Nato.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, is due to visit Stockholm on 17th May and 18 May on a state visit, where he will be hosted by King Karl XVI Gustaf.  

The meeting of the Social Democrats’ ruling committee will come shortly after the party holds three digital members’ meetings on security policy, on May 9th, May 10th and May 12th (although these may also be brought forward). 

There is still resistance in the party’s rank and file, with at least three of the party’s powerful leagues still openly opposed to joining: 

  • The Social Democratic Women in Sweden voted last week to continue its opposition to Nato membership.
  • The Swedish Social Democratic Youth League has said it would prefer Sweden to bolster its security through the EU.
  • The Religious Social Democrats of Sweden has said that it believes the decision should not be rushed through at a time of conflict.  
  • The Social Democrat Students’ League has said that it wants to wait until it has seen the security police analysis before taking a decision. 

None of these leagues can block membership, however. It is the Social Democrats’ ruling party committee which is empowered to take the decision.