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Why is Finland’s PM coming to Sweden on Wednesday?

Finland's Prime Minister is coming to Sweden on Wednesday on the day her country publishes the results of its analysis of the new security environment for Finland following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Why is Finland's PM coming to Sweden on Wednesday?
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (left) and Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin at a European Council meeting in March. Photo: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva/ AFP

What is the Finnish ‘report on changes in the security environment’? 

The Finnish government launched the report on March 17th, as the precursor to an “extensive discussion on foreign and security policy” in the Finnish parliament. 

The report has been prepared by a coordination group led by Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, and will assess the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine across all aspects of Finland’s government. 

“The report will discuss Finland’s foreign, security and defence policy, but also the economic impacts in the situation that has changed, security of supply, preparedness, border security, cyber security and hybrid influence activities,” the government said in a press release when it was announced. 

Will the report recommend that Finland join the Nato security alliance? 

No. The press release sent out by the Finnish foreign ministry on Tuesday says very clearly: “The report does not contain policy proposals”. 

Anne Sjöholm, Marin’s EU press officer told The Local that it is also premature to expect Marin to announce that she has decided on the back of the analysis to advocate that Finland apply to join Nato. 

“I think she will say her view only much later, after a few weeks, because she wants the parliament and her own party to have time for an open discussion about this,” she said.  

Follow the national Nato debate with The Local’s podcast, Sweden in Focus

So why is Sanna Marin coming to Stockholm on the day the report is published? 

“It is only a coincidence that the two things are happening at the same time,” Sjöholm told The Local. 

But Nina Kefi, the press secretary for Sweden’s cabinet office, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that Marin would nonetheless give Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, a briefing on the conclusions of the Finnish report shortly before its publication. 

“She is going to explain it to Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson,” she said.

Marin has said that she would like Sweden and Finland to move towards their decisions on Nato membership at around the same pace, even if each country should still be able to decide independently.  

But even Patrik Oksanen, a Nato advocate at the Swedish security policy think tank Frivärld, sees the meeting as more a step along the way. 

“S [the Social Democrats] are not going to change position on 13/4 just because Finland’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin comes over with the details on the Finnish position and timetable,” he wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday night.

“But even if the defenders of non-alignment in the party are trying to blow the debate back into life, everything more or less points towards Sweden following Finland. 

“From the Finnish side then, it looks like they’d rather Sweden and Finland go together arm and arm, but they aren’t ready to wait too many weeks for their Swedish comrades.”

What will happen on Wednesday? 

Andersson and Marin will hold a joint press conference shortly after 12pm, in which both will express their concern at the deteriorating security situation. Neither, however, is likely to say that they have themselves decided that their countries should join Nato. 

Marin will say she does not want to give her opinion until Finland’s parliament has held its debate over the coming weeks. Andersson is likely to say that she wants to wait for her party to hold its own internal debate, and until she has received Sweden’s own new analysis of the security situation. 

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BREAKING

MP vows to sink budget if Sweden drops Turkey weapons ban

The Swedish independent MP Amineh Kakabaveh has said she will vote down the government's amendment budget next week if it does not commit to maintaining its ban on selling weapons to Turkey.

MP vows to sink budget if Sweden drops Turkey weapons ban

Kakabaveh, who resigned from the Left Party in 2019, how holds the decisive vote in Sweden’s parliament, and she has been using the leverage this gives her to extract pledges from the government to support the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Syria. 

Turkey’s demand that Sweden ends its weapons ban is one of its key conditions to back Sweden’s bid for Nato membership, so ceding to Kakabaveh’s demand threatens to freeze the country’s Nato talks.  

Kakabaveh told Sweden’s TT newswire that if she did not use her position for the good of the Kurds, it would be tantamount to helping Turkey in its attacks. 

“It would be as if I was sending weapons there which are used against the Kurds,” she said. 

READ ALSO: What’s going on with pensions and Sweden’s budget? 

Sweden’s government hopes to submit an additional amendment budget to parliament next week which, if it wins Kakabaveh’s support, would allow it to pass its budget and honour a deal struck in November with the Left Party to hike monthly payments for the poorest pensioners. 

When Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg came to Sweden on Monday, he singled out dropping the arms ban as one of the “important steps” Sweden was making to overcome Turkey’s objections. 

“I welcome that Sweden has already started to change its counter-terrorism legislation and that Sweden will ensure that the legal framework for arms export will reflect the future status as a Nato member with new commitments to allies,” he said. 

Kakabaveh has now used her position to extract concessions four times: once last July, when parliament voted on whether  to return Stefan Löfven as prime minister, once in November, when Magdalena Andersson was elected PM, once in the run-up to the no-confidence vote in Sweden’s justice minister on June 7th, and now in the run-up to next week’s additional amendment budget vote. 

Sweden’s party system means that unless she finds a party willing to have her as a candidate, she will cease to be an MP after September’s election. 

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