Boris Johnson in Sweden for defence talks

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in Sweden, with newspapers reporting he will sign a defence deal aimed at protecting Sweden during the Nato transition period.

Boris Johnson in Sweden for defence talks
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinks a cup of tea. Photo: Toby Melville/AFP

“This is a deal which is valid until further notice, but it is an important signal ahead of the coming [Nato] ratification process,” a source with knowledge of the deal told the Aftonbladet newspaper. 

Johnson will meet Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson at her official country retreat at Harpsund, about 100km west of Stockholm, followed by a joint press conference at 1.40pm.

The two will discuss the security situation in Europe and bilateral relations and cooperation between Sweden and the UK.

According to the newspaper, recent classified meetings of the Swedish parliament’s defence and foreign committees, MPs have been told of secret bilateral cooperation with the UK.

According to several of the newspaper’s sources, Johnson is visiting to officially sign an agreement on this deeper bilateral cooperation, which will, among other things, see British naval vessels dispatched to the Baltic to protect Swedish and Finnish waters during the Nato ratification process. 

Following the press conference, Johnson will then travel onwards to Helsinki, where he will meet with Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The goal of that meeting is the same: Johnson and Niinistö will discuss the European security situation and then hold a press conference together.

UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace visited Finland last week, and gave reassurances that the UK would support Finland and Sweden in the event of an attack from Russia, whether or not the two countries decide to join Nato.

This slightly toughened up an earlier pledge of support he gave at a meeting with his Swedish and Danish counterparts at the start of March.  

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UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway have agreed to extend talks with the SAS airline until midday on Monday, after a deadline on Saturday passed without a deal. SAS flights scheduled for this weekend will fly as normal.

UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday

The Swedish pilots’ union SPF and other unions have been negotiating for weeks, with the deadline for a strike extended from midnight on Friday, to 11am on Saturday morning, and now until midday on Monday.

“We need to sleep, no one has slept with us for a very long time,” SAS’s chief negotiator, Marianne Hernæs, told Sweden’s TT newswire.

“We’ll meet again tomorrow. Now I am going home and sleeping, I have not slept for many hours,” Keld Bækkelund Hansen, leader of the Danish trade union Dansk Metal, told Denmark’s Ritzau newswire. 

Hernæs said that the two sides were still “extremely far away from one another” when it came to their positions. 

On June 9, the pilot unions of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark submitted their notice to strike on June 29th, with the strike then postponed until July 1st, then again until July 2nd, and now until Monday the 4th. If negotiations do not succeed, 900 pilots could go on strike at midnight.

Flights from SAS subsidiaries, SAS Connect, SAS Link, Cityjet Xfly and Air Baltic were unlikely to be directly affected by the pilot strike.

The SAS management and SPF have been in intensive negotiations for several weeks on a new collective agreement.

The Swedish pilot union believes that SAS is circumventing the right to re-employment by using staff from two subsidiaries as temporary labourers. 

Some 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic have not been re-employed.

After negotiations continued all night last night, the situation remains unclear but is progressing, according to the chief negotiator.

“We regret this situation we are in but we actually try everything we can,” says Marianne Hernæs.

Harsh criticism

On Friday, Norwegian put heavy pressure on SAS when the Norwegian pilot union threatened to drive the company into bankruptcy.

The Swedish pilot union also sharply criticized SAS’s negotiating position on Friday.

“An employer who tries to organize away from employer responsibility and agreements entered into by starting a letterbox company has nothing to do with the Swedish labor market and lacks justification for existence”, Martin Lindgren, chairman of the SAS section at the Swedish Pilot Association, said in a written comment to TT.