Sweden boosts defence spending
The Swedish Armed Forces will receive an additional SEK 500 million this year to help boost Sweden's defence, the government and three opposition parties announced Monday - a decision welcomed by Sweden's Supreme Commander.
The five parties within the so-called defence group - the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Moderates, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats - reached the deal after two months of negotiations and announced at a press conference on Monday.
Reacting to the announcement, the supreme commander of Sweden's Armed Forces, Micael Bydén, told Swedish Radio that it was a "positive" move and that the increased funds will contribute to better preparedness, more military exercises and more military material.
Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist said this broad agreement sends a "good signal to the Swedish people, a good singal to the armed forces and a good signal to the surrounding world".
According to the government, the money - to be paid out this year - will go both to military and civil defence. A total SEK 75 million will go to municipalities' and regional authorities' efforts to raise preparedness levels, including improving IT security and the defence against cyber attacks. On the military side, part of the money will go to returning air defence capabilities to the Baltic island of Gotland.
This comes on top of the framework defence budget for the 2016-2020 period that the same five parties agreed on two years ago already. However, it should not be seen as a response to the Armed Forces' recent request ahead of next year's budget, said Hultqvist.
Hultqvist said: "The parties behind this deal agree that a further strengthening of the resources will be needed 2018. The budget request from the Armed Forces needs to be analysed further, and this will be the subject of further talks during the spring, ahead of next year's budget."
A couple of weeks ago, Bydén said the military needed an additional SEK 6.5 billion between 2018 and 2020 to cover increased costs and to meet the government's targets. These demands will be dealt with in due course and as a separate matter, said Hultqvist.
However, on Monday, Bydén said the funding boost sends an important signal and is an acknowledgment that Sweden's security situation has changed. Bydén said: "The fact that one is adressing this with a short-term spending increase is a welcome first step. As an expert authority, we are now ready to be the dialogue partner we should be, and we are ready to give advice for the 2018 to 2020 period."
The Liberal Party is not part of the defence group and its leader, Jan Björklund, criticised the agreement on Monday. The Liberals instead want SEK 4 billion extra for defence in 2017, and a total SEK 28 billion extra until 2020. The Liberal Party wants Sweden to join Nato, and advocates a defence budget that - in 10 years' time - is in line with the Nato target of two per cent of the GDP. This would require Sweden to spend almost twice as much money on defence compared to today.