Foreign minister Carl Bildt of the conservative Moderates and Urban Ahlin of the opposition Social Democrats. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Bildt: "Yanukovych has blood on his hands"

"There are limits to the EU's influence in the Ukraine today"
3:25 min

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt opened the debate on Sweden's official foreign policy in Parliament Wednesday morning by focusing on the situation in the Ukraine, leveling harsh criticism at President Viktor Yanukovych.

"It's a dark day for Europe. On the streets of one of our capitals, people are being killed," Bildt said, before launching into the speech he had initially prepared to give. "Today, Yanukovych has blood on his hands," he continued, speaking of the Ukrainian president.

He said that Yanukovych had the opportunity to reach out his hand but that instead it became a "clenched fist".

"I fear that Ukraine is heading towards darker days," said Bildt.

In presenting Sweden's policy on foreign affairs, Bildt said: "We are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine." He urged both the leadership and the opposition of Ukraine to find a way out of the political crisis.

"The EU is ready to support the reform policies that this mismanaged country so desperately needs," Bildt said. "By the same token, we are prepared to take measures if the regime instead chooses the shortsighted path of repression and brutality."

In the parliamentary debate that followed, Urban Ahlin of the opposition Social Democrats also blamed Yanukovych for the violence and, according to news agency TT, demanded that Bildt be clear that the EU institute sanctions against the people who have committed crimes on the streets of Ukraine. Ahlin said that part of the responsibility for the Eu's failed policies with regard to Ukraine lies with Bildt, even if Bildt "did what he could."

Every year in February, the Minister for Foreign Affairs presents the government's foreign policy declaration in Parliament. The so-called foreign affairs declaration spells out the government's foreign policy priorities for the coming year, covering security policy, aid and development, environmental cooperation, trade policy and promotion of human rights and international law.

The EU parliament election on May 25th was another key issue, and Bildt also had harsh words for EU-sceptics, saying hostility towards Europe goes hand in hand with xenophobia.

Jullia Kronlid, the spokesperson on foreign affairs for the Sweden Democrats, addressed Bildt's criticism and said that her party does not want Sweden to be isolated from the rest of the world, however she says that the EU Swedes voted in 1994 to join is not the one Sweden is in now, and that there should be a new referendum.

Another role Bildt wants to carve out for Sweden is as a defender of online freedom. At the same time the government is keen to keep good ties with the Turkish government, which has just introduced laws clamping down on freedom of expression.

Sweden wants a place on the UN security council, but the Social Democrats said the government has not been proactive enough here.

The Left Party's Hans Linde demanded that the next government make Swedish weapons export stricter, so that the law would clearly forbid, without exception, weapons exports to dictators, countries at war, and countries that commit serious breaches against human rights.

With respect to the climate, Bodil Ceballos from the Green party criticized the government for casting aside its position as a leader in international climate policy. The conservative Moderates, who lead the Swedish government, had voted no to the EU policy that would have been needed to reach the 2 degree goal, she said.

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