Swedish Min Roswall to ANA-MPA: Greek-Swedish collaboration could be strengthened further

Sweden wants to strengthen its relations with Greece, Minister for European Union Affairs of Sweden Jessika Roswall said in an interview to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), on the occasion of her first visit to Athens.

Specifically, Roswall said bilateral collaboration could be furthered in the sectors of trade, culture, and defense. In the latter case in particular, Greece and Sweden could strengthen collaboration in defense industry and the armed forces. She also noted there is need to work jointly on the migration issue, in the framework of the new EU Asylum and Migration Pact.

The Swedish minister also spoke of support to Ukraine, the need for the EU to act decisively with the United States and others to deescalate tension, and said that of the challenges the EU faced, the need to become safer, greener, and freer were the most important.

Minister for European Union Affairs of Sweden Jessika Roswall’s interview to ANA-MPA follows:

What is the state of play between Greece and Sweden, and what are the prospects for further strengthening? In which areas is there scope for deepening bilateral relations? What is the purpose of your visit?
Our countries have a long history of cooperation and share common values within the European Union. Now we also have excellent relations and good prospects as NATO allies. Going forward, our cooperation can be strengthened even further in areas such as trade, cultural ties, and defence – both with regards to the defence industry and between our armed forces. Our current governments also emphasise Europe’s competitiveness as a driver of growth high up on the agenda. This is also an area where we could deepen our cooperation, to make sure that the EU becomes an even more attractive place to do business. The purpose of my visit is therefore to strengthen the relations between our countries and governments. This is my first time to visit Greece in the capacity of EU Minister and I am delighted to learn more about your country.

What is the Greek-Swedish cooperation within the EU? What opportunities do you see for increased collaboration between Sweden and Greece on EU matters?
As two European People’s Party (EPP) governments, we are obviously aligned on a lot of issues. Both Greece and Sweden play an active and constructive role, for example, when it comes to supporting Ukraine and providing humanitarian assistance in the Middle East. And although we are geographically located in two completely different parts of the EU, our experiences can still be compared with regards to migration. We have both been subject to high influxes of migration. My hope is that we will now manage to implement the new Pact on migration and asylum so that we can enhance our joint cooperation even more in this area as well.

The EU is facing two conflicts in its neighborhood. How do you assess the EU’s response, and what role should it play?
I would say that we have had a strong response in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Still, the single most important priority for the EU must continue to be to maintain full support for Ukraine in this war, and on this issue Greece has played a constructive part. For Sweden, Russia’s war of aggression is existential. It is closer to Kyiv from Stockholm than it is to Brussels. Therefore, we will continue to support Ukraine financially, politically, militarily and with humanitarian aid as long as it is takes.
On Israel/Palestine, our immediate, firm and united EU response – together with the U.S. and others – provides a strong force to de-escalate the situation. We need to make every effort to keep it that way. We need to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, to save lives, secure the release of hostages, scale up humanitarian aid and further de-escalate region.

What do you think about Macron’s proposal for stronger, more integrated European defences as he outlined his vision for a more assertive European Union on the global stage?
First of all, it is clear that European countries should do more to take responsibility for our own security and spend more on defence to reach NATO’s 2 percent target. This is why Sweden will meet and even surpass the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP in 2024. The EU plays an important role in financing support for Ukraine and can also be important when it comes to e.g. research and development projects in the defence industry. But when it comes to the operational aspects, NATO remains Sweden’s focus for European defence.

A few days ago marked the 20th anniversary since ten new countries joined the EU. What are the main challenges that the EU faces?
Early this summer, this is exactly the question that the leaders in the European Council will have to answer in setting out the strategic agenda that will guide the incoming Commission.
Overall, the Swedish government believes that the EU has to move to become safer, greener, and freer. Safer means prioritising support to Ukraine, implementing the migration pact, and strengthening our cooperation against organised crime. Greener means that we should effectively implement the new climate package Fit for 55 and also make sure that we can make the green transition an economic success. And finally, freer means that we make Europe freer both for businesses to boost our competitiveness and that we secure the values of freedom, democracy, and rule of law that makes the EU so strong and successful. This is especially important in light of a future enlargement, which we have to prepare for.