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Article Sweden: Government Announces Intent to Apply for NATO Membership

On May 16, 2022, the Swedish government decided to apply for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and Finland’s decision to join as well.

Announcing the decision during a joint press conference held by the two largest parties, the ruling Social Democrats party and the largest opposition party, the Moderates (together representing 170 of 349 votes in the Swedish parliament), Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson explained that joining NATO is in Sweden’s national security interests. The decision thereby changes the ruling Social Democrats’ longstanding foreign policy of not joining NATO, which it reaffirmed as recently as February 16, 2022.   

The Swedish Constitution authorizes the Swedish government to make international agreements. (10 kap. 1 § Regeringsformen (RF) (SFS 1974:152) (Swedish Constitution).) According to the Constitution, the government must normally receive the approval of the parliament for binding international commitments of great importance, but when the interest of Sweden so requires, the government need only consult with the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs at the Royal Palace. On May 16, 2022, the government informed the Swedish king that it intends to apply for membership in NATO during a meeting of the Advisory Council. In addition, the parliament held a special debate regarding security policy deliberations and the NATO application on the same day. The parliamentary debate, which was attended by one representative of each political party, in particular discussed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ report titled A Worsened Security Policy Situation and Its Consequences for Sweden. During the debate, the Swedish prime minister reiterated her commitment to increasing the country’s defense spending to 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a requirement to join NATO. In addition, she referred to the special status of military cooperation between Finland and Sweden and the importance of Finland now taking the leap to join NATO as well, highlighting the risks that Sweden would face being the only Nordic country to remain outside of NATO.

During the debate, a majority of the Swedish parties expressed support for joining the NATO alliance, with only two parties definitely against — the Left Party and the Greens. The leader of the Left Party argued that it was a betrayal of the voters to apply for NATO membership before the national election to parliament in September, and she has previously argued in favor of a national referendum on membership. Similarly, the leader of the Greens argued that the decision was rushed and should have been postponed until after the parliamentary elections this fall, giving the Swedish people a chance to vote through their party affiliation on whether they support NATO membership. In total, seven out of nine parties, representing 316 out of 349 members of the parliament, support NATO membership.

The application for membership will be followed by a ratification proposal from the government that is believed will easily pass the parliament.

Because of the decision to join NATO, the government must propose legislation that will allow Sweden to give military support to all NATO and European Union countries and receive such support as well. Currently, Swedish law allows military support only from Finland. (Lag om operativt militärt stöd mellan Sverige och Finland (SFS 2020:782).) The proposal for expanded military support will be adopted using an expedited process and is expected to be passed this week, allowing Sweden to receive military support during the NATO application process.

According to the press conference announcement, the final NATO application will be made together with Finland. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the application on May 17, 2022.

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Chicago citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Government Announces Intent to Apply for NATO Membership. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-05-17/sweden-government-proposes-nato-membership/.

APA citation style:

Hofverberg, E. (2022) Sweden: Government Announces Intent to Apply for NATO Membership. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-05-17/sweden-government-proposes-nato-membership/.

MLA citation style:

Hofverberg, Elin. Sweden: Government Announces Intent to Apply for NATO Membership. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-05-17/sweden-government-proposes-nato-membership/>.