Swedish PM: We have stepped up terrorism fight as part of our Nato bid

The writer is prime minister of Sweden

With just over five weeks to go until the Nato summit in Vilnius, it is time to seriously consider Sweden’s application for Nato membership. Since the organisation’s meeting last year, 29 allies have approved Sweden’s application. Turkey and Hungary remain. Sweden has entered into an agreement with Turkey in which the fight against terrorism is one of the key points. 

On Thursday, new legislation enters into force in Sweden that makes it illegal to participate in a terrorist organisation in any way that promotes, strengthens or supports it. We are thereby delivering on the last part of our agreement. Sweden fully supports Turkey against all threats to its national security and condemns all terrorist organisations, including the PKK, that carry out attacks against it.

Terrorism is unquestionably a very serious threat to our societies. It must be fought using all means compatible with the rule of law and democracy.

We are living in an increasingly dangerous world. Alongside state actors, terrorists and violent extremists also pose a serious threat. Sweden has been under a heightened terrorism threat since 2010. Our security services also recently established that we have become a priority target for terrorism, not least due to Koran burnings and disinformation campaigns over Swedish social services taking Muslim children into care.

The legislation now entering into force will give Sweden new and powerful tools to prosecute those who support terrorism. This involves three elements. 

First, the legislation closes a loophole in our anti-terrorism laws. Unlike some of its neighbours, Sweden has not previously prohibited participation in a terrorist organisation. This meant that there was a risk that those who were not directly involved in perpetrating a specific terrorist act but actively supported such activities in some other way — by providing logistics or administration, for example — could evade punishment. This is no longer the case. We now have legislative parity with our neighbours.

The new legislation also targets individuals who financially support other people’s participation in terrorist organisations, or who publicly encourage or recruit others to join such organisations. Furthermore, it criminalises travel for the purpose of participating in terrorist activities outside Sweden. 

Second, the penalties will be severe. The basic maximum sentence is four years in prison. For the most serious offences, the sentence is a minimum of two and a maximum of eight years in prison. For leaders of terrorist organisations, the sentence is between two years and life.

Examples of acts of participation that will be punishable include handling equipment, setting up camps, organising meeting venues, administering housing, providing childcare, organising activities, preparing food and providing transportation. Financing these forms of participation will also be punishable.

Third, our enhanced anti-terrorism regulations will be significant when it comes to Sweden’s international co-operation in the EU and Nato. Every year, there are numerous terrorist attacks around the world. Terrorism has become a serious international problem that severely tests those societies affected and threatens peace and security everywhere, both domestically and globally. 

Tackling the threat it poses requires intensive national and international efforts. Sweden’s new, enhanced legislation will facilitate our co-operation with Turkey, as well as with other Nato and EU countries. 

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was a historic turning point for European and global security. Russia’s actions are a brutal attack not just on Ukraine, but on international law and the principles that are the foundation of the European security order. The Kremlin’s aggression has had repercussions beyond the war in Ukraine. It has led to strong unity in support of Ukraine and against Russia, but also to Sweden abandoning more than 200 years of military non-alignment and applying to join Nato. 

Sweden stands ready to be an active and loyal ally, and to contribute to the security of the entire alliance from day one. We have a strong defence and will contribute to Nato’s enhanced forward presence in the Baltic Sea region, Baltic Air Policing and other operations. Ultimately, only Vladimir Putin has anything to gain from Sweden remaining outside Nato. 

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