Prime Minister of Sweden

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 28 September 1983

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all, I would like to say how pleased and honoured I am to have been invited to address this Assembly. My visit to Strasbourg today is evidence of the high esteem and respect that the Council of Europe enjoys in my country. Sweden has been a member of the Council since its creation in 1949. Our membership affirms our deep attachment to the ideals of Western democracy and our interest in the important work and activities of this organisation. It is the declared policy of my government to deepen relations with Europe. The Council plays a vital and indispensable part in our pursuit of that policy.

The Council of Europe is, indeed, an important forum for the discussion of co-operation in Europe at ministerial level as well as among parliamentarians. It is also doing essential work in the social, cultural and legal fields. The unique strength and moral authority of the Council, however, stem from the principles laid down in its statute, requiring the member states to safeguard the fundamental democratic values of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law.

Six years ago I had the opportunity of delivering a statement in this very hall at a symposium on the European Social Charter. At that juncture, the role of the Council as an institution for safeguarding democracy in Europe had been substantially strengthened. We had welcomed the re-entry of Greece into our organisation, as well as the new members, Portugal and Spain. Three European dictatorships had been toppled, and replaced by democracies. The development was an enormous source of comfort to us who firmly believe in the ideals of the Council of Europe. It demonstrated that the peoples’ yearning for freedom can never be crushed. It will always manifest itself again. It also demonstrates that democracy must always be defended, and that this defence must include persistent efforts to achieve the right to work and to social justice.

Our belief in the validity of these ideas, as well as solidarity with the persecuted and oppressed, should lead us to require all states to respect democratic rights and liberties. I am convinced that by shedding light on the consequences of oppression, public opinion in our countries plays a constructive role. In this connection the Assembly, with its large representation from member parliaments, has proved to be an important moral and spiritual force. I am also confident that the Assembly will continue to make an active and vital contribution in that regard.

This ambition of the Council of Europe presupposes, of course, a particular responsibility for upholding respect for human rights and democracy in its own region. Only if we are able to deal effectively and honestly with our own internal problems can we expect others to show respect for the positions taken by the Council.

One of our member states, Turkey, is at present not a democracy. Turkey undeniably lived through difficult and exceptional times before the military coup in September 1980. Sweden has taken the line that, being also a body for cooperation between its member countries, the Council of Europe could and should play a constructive role in furthering the restoration of full democracy in Turkey.

A year ago, however, our increasing concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey led us, together with four other countries, to refer the case of Turkey to the European Commission of Human Rights. Today, only six weeks before the promised parliamentary elections, Turkey is still a country where far-reaching restrictions on human rights are imposed.

The impression gained from the new constitution, the election law, the bans on former politicians and extensive interference in the election process gives us further grounds for questioning the kind of democracy the military regime has in mind.

After the elections we shall be in a better position to assess the course Turkey has embarked upon. It is my opinion that the Council cannot lower its democratic standards to accommodate individual member states. All must be measured by the same criteria.

As I have already mentioned, human rights transcend national boundaries. We must fight for them wherever they are in jeopardy, be it in Africa, Asia, Central America or Europe. It is quite clear that in the Eastern part of Europe, human rights are not respected. The regimes in that part of our continent are hard dictatorships, whose continued existence in many cases has had to be supported by foreign troops. This development towards dictatorship is especially tragic in countries like Czechoslovakia that have had a long democratic tradition.

In this connection I would like to draw attention to another country which is not European but which also has had a democratic tradition. I am thinking of Chile. With the coup in Santiago ten years ago, one of the few established democracies in the Third World was crushed by the military.

Since then the people of Chile have seen their material conditions drastically deteriorate, as well as their civil rights and liberties.

Today, however, the dictatorship is shaken. In this crucial phase it is vital that the representative democratic forces in Chile be given firm support in their efforts to restore democracy and human rights.

The Council of Europe has a unique moral authority in this field and in its Parliamentary Assembly gathers together political groupings which are in kinship with many of Chile’s political parties, those parties that now are working together to restore democracy in their home country – and they need and deserve our support.

If we could compare our societies here in Europe with how they looked say ten years ago, there is one drastic change that is of paramount importance to all of us. That is the steadily increasing number of people without a job.

In my opinion, unemployment is the most important single cause of social injustice and inequality in today’s welfare state. It has been said by many, in this hall and elsewhere, that unemployment is a social curse. Nevertheless, in the last few years unemployment has risen rapidly into numbers previously unheard of in the post-war period. In the West European countries, close to 10 million people were out of work five years ago. In 1980, that figure had risen to almost 12 million. Last year it reached 16 million, and next year almost 20 million people are expected to be unemployed. And the worst unemployment rates are found among our young generations.

The figures I have given you mean that next year unemployment will actually have doubled since 1978 – something that was almost unthinkable at that time. But even though the situation has deteriorated drastically, it does not seem to have caused the same public reaction. On the contrary, one sometimes gets the sad impression that the higher the unemployment figures get the less they seem to be talked about in some places.

Furthermore, it seems as if no change is in sight. Just a few days ago, OECD published an alarming report about the unemployment prospects for the rest of this decade. The report says that, even though the long-awaited economic recovery is under way, it does not seem likely to make inroads into unemployment for some time. To reduce OECD unemployment to the level of 1979 would require 20 000 new jobs to be created each day for the last five years of this decade. Only to keep unemployment from rising would require up to 20 million new jobs in the same period.

The problem of unemployment affects all countries – including those, like Sweden, where the rate of joblessness has been comparatively low through the years. We have now clear signs of an upturn in the Swedish economy, with a rather rapid growth in industrial production – but the level of unemployment is yet to be lowered.

The fight against unemployment is in my mind a principal task of all governments, matched in importance only by the struggle for peace and disarmament. There are many reasons for this.

First, unemployment is a terrible waste. At present, resources of production all over the world are grossly under-utilised. This is certainly not because all human needs are satisfied. As we all know, quite the contrary is true. In large parts of the world, not even the most basic needs of people can be met. In all societies there are vast unfulfilled needs, the fulfilment of which require human labour.

Still, a plenitude of production capacity is confined to idleness. People who want nothing better than a job are forced to spend their days also in idleness. This means less production – and hence less consumption – than would otherwise be possible. Therefore, unemployment is a waste.

Secondly, unemployment means human suffering.

Behind the hard facts of labour market statistics hide the misfortunes of innumerable individuals. It is only too easy to forget that each and every one of those millions of unemployed is a human being.

It could be the “guest worker” from southern Europe or North Africa who came to the industrial centres of Europe and for years took all the lowest-paid jobs but still found it possible to support himself and the family he left behind. Now he is told to return home.

Or it could be the girl I met about a year ago at a youth employment service in Sweden. She does not starve. Her parents and society provide for most of her basic needs – but not the need to be wanted, to be needed.

“I sleep late in the morning”, she said. “About lunchtime I may go down to the employment service. Sometimes they have something that might suit me. If so, I go and see the company in question. Usually there are lots of other applicants. Usually I have the wrong education. In any case, no one wants to employ a person without work experience. I have applied for jobs and been rejected fifty or sixty times. In the evening I stay home and watch TV or go down town to see my friends. I am OK so far, but I am quickly losing hope and confidence, and I grow worried when I see what is happening to some of my friends.”

What I think this girl’s story shows is that work is first and foremost a way to earn a living, but it is also much more than that.

In the 1950s, work was often described as a sort of “necessary evil”. We worked to earn leisure time. Our free time was the compensation for a tedious and monotonous job in an often unhealthy and unpleasant working environment. Books were written about a future civilisation based on leisure.

Work was then regarded by many as a matter isolated from living. With this attitude, it was not so important what working life was like, who decided on the working place and what this power was used for. Perhaps it was not important if some people did not have a job, as long as they had a decent economic situation.

They are maybe not only thoughts of the ’50s – one can certainly hear echoes of them now and then these days as well. But among many others, a new attitude to work has been taking form. Work is not only something you do eight hours a day, five days a week, for a certain compensation. Work also has a decisive influence on our family life, our relations with other people, and our general role in society.

Having a job is a major part of people’s social life. Work is an important part of a person’s identity. Work is intimately connected with values like self-confidence, human dignity, the purpose of life.

Thus, it is no surprise that increased unemployment coincides with increased mortality, a worsened state of health, more suicides, more shattered families, increased crime rates, increased use of drugs and more prostitution. The social consequences of mass unemployment are formidable.

The third reason for the need to fight unemployment has a direct relevance to the goals set up and the work done by the Council of Europe. I firmly believe that mass unemployment will ultimately constitute a threat to democracy. Or to put it in another way, democracy will in the long run not survive in countries with remaining high levels of unemployment. It undermines the fabric of society on which democracy has to be built. The open, tolerant, democratic societies cannot oppose that. Whether it will be autocratic societies of the Left or of the Right, I do not know, but open democracies it will not be.

What I think is particularly dangerous in this respect is the vast unemployment among our young people. We talk about the crisis of the economy. We say that everyone has to contribute to the solution of our economic problems. But when young people get out of school and want a job, when they want to take full part in the world of grown-ups, when they want to make their contribution, they are told that they are not wanted, not needed. Their contribution to the solution of the crisis is to be unemployed.

This causes young people to lose hope and confidence in themselves. It also creates bitterness and despair, loss of confidence in society, in our democratic institutions. If we deny young people the right to be full members of society, they may choose to place themselves outside society.

It is now argued that the experience of the last few years shows that maybe it is not so dangerous with unemployment after all. We have not had any violent reactions, in spite of new record high levels of the number of people out of work. Those who are jobless get some income anyway, and are not suffering too much. And some even say that maybe it is a good thing with a little more unemployment – it makes the unions more accommodating, and keeps inflation down.

These are in my mind very short-sighted arguments. The reactions against unemployment may not have been so violent – yet. But when generation after generation of young people find that there is no place for many of them on the labour market, the whole fabric of a democratic society may be undermined. And that is something that is not easily repaired, even if then the rate of joblessness were to go down again.

So, to sum up, I believe that the fight against unemployment is of paramount importance: in order to avoid waste in a pure economic sense; in order to alleviate the social consequences and the human suffering resulting from unemployment; and in order to restore faith in the democratic way of government, to strengthen democracy itself.

This is not the time or the place to go into a detailed analysis of what could be the best cure for our economies, how to best reverse the trends that lead to increased unemployment. I have simply wished to give an opinion on why this fight for more jobs is of such an extraordinary importance.

Sometimes the point is made that, if we want economic stability and low inflation, we must also accept some unemployment. It is true that the fight against inflation is of extreme importance. And it is true that traditional means of increasing demand by, for example, general tax cuts or a soft credit policy often has led to higher inflation. But there is no inexorable trade-off between full employment and inflation. There is no absolute need to pay for economic stability by taking jobs away from people. A more selective economic policy, with support for viable industries and an active regional policy, could increase employment without heavy inflationary pressures. It is a more difficult policy than the traditional Keynesian model, but it is also something that could give better results, if handled carefully and skilfully.

One thing must be emphasised. The fight against unemployment is a common fight, something that nations must do together. No country can pursue a policy of expansion on its own. Such policies inevitably lead to loss of competitive strength, and to large current account deficits. Soon enough, any attempt to expand on one’s own will have to be reversed. The solution to this is really very simple, and yet so difficult to implement. International economic interdependence means that the world economic crisis is not the separate crises of a large number of nations. It is a common crisis. Its solution is concerted action in order to step up growth and employment. As Helmut Schmidt put it in an article some time ago:

“We are still facing the question: Will countries try to solve their joint problems by co-operating – as it were, play a game in which everyone is the winner – or will they move into confrontation, a game in which everyone is the loser?”

There is still a long way to travel before we have reached a general understanding on the specific nature of a concerted action for growth. There is an on-going discussion, of course, on the best means of combating unemployment. Some argue that job-sharing is a good idea; that by decreasing the number of hours we have to work, we could create jobs for those who do not have any. Others propose an expanded public sector, which would give jobs in fields where many demands are still not met. But to a large extent we are still groping in the dark. It is, however, essential both for the future of Europe and for the future of democracy on this continent that we get together and find the right remedies against the plague of unemployment.

One thought only, put forward by the Swedish economist Rudolf Meidner in a speech the other day: Meidner compared the obvious difficulties we have in organising our economies in a way that gives people the opportunity to do all the jobs that are so badly needed, with the immense research apparatus and organisational efforts that are available to the military planners.

All over the world, there are “think-tanks” full of scientists working full-time on strategies for war. A major part of all technological research is devoted to military purposes. Innumerable billions of dollars and roubles and other kinds of money are used for the development of sophisticated new defence systems.

Why, one may ask, can we not use the same systematic approach in the fight against unemployment? Why could not there be a massive research programme with the object of organising jobs for people? Why cannot we have more “think-tanks” devoted to finding a strategy for employment and growth?

This spring I attended a conference in a Swedish city, about youth unemployment. There were many young people there, and during the discussion I invited fifteen of them to come back six months later, to the Swedish Prime Minister’s residence in the countryside, to discuss the situation for young people on the labour market.

This event took place the day before yesterday. The hours we had together – the unemployed youth, together with some representatives of the government and myself – taught me very much about the feeling of being unemployed. In preparation for this meeting, the young people who were there had worked hard on constructive proposals. These proposals were mostly based on their own activities, what they could do to organise themselves to start businesses and other activities of various kinds as they searched for employment. They were constructive and optimistic. It was a remarkable experience and it showed how important it is to have self-confidence, and how much that can do for young people. And we, in our turn, should have confidence in the young. We should never let them down. Because to have confidence in young people is to have confidence in the future of our society.

Finally, a few concluding words about that other issue which is of tremendous importance to all of us – the struggle for peace. We are living in a time of frightening insecurity. This autumn, the focus is again on Europe, on our own continent. We are faced with the prospect of another round of increase of that ultimate of weapons, nuclear arms, when the only reasonable way would be to reduce these arms.

Many have argued that peace in Europe is actually dependent upon the nuclear capabilities of the two military alliances. And it may be true that deterrence has prevented war in the past. But nuclear weapons are a special kind. Their existence has changed the very concept of war, because a nuclear war can never be won. These weapons do not offer any real protection. If they were to be used, the destruction would defy imagination. The so-called “victor” would be left in possession of a wasteland poisoned by radiation. Civilisation as we know it could be destroyed in a matter of hours. The facts about what nuclear destruction would mean are becoming well known to the public. But the consequences have not been drawn. States continue to prepare for nuclear war, and go on testing and producing nuclear weapons as ever before. This, of course, is terrifying people.

One person who probably more directly than almost anyone else has been involved in discussions about nuclear deterrence is Robert McNamara, who for seven years was Secretary of Defence in the United States and President of the World Bank for more than a decade.

Robert McNamara made the other day an extremely significant contribution to the discussion about the role of nuclear arms, in an article in Foreign Affairs. His conclusion is very straightforward:

“Nuclear weapons serve no military purpose whatsoever. They are totally useless – except only to deter one’s opponent from using them.”

And his analysis is clear: to launch a strategic nuclear attack against the Soviet Union would almost certainly lead to a response which would inflict unacceptable damage on the United States, and on Europe. The same goes, of course, for the result of a Soviet strategic attack on the United States. Unlike maybe a couple of decades ago, both sides now have huge strategic arsenals of which at least a considerable part would survive a first strike, and thus could be used to strike back with catastrophic results for both sides.

McNamara calls it an “act of suicide” to launch a strategic nuclear attack. And the threat of such an action as a deterrent to Soviet conventional aggression has lost all credibility, he says. One cannot build a credible deterrent on an incredible action.

The value of the tactical nuclear weapons is also doubtful, according to McNamara. The assumption is, of course, that NATO would use these weapons in responding to a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. But tactical nuclear weapons, especially artillery, have such a short range that nuclear explosions of NATO origin would occur on NATO’s own territory, with heavy casualties and massive destruction in its own countries. Also, it must be clear that the other side most probably would respond to a NATO attack with major nuclear attacks of its own.

These were also some of the reasons behind the proposal from the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues for a zone free of battlefield nuclear weapons in central Europe. We who worked in that commission wrote in our report that these battlefield nuclear weapons pose a special danger. These are grenades, mines and short-range rockets, of which there are thousands in Western and Eastern Europe. We proposed a scheme which involves the withdrawal of nuclear munitions from within 150 kilometres of the border areas between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, starting with central Europe and extending eventually to the northern and southern flanks as well. Our proposal was a codification of the principle that nuclear munitions should not be deployed to forward areas. The idea was to alleviate the pressures towards early use of nuclear weapons, to prevent decisions made and operations initiated from the principle of “Use them or lose them”. We suggested that one would start in central Europe because this is where the confrontation is starkest and the danger of explosive escalation highest. Of course, verification is an important element. Confidence in the mutual abstention from reintroducing nuclear munitions could be maintained by national technical means and by an agreement for inspection by challenge. The arrangement would be implemented in the context of an agreement on parity and mutual force reductions in Europe.

It is of course true that nuclear weapons may be reintroduced into this zone in wartime, and that nuclear weapons may be aimed at targets inside the zone from outside. But that does not weaken the idea of this zone as a confidence building measure, aimed at lowering pressures for large-scale use of nuclear weapons where both sides prefer to stay below the nuclear threshold but may fear pre-emption by the adversary. The purpose is to help avoid falling into a trap which neither party would want to, and where there is a common interest in finding ways of preventing this.

There is no doubt that these thoughts are attracting a renewed interest these days. I am firmly convinced that this proposal would lead to improved security for both sides if it were to be realised, and that the acceptance of the idea will grow, as witnessed by the on-going discussion within NATO.

To say that peace can be achieved only through deterrence is another way of saying that the search for security must be built on fear, on the threat of revenge. The object is to inspire as much fear as possible in your opponent. His object is to do the same to you. The result is that fear will continue to increase. And, with this, more and more weapons are developed and deployed in Europe and around the world. I do not think that this can provide a long-term basis for peace.

All peoples have a common interest in avoiding nuclear war. This is the one thing on which they could agree because it concerns their survival. On this, the alternative concept of common security is based. It is founded on the idea that opponents must act together to prevent war: by negotiating balanced reductions in existing arsenals, confidence-building measures and limitations on new weapons. A constructive dialogue between East and West is essential for this effort, and so is a dialogue between decision-makers, negotiators, scientists and the immense public concerned with peace and security in all countries.

This is also part of the background to why Sweden is so honoured to be the host country of the Conference on Confidence and Security building Measures and Disarmament in Europe, which is to start in Stockholm early next year. We sincerely hope that this conference, coming at such a decisive time for the future of our continent, will contribute to the effort to build security on a foundation more solid than suspicion and fear.

I have talked today about democracy, about employment and about peace. These are issues of human survival, of human dignity and of the right of every individual to live a free life where he can develop his own future.

These are all the concerns also of the Council of Europe. Therefore, the action that the Council is taking makes its work important and meaningful to the everyday life of every individual in our part of the world. (Applause)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for having set forth so brilliantly in this chamber your views on current political issues which are of concern to us all.

You have kindly agreed to answer parliamentary questions and I am delighted at this opportunity to widen our debate. We come now to parliamentary questions for oral answer. I would remind you that only questions from parliamentarians present will be answered. Twenty written questions have been tabled. They are set out in Document 5133. Here is the list:

“Question No. 1:

Mr Martinez,

Noting that Sweden, with the other Scandinavian countries, was one of the pioneers of the policy of development assistance for the Third World,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether the economic crisis affecting all the countries of Europe has made any substantial change in this policy, and whether he thinks that this crisis can be overcome, not at the expense of the Third World, but by establishing new machinery in international economic relations contributing to the progress of all.

Question No. 2:

Mr Oreja,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden what action Europe can take, in his view, to help secure a solution making for peace and development in Central America.

Question No. 3:

Mr Hugosson,

Considering that the situation in Turkey is of great concern to many members of the Assembly, and bearing in mind that torture is practised, human rights are not respected, political and trade union leaders are persecuted and that there are no free elections,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden how he sees the future membership of Turkey in the Council of Europe.

Question No. 4:

Mr Hugosson,

Considering that unemployment nowadays has become the greatest plight in European societies, that the outlook for an improvement of the situation in the coming years looks grim, and that it is necessary to pave the way for a new organisation of the working life for the coming years and decades;

Bearing in mind that the reduction of working time is a complex problem, and that at the conference in May 1983 in Paris, a number of ministers of Labour thought that “the reduction of working time was an important feature of their governments’ labour market policies”,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden what is his opinion on the reduction of working time as a measure to reduce the unemployment in the short and long run respectively.

Question No. 5:

Mr Martinez,

Noting that the neutral and non-aligned countries – including Sweden – have played a highly important part in the relatively satisfactory outcome of the Madrid Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether he does not consider that there are initiatives which these same countries could take to promote détente at a time when East-West tension is not merely increasing dangerously but is also tending to shift and focus on Europe.

Question No. 6:

Mr Oreja,

Noting the current militarisation of international life,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden what action Europe can take to reduce present tension.

Question No. 7:

The Earl of Kinnoull,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden if his Government supports a strong unified European governmental policy insisting that Russia should accept immediate, full financial responsibility for the shooting down of the Korean airliner and that sanctions should be imposed until such an assurance is given.

Question No. 8:

Mr Scholten,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden:

  • whether, in view of the fact that the President of the United States of America recently made new proposals concerning the Geneva talks on intermediate range nuclear weapons, he considers it realistic to expect that these new proposals will lead to results in Geneva before the end of the year; and
  • whether he agrees that the actual deployment of new missiles by NATO should be postponed in order to prevent a deterioration of the international situation which would lead to a disruption of the negotiating process and to further escalation in the nuclear arms race.

Question No. 9:

Mr Andersen,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden, since he apparently wants to include in the Geneva negotiations the British and the French national missiles on the Western side although only eighteen out of these are land-based intermediate missiles, while the rest of them are to be launched from submarines, whether it would not be more logical in that case to include on the Soviet side also their submarine-based missiles, which are found rather often too close and in some cases even on the very Swedish coast itself.

Question No. 10:

Mr Baunsgaard,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden, given that he is often heard and seen criticising the arms race, how he explains and excuses the fact that his country is one of the biggest arms exporters.

Question No. 11:

Mr Blaauw,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether, in view of his support for the idea of a nuclear-free zone in the Nordic countries, he considers that this nuclear-free zone includes the Kola peninsula and other parts of the Soviet Union.

Question No. 12:

Mr Elmquist,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden how he defines a zone free from nuclear arms:

  • whether it means an area where none of the nations within that area possesses nuclear arms;
  • whether, if that is his point of view, it is not already the case for the Nordic countries;
  • or whether it means that no nuclear arms from the outside point at that, area, and
  • if he agrees with this latter definition, which of the super-powers in his opinion has at the moment got nuclear arms pointing at those Nordic countries.

Question No. 13:

Lord Reay,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether he agrees that nuclear-free zones are simply a form of unilateral disarmament under another name, and far from offering an additional measure of security to their inhabitants, in fact expose them to greater dangers by depriving them of the means of deterring an aggressor.

Question No. 14:

Mr Stokes,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden what attitude the Swedish Government will take to further incursions into Swedish waters by Soviet submarines.

Question No. 15:

Sir Anthony Grant,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden when the Swedish Navy will be able to get rid of the Soviet submarines intruding into Swedish territorial waters; and, if this takes a long time, what is the credibility meanwhile of Swedish non-aligned foreign policy aiming at neutrality in the event of war.

Question No. 16:

Sir Frederic Bennett,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden how he envisages the continuing invasion of Swedish territorial waters by Soviet nuclear-powered and nuclear armed submarines, given his oft-declared advocacy of a Scandinavian nuclear-free zone.

Question No. 17:

Mr Blaauw,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden, with regard to the outcome of the Madrid Conference and the decision to convene a conference in Stockholm on confidence and security-building measures and disarmament in Europe, what action has to be taken to prevent further incursions on the sovereignty of the Nordic countries by the Soviet Union.

Question No. 18:

Mr Wilkinson,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden what steps his Government is taking to impress upon the Government of the Soviet Union the need for human rights and self-determination to be accorded to the peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Question No. 19:

Sir Frederic Bennett,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether he regards the post-war annexation by the USSR of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as valid; whether Sweden extends de jure recognition of this state of affairs or only de facto; and what recent protests have been made by his government against the increasingly rigorous Sovietisation of these three former sovereign independent Baltic states, neighbours of Sweden.

Question No. 20:

Mr Guerra,

Considering the frequent references in Spain to the cost of NATO membership and the political reasons that have led Sweden to remain outside the Atlantic Alliance,

To ask the Prime Minister of Sweden whether he thinks, from a strictly economic standpoint, that expenditure would be higher or lower if Sweden were a member of NATO.”

In view of the number of questions, they have been divided into five groups. I shall invite Mr Palme to answer each question and group of questions. Colleagues who have asked a question on the topic under discussion usually have the opportunity of asking a supplementary question. In view of the shortage of time, however, it will not be possible to accept all the supplementary questions. I shall therefore give the floor on a priority basis to the author of the first question in each group.

We now come to the first individual question. I call Mr Palme to answer Question No. 1 on Swedish aid to the Third World, asked by Mr Martinez.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

No country has escaped the effects of the international economic crisis. We have in the Brandt Commission and in other places developed a programme of action based on the mutual interests of the poor and industrialised countries to work for growth. Unfortunately, the response is often negative, especially among the industrialised countries. Only three have reached the target of 0,7% of gross national product for aid. Protectionist tendencies are also spreading throughout the world.

The time when this Council was founded was also the time of one of the great acts of statesmanship of this century – the so-called Marshall Plan. What was that plan? The Americans feared large-scale unemployment after the war when the soldiers returned, when the wartime industries were to be dismantled and Europe was destroyed. The basic idea was to use the tremendous industrial capacity of the United States to rebuild Europe. The idea was that we should do it in our own interests because we needed work for our people and business for our industries, but at the same time we could rebuild Europe. It functioned, because Europe used the opportunity rapidly to rebuild its shattered cities, industries and so on. That was one of the great imaginative acts of statesmanship of this century.

I think that we could use the basis of this idea again. We have 20 million people unemployed in the OECD area with industries working at 60% capacity, and at the same time the world at large is starving. Why not use the idea of transferring resources to the poor countries, thereby giving them a chance to demand our products so that they can build their countries and at the same time give jobs to our people?

The discussion about enlarging the World Bank and the IMF to help to solve the debt problem is part of what ought to be a larger scheme to utilise the tremendous capacity of the industrialised countries to fight poverty throughout the whole world. That should be the answer. We need people with the power and the far-sightedness of General Marshall, based on our mutual interests, to work for expansion, growth and employment throughout the world.


I think that my question has been answered. However, I should like to say that Mr Palme’s name, the name of his country and the name of the Swedish Labour movement will be remembered with gratitude by the Spanish people and the Spanish democrats as a symbol for solidarity and democracy.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We come to the second individual question. I call on Mr Palme to answer Question No. 2 on peace initiatives in Central America, asked by Mr Oreja.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

The Swedish Government have consistently supported the efforts of the Contadora countries to achieve a lasting political solution in Central America. In the present situation, the initiative being taken by Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Panama deserves wide and complete European support. The path towards a solution of Central America’s problems is via negotiation, not military escalation.

Last night, I read in the newspaper a statement by an Under-Secretary in the State Department of the United States that the forces of democracy in El Salvador must achieve a military victory. I would, in all humility, say that I do not regard the highly repressive regime of El Salvador as a force of democracy. A military victory is not possible or advisable. We need a political solution to the conflict. The present position in Central America has its roots primarily in the economic and social injustices in that region. The countries there must be given the opportunity to build up their societies in peace and in a state of national independence. The first step towards reducing tension must be the cessation of all deliveries of weapons, all arms traffic and all military assistance to and within the region.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Next, we have Question No. 3, on human rights and democracy in Turkey, by Mr Hugosson. I call Mr Palme.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

As I said in my statement, the Council of Europe should make it clear that it is an organisation exclusively for the democracy of Europe. That must be the basis of our considerations. Turkey is currently not a democracy. It could be said that it is an anomaly in our organisation. That position has prevailed for three years. During that time Sweden has based its considerations on Turkey’s participation in the Council on the positive assumption that the Turkish Government intend to restore democracy, as they have repeatedly stated. Sweden hopes that the Council of Europe will play a constructive role in such a development.

The present position in Turkey, only six weeks before the elections, contains elements that make it increasingly difficult to give the Turkish Government the benefit of the doubt on its intention to restore democracy. I agree with Mr Hugosson on that point. Personally, I think it is still premature to take up a more detailed discussion on Turkey’s membership of the Council. After the elections we shall be in a better position to assess the course upon which Turkey has embarked and the political realities in which the parliament and the government are to function.

In the months to come it is most important that the Council of Europe continues to keep the position in Turkey under close review. I hope that the Council will keep up its pressure and good work.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

I call Mr Palme to answer Question No. 4 on shorter working hours, which is also by Mr Hugosson.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

It is for the organisations on the labour market – the employers and employees – to determine the speed of the process of reduction in working time. All agreements on such reductions have been part of wage agreements with increased salaries and extensions of other benefits. The idea that reduction in working time should be used as an instrument for increasing employment has so far been rejected in Sweden. Similarly, the idea that a reduction in working time should be introduced and employees’ pay lowered has also been rejected.

To share unemployment in an economy with so many unfulfilled needs could easily be seen as a passive way to solve the problem. It is through an active economic policy, coupled with selective measures on the labour market, that unemployment must be reduced. That is our main line of action.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We come now to the first group of questions, on European initiatives to reduce East-West tensions. A single reply will be given. The questions are put by Mr Martinez (No. 5), Mr Oreja (No. 6) and Lord Kinnoull (No. 7). I call the Prime Minister to answer this group of questions.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

The questions are far-reaching and demand another speech. However, I must be brief to cover all questions. The European states benefited from the détente process that dominated the early 1970s. It is, therefore, only natural that those states should feel the effects of the chillier international climate that now prevails. We must ensure that the Conference on Security and Disarmament in Europe, which is to be held in Stockholm next year, becomes a valuable instrument to relieve tensions in Europe. The United States intends to continue its co-operation during the conference. The first preparatory meeting will take place in Geneva on 10 and 11 October.

On the subject of the Korean plane, the Swedish Government have, in different international forums including the Security Council of the United Nations, condemned the shooting down of the civilian South Korean airliner. We consider it to be a violation of fundamental rules of international law, a violation of accepted humanitarian principles and a violation of agreement on civilian transportation. However, my government do not, on principle, participate in sanctions other than those decided by the United Nations Security Council. Our foremost goal must be to ensure that such incidents are not repeated and that the security of civilian aircraft is proved and guaranteed. That must be the follow-up to such a brutal act.

The Earl of KINNOULL (United Kingdom)

I thank the Prime Minister of Sweden for his courteous reply to my question. Does he agree that Russia should be pressed to hand over all recoverable wreckage of the Korean airliner to an independent international body that could then report on the circumstances of the last moments of the airliner before the military attack?

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

The Soviet Union would be wise to do so. It has handed over some material, which I have seen. I heard on the news that it is trying to find some technical material. The Soviet Union would be wise to give it to an international body so that the events of the final moments can be ascertained. That would be in the interests of the entire international community.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Next we come to the second group of questions, on the US-Soviet negotiations in Geneva. A single answer will be given. The questions are put by Mr Scholten (No. 8) and Mr Andersen (No. 9). I call the Prime Minister.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

It is my government’s great hope that the talks in Geneva will lead to positive results. The best way of improving security in Europe is to have fewer nuclear weapons and to open up a dialogue between East and West. For many years I have spoken about a nuclear-free Europe. We believe that no further deployment of nuclear weapons should be made. We also believe that there should be a substantial reduction in the existing number of nuclear weapons including, naturally, the Soviet systems, and that a balance should be found at a lower level. I shall not go into the details now, but if the Geneva talks have not produced a positive result by the end of this year – as I hope that they will – continued negotiations would still prove a better alternative than a breakdown in the talks. No deployment should, however, take place during such extended talks. If the United States of America accepts that, clearly demands should also be made of the Soviet Union to adopt a positive attitude and to make corresponding concessions in order to maintain the balance.

In reply to Mr Andersen I should say that I have never expressed any definite opinion as to how the French or British weapons should be counted. I understand that the issue is sensitive to the two countries directly concerned, as they do not want their weapons counted by others who do not take part. On the other hand, those French and British nuclear weapons exist in the real world and I can understand that they are viewed as a reality in the Soviet Union. I was asked about the Baltic Sea, and should add that I am prepared to count all missiles, irrespective of the relative distance from the Swedish coastline.

Mr SCHOLTEN (Netherlands)

I should like to thank the Prime Minister for that reply. I am very much against the SS-20 missiles in Russia, but I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he agrees that the deployment of Pershing II in Germany in December will decrease European security rather than improve it.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

The answer is undoubtedly “yes”. It will decrease European security because the nuclear build-up decreases European security for us all. I am also very much against the SS-20s and it is utterly reasonable to demand a considerable decrease in their numbers as well.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Next, the fifth individual question, No. 10, by Mr Baunsgaard, on Swedish arms exports. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

Sweden is certainly not one of the biggest arms exporters. The international arms trade is totally dominated by the superpowers and by some of the big European states. The Swedish share of the total world arms trade is now 0,3%. Swedish arms exports amount to about 1 per cent of our total exports. Our export guidelines are very strict and have been tightened during the past year. The main rule is a general prohibition of all exports without licence. We do not export to states engaged in armed conflict, to states in which there are armed internal disturbances or to states with doubtful human rights records. It follows, however, that we export to Denmark.


Thank you for that reply, but I had hoped for a slightly more encouraging answer. Sweden may not be one of the biggest arms exporters, but measured per capita it is a relatively big exporter of arms. I believe that Sweden has no plans to forbid the export of arms to other countries. I think that one country should make a start, but perhaps, Mr Palme, you think like the Roman emperor who said “non olet”, or “money is money”.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

As I have said, we have prohibited the export of arms unless the government give a specific licence. Therefore, we have very strong restrictions. Why do we nevertheless allow exports? The answer is that as part of our policy of neutrality we try to produce most of our arms ourselves and to be independent. As we are a small country, our defence costs are lessened if some arms are exported to neutral countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Norway and Denmark. They are the main recipients of our exports.

That lessens our defence costs while maintaining our ability to have independent arms production in order to back up our neutrality. Of course money is money, but also a Dane is a Dane, so they are allowed to buy weapons too.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We come now to the third group of questions, concerning the creation of a nuclear-free zone in Scandinavia. A single reply will be given. The questions are put by Mr Blaauw (No. 11), Mr Elmquist (No. 12) and Lord Reay (No. 13). I call the Prime Minister to answer this group of questions.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

I shall abbreviate my remarks so that I can answer as many questions as possible. I should make something clear: a nuclear-free zone means that one cannot produce, deploy or transport nuclear weapons on the territories of the participating countries. That is the rule and part of the agreement. On the other hand, it demands certain undertakings on the part of the nuclear states. It demands that they should never use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons against our territory, if we can achieve this, for instance in the Nordic states.

All the parliaments of the Nordic states have voted in favour of a nuclear-free zone in the North under certain conditions. In the first place, this would increase our own security, because it would take nuclear weapons further away from our countries. Secondly, we believe that it would also improve European security because it would be a confidence-building measure between the great nuclear powers. At present, in northern Europe we have no nuclear weapons. We have only the so-called nuclear option of Denmark and Norway whereby in time of war NATO has a right to station nuclear weapons on Norwegian and Danish territory.

Naturally, therefore, if we were to create a nuclear-free zone there this option would have to be given up by the Danes and the Norwegians and there would of course be great reluctance on the part of NATO. Therefore, the plan is unrealistic, unless there is a corresponding concession by the Soviet Union. The new development is that, after many years of silence, the Soviet Union has said that it is prepared to accept substantial undertakings concerning its own territory in the event of the creation of a nuclear-free zone and is also prepared to discuss a possible nuclear-free Baltic Sea. This was said by Mr Brezhnev in 1981 for the first time and was repeated by Mr Andropov during the visit of our President some months ago. That is a new element.

We do not yet know what this is worth, because it can be proven only in concrete negotiations, which will take time. I made a long speech on this subject in June, in Finland and at the NATO meeting in Denmark soon afterwards. But, to answer the three questions more precisely, should the Nordic zone include part of the Soviet Union? No, not the zone itself, as it is in an arrangement with a Nordic country; but as NATO would have to give up the option of stationing nuclear weapons in Denmark and Norway also during wartime, corresponding concessions must be made by the other side. This we have not yet sufficiently explored.

Mr Elmquist wanted a definition of the nuclear-free zone, which I have tried to give very briefly. What really is asked is whether a nuclear-free zone is simply another name for unilateral disarmament. The answer is very definitely “No”. I would say that it is nothing to do with nuclear disarmament. It is a balanced approach where concessions from one side are coupled with concessions from the other. I do not believe that we increase the danger to our countries if we get rid of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the further away they go from our territories, the less likely are we, I believe, to be directly involved in a nuclear exchange. Thus my government and parliament are in favour of a nuclear-free zone in the North. So are the parliaments of all the Nordic countries. But we are fully aware that this is a process that will take time and that has to be seen also in the light of what happens in Europe. Also, it has to be pursued with full respect for our particular problems in each and every one of the Nordic countries.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Colleagues, Mr Palme has to leave shortly. I suggest that no more supplementary questions be asked so that we can hear the answers to all the written questions.

We come to the fourth group of questions on Soviet incursions into the Scandinavian countries’ territorial waters and frontier areas. The questions have been asked by Mr Stokes (No. 14), Sir Anthony Grant (No. 15), Sir Frederic Bennett (No. 16) and Mr Blaauw (No. 17). I call Mr Palme to answer this group of questions.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

We have made it crystal clear that Sweden will defend its territorial integrity with all possible strength. I have made this clear politically. We are also substantially strengthening the Swedish navy’s resources for submarine hunting. Our ability to discover and take action against foreign submarines is gradually increasing. Those who plan to intrude into Swedish waters must be aware that we are very serious in our intentions and that the risk of discovery and action is increasing all the time. If a foreign submarine and its crew were to be damaged, the responsibility would fall entirely upon those who had ordered the intrusion.

To Sir Anthony Grant I would say that this is a question of will and decisiveness in defending Sweden’s territorial integrity and that will and decisiveness are total on our part. If the intrusion were to continue, we would sooner or later get hold of a submarine and force it to the surface or destroy it. This determined policy does not affect the credibility of Swedish foreign policy in any negative way. It would affect our credibility only if we did nothing about it politically or militarily. So long as we pursue the hunt, and strong and public and political reaction against any intrusion, we maintain our credibility. Those who lose their credibility are those who say all the time that they would never dream of entering our waters but nevertheless continue to do so.

To Sir Frederic Bennett I must say that what has happened in Swedish waters is no argument against having a nuclear-free zone in the Nordic area. On the contrary, one might say that the presence of nuclear-armed submarines in the waters around our countries provides a further argument in favour of such a zone which, one hopes, would make it possible to remove all nuclear arms further from our territory. So we have stepped up the argument for a nuclear-free zone. We see how important it is to get rid of nuclear arms from our waters.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

The fifth group of questions concerns fundamental freedoms in the Baltic states. The questions were asked by Mr Wilkinson (No. 18) and Sir Frederic Bennett (No. 19). I call Mr Palme to reply.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

In 1940 and 1941, the Swedish Government took measures that implied recognition of the incorporation of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union. They were taken at a time of all-party government in our country. The Swedish verbal note of November 1940 expressed the opinion that the Soviet Union, as successor to the Baltic states, was responsible for certain debts to Sweden. The Treaty on compensation for Swedish property in the Baltic states was signed by Sweden and the Soviet Union in 1941. We have investigated and found that most Western European countries have done the same and have thus de facto recognised the incorporation of the Baltic Republics into the Soviet Union.

Sweden has, on the other hand, on various occasions expressed its profound anxiety about human rights in the Baltic states and has condemned the persecution of civil rights activists there. That position was repeated in April this year in the Swedish Parliament by Foreign Minister Wolstan in rather strong terms, because we had heard reports of serious incidents in the Baltic states. Therefore, Swedish public opinion is always sensitive to what happens in neighbouring areas.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

The final question is No. 20, on military expenditure and NATO, by Mr Guerra. I call Mr Palme.

Mr Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden

I must confess that it is not for economic reasons that we have chosen a policy of neutrality. We have a relatively strong defence that is paid for wholly by ourselves. Over the years that has demanded tremendous resources, but we have found that the policy of neutrality is worth its price. I have not heard anyone propose that we should join NATO or possibly the Warsaw Pact just to make our defence a little cheaper. I believe that the policy of neutrality has deep roots among the great majority of the Swedish people and therefore we shall pursue it.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, I thank you on behalf of the Assembly for having agreed to engage in dialogue with our members.

As you have seen, we are all fully alive to the issues you have raised. You have aroused hope among people because you search untiringly for new ways of solving the international conflicts and problems of social and economic justice which are of concern to us all.

Your views give us food for thought. (Applause)