Swedish PM rejects referendum on potential NATO membership

Magdalena Anderson.

Nils Petter Nilsson/Getty Images

  • The Swedish government does not plan to hold a referendum if its parliament decides to proceed with an application to join NATO.
  • With a majority in parliament backing membership, the ruling Social Democrats are seen as the biggest obstacle to Sweden applying to join the 30-nation alliance.
  • The leader of the Moderates, the largest opposition party, also rejected calls for a referendum on the issue.

Sweden’s government does not plan to hold a referendum if its parliament decides to proceed with a NATO application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced both Sweden and Finland to revisit long-held beliefs that military neutrality is the best means of ensuring national security, with both countries expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.

Andersson called a referendum a “bad idea”.

“I don’t think it’s a suitable subject for a referendum,” he told reporters.

“There is a lot of information about national security that is confidential, so there are important issues in a referendum of this type that cannot be discussed and important facts that cannot be put on the table.”

Sweden’s parliament is reviewing security policy and a report is expected in mid-May. On the other hand, Andersson’s own party, the Social Democrats, are considering withdrawing his objections to NATO membership.

With a majority in parliament backing membership, the ruling Social Democrats are seen as the biggest obstacle to Sweden applying to join the 30-nation alliance.

The leader of the Moderates, the largest opposition party, also rejected calls for a referendum on the issue.

“Voters… are not naive about Russia,” Ulf Kristersson told the Aftonbladet newspaper earlier this week in a debate with Left Party leader Nooshi Dadgostar. “It is very clear that Swedish voters understood what happened on February 24 and drew their conclusions.”

Dadgostar, whose party opposes NATO membership, told Aftonbladet that the Swedes should have a say in the decision.

“This … has to go back to the voters, there has to be very strong democratic support on this issue,” he said.

Sweden holds general elections in September.

An opinion poll by Demoskop in the daily Aftonbladet published on April 20 showed that 57% of Swedes are in favor of joining NATO, up from 51% in March.


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