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France and Sweden

Political relations and major visits

Our partnership is particularly close within the European Union in the following fields: climate change, environmental standards and technologies, social Europe and migration. Contacts between French and Swedish members of parliament are frequent (visit to France by a Swedish friendship group delegation in May 2015 and February 2017) and demonstrate the interest aroused by the Swedish model on themes as wide-ranging as the civil service, new energy sources and social issues.

The King of Sweden made a State visit to France (Paris and Toulouse) on 2-4 December 2014. The King was accompanied by his energy, business and employment Ministers.

The Swedish Prime Minister and Interior Minister took part in the republican march in Paris on 11 January 2015.

The French Prime Minister, accompanied by the Minister of State for European Affairs, visited Stockholm on 17-18 September 2015, where he met his counterpart, Mr Stefan Löfven. A joint communiqué was adopted on that occasion. Mr Löfven was received in Paris by the President of the French Republic and the Prime Minister in May 2015 and June 2016, and has subsequently been received in Paris on 31 July 2017 by Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Harlem Désir visited Stockholm in February 2015, where he met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Margot Wallström. Ms Wallström also met Mr Fabius in Paris on 30 April 2015 and received Jean-Marc Ayrault in Stockholm on 13 March 2017. A meeting was held with Jean-Yves Le Drian on 31 October in New York alongside the French Chair of the United Nations Security Council.

Economic relations

With over €16 billion in trade of goods (€10.5 billion) and services (€5.2 billion) France and Sweden are middle-ranking trading partners. Sweden is France’s 13th-largest trading partner (17th-largest supplier with 1.1% of market share and 16th-largest customer), and France is Sweden’s 9th-largest trading partner (9th-largest supplier with 4.1% market share and 9th-largest customer).

The bilateral trade deficit is no longer an issue as France’s performance has improved significantly leading to an 80% reducing in the bilateral trade deficit between 2013 and 2015 (from €1.2 billion to €200 million). However, French presence is still below its potential while GDP per capita in Sweden is 30% higher than in France, and growth is strong.

Cross investment is a key mainstay of France and Sweden’s bilateral economic relations. Most of the large Swedish groups have invested in France where they employ 100,000 individuals (a figure which has remained stable over the last few years). Swedish executives have a good image of French engineers and managers, France’s R&D and its infrastructure, but are critical of our employment and tax regulations.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France is the 6th-largest destination for Swedish students, behind the English-speaking countries, Germany and Spain, but is the leading destination for Swedish students under the Erasmus scheme.

Scientific cooperation between France and Sweden involves a considerable volume of exchanges, with numerous ties between laboratories; bilateral research programmes between the universities, agencies and bodies of the two countries, promoted and coordinated in particular by the French-Swedish Research Association (AFSR); and successful calls for project bids by our two countries within the European Research Area (ERA), in liaison with all operators working in this area. A Gustaf Dalén Hubert Curien Partnership (PHC) was created in 2011 with the Swedish strategic research foundation.

The European Spallation Source (ESS) is a major research infrastructure project dedicated to exploration and study of matter, and is currently under construction in Lund. 17 countries are working together to make the ESS work, with ESS AB being a company belonging to the host countries, Sweden and Denmark. It works in partnership with almost 60 companies and research bodies. France is the first country to have announced the signature of a letter of intent of commitment. It has committed to paying 8% of total construction costs. In this very special framework, seven bilateral scientific agreements were signed in 2010 and 2011 (with the Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission – CEA – and French National Centre for Scientific Research – CNRS), for an amount totalling almost €70 million. Above and beyond its major scientific importance, the ESS project is thus a structuring one for the future of scientific cooperation between France and Sweden.

As regards culture, French artists are regularly exhibited in Swedish galleries and exhibition centres. Events such as European Heritage Days and the music festival “Make Musik STHLM”, organized jointly by the Institut français (French Institute) in Sweden and the city of Stockholm, are very successful.

Every year, Sweden invites a great number of French and French-language writers, giving rise to the translation of more than 750 literary works in less than a decade. The Göteborg Book Fair is the 11ᵗʰ most trend-setting fair for French publishers. The invitation of the Nordic countries to the Paris Book Fair in 2011 led to intensified professional relations between Swedish and French publishers. Patrick Modiano and Jean Tirole winning Nobel Prizes in 2014 helped give our cultural and scientific policy greater visibility.

Other cooperation

Military and police cooperation

Bilateral relations with Sweden are good, although military cooperation is modest as the Swedish focus on exchanges with their Nordic neighbours. This cooperation is primarily operational and has, during the Libyan crisis for example, enabled Swedish Gripen fighters to take part in NATO air operations. This cooperation is more developed within the European Union, and Sweden has taken part in all the EU’s military operations. The Swedish armed forces have thus cooperated effectively with French forces in Africa on several occasions, particularly during the operations Artémis, UNIFIL Maritime Task Force, and EUFOR Chad. As a contributor to Operation Atalanta to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Sweden commanded the Force HQ in 2010 and 2013.

Bilateral cooperation primarily concerns special forces, with joint exercises and operational exchanges. This cooperation is also very good in the area of military intelligence. The War College has had a Swedish trainee every year for many years. A Swedish joint liaison officer is posted to the Operations Planning and Command & Control Centre (CPCO).

As a LOI country (the six main European arms producing countries: France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Italy), Sweden is part of a number of joint arms projects, such as the Dassault nEUROn experimental unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) and ESSOR Software Defined Radio.

Updated: 31 October 2017