National strategy to meet the threat of terrorism
The fight against terrorism requires enhanced cooperation across national borders and across different policy areas. In a Communication to the Parliament in February 2012 the Government presented a national strategy to prevent the emergence of terrorism, to pursue terrorist attacks and to prepare for the eventuality of a terrorist attack occurring nevertheless. In the strategy the Government sets out its view of the starting points, objectives and direction of Swedish counter-terrorism. In it the Government gives an overview of the measures already taken, started or planned to address future challenges.
Sweden's ability to address the threat of terrorism is well-developed. Attacks in Sweden and against Swedish interests have been averted. Sweden has assisted other countries in preventing attacks. In February 2008, the Government accounted for its view of the Swedish fight against terrorism in a national strategy to meet the threat of terrorism (Govt. communication. 2007/08:64).
Since then the Government has created the conditions for more effective counter-terrorism. At the same time, improvements have been introduced in due process and supervision in the area. Sweden's capability can be developed and improved even more by drawing on lessons we have learned from attacks and other incidents.
The Governments Communication 2011/12:73 Responsibility and commitment - a national counter-terrorism strategy presents an updated strategy so as to clarify the Government's starting points and give an account of how Sweden is meeting the threat of terrorism. These objectives indicate the main strategic direction of future work and will be followed up continually.
Terrorism is one of several threats directed at human life and health, property, the capability of society to function and, ultimately, national security and our fundamental values. It is up to every responsible state to assume responsibility for security in its own territory. The Swedish Security Service is responsible for countering terrorist crime and for pursuing attacks in Sweden and on Swedish interests.
Terrorist crime can be detected, investigated and prosecuted through the combined capability of the justice system and the intelligence services. However, it is not possible to have complete security as an objective since this would result in unacceptable restrictions on our rights and freedoms. A number of government agencies and other actors are responsible for preparatory work, such as the protection of functions essential to the operation of society and effective consequence management if Sweden suffers a major attack. In preventive work all parties have a responsibility for not allowing the originators of terrorist attacks or violent extremism to set the agenda and for ensuring that public debate is conducted within the framework of democracy. Sweden also has a responsibility to help other countries. Moreover, a commitment to international cooperation is necessary in order to be able to safeguard Swedish interests both in Sweden and abroad.
Terrorism is not a new phenomenon; it is a feature of the political history of modern Europe.
From an international perspective, most terrorist attacks occur in areas affected by conflict outside Europe. In Europe, local nationalist and separatist groups account for most of the attacks. Actors inspired by al-Qaeda aim to carry out attacks resulting in a high number of civilian deaths and they still constitute a threat.
In recent years several completed or thwarted attacks in Europe and the western world have been planned and carried out by people working on their own. The use of the Internet has grown in importance for violent groups and networks, partly as a means for their own communication but perhaps especially as a platform for spreading messages and propaganda.
The threat from terrorism changes over time. Attacks carried out and thwarted plans for attacks have shown that there is a real risk of terrorist attacks in Sweden or on Swedish interests. Developments in recent years have made it more complicated to assess the threat profile.
Strategy against terrorism
Sweden's national counter-terrorism strategy adopts a broad approach and covers all forms of terrorism, irrespective of the background to or motives for the terrorist threat.
The strategy is divided into three main parts: threats to Sweden, starting points in the fight against terrorism and objectives and measures.
One starting point is that terrorism can only be countered effectively using means and aims that have a place in an open and democratic society based on the rule of law. How the Government wants Sweden to address the threat of terrorism is described in the strategy in three areas:
- prevent the emergence of terrorism
- pursue terrorist attacks
- prepare for the eventuality of a terrorist attack occurring nevertheless
Preventing the emergence of terrorism is intended to reduce the will of individuals or groups to commit or support terrorist crimes. This work includes efforts to try to identify and reduce potential breeding grounds for terrorism and violent extremism. Preventive work also includes strengthening the values on which our democracy rests.
Pursuing terrorist attacks is intended to discover and reduce threats and to stop ongoing attacks or preparations. Stopping attacks also means investigating terrorist crime and calling the people responsible to account for their actions. One aim is to enable the responsible authorities in the justice system to discover and stop plans for terrorist attacks in an effective way consistent with the rule of law.
Preparing for the eventuality of a terrorist attack occurring is intended to put adequate protection in place for individuals and for functions, IT systems and installations that are essential to the operation of society. Preparatory work also involves making effective use of the combined resources of society so as to be able to deal with the consequences of an attack. The Government's objectives include improving and increasing cross-sectoral planning and exercises, thus establishing protection and enhancing the capability to resist and manage disruptions to society that may result from a terrorist attack.
By adopting this unified view of terrorism the Government is endeavouring to meet this threat effectively with unswerving respect for our fundamental values.