Germany and Sweden count each other as their closest allies, but the focus of their bilateral relations has developed considerably in recent decades. Based on the latest developments, Nima Khorrami writes that there is a clear incentive for the two countries to pursue closer cooperation in areas such as mining and space technology.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid a state visit to Sweden in early September. Invited by the Swedish king was the most critical part of the trip on the last day, when he flew to the Arctic city of Kiruna. Comes from the back of a speech in the Riksdag, where Steinmeier stressed the need to strengthen the “triangle of climate protection, economic competitiveness and social balance”, the German president’s first stop was the Esrange Space Center, where he met a number of Swedish and German space companies. This was followed by a afternoon stop at the Swedish mining giant LKAB, where he was informed about the company’s automated and carbon dioxide-free operations.
The geopolitical significance of Steinmeier’s visit to both Sweden and Germany cannot be overestimated. Home to some of the largest mining sites in the world, northern sweden has gained additional geostrategic significance from the increasing competition between the usa and china for critical materials, as well as from the EU’s pursuit of strategic autonomy. Sweden’s Arctic region has the potential to become a reliable supplier of iron ore for the German and indeed the wider European industry for renewable energy, vehicles, defense and high technology.
For this to happen, it is a must to secure long-term investments in the region’s infrastructure and LKAB’s own operations, including research and development. And it seems that both Swedish and LKAB officials had this goal in mind when Steinmeier visited the company. He was not just informed about LKAB’s efforts to move to the city of Kiruna without interrupting operations, but also gained a detailed insight into the company’s future plans and the need for large-scale and sustainable production of carbon-free iron and iron ore.
Berlin, for its part, has sufficient strategic incentives to be keen to help LKAB succeed in its goals. To begin with, there is one long, albeit shameful, history of bilateral mining cooperation between Berlin and Stockholm. Today with minerals in the heart From the rapid and continuous competition between China, the United States and Europe, it is clear why it is becoming increasingly important to have reliable access to these minerals for advanced economies such as Germany. By investing in Sweden’s mining sector and infrastructure projects in northern Sweden, Berlin can secure the supply of critical minerals to its industries, strengthen the EU’s recently announced Alliance for Critical Minerals, and take a decisive step to reduce both its own and Brussels’ vulnerability to the geopolitical whims of Beijing and Washington.
Equally important is the prospect of space cooperation between the two northern European nations. In the last two years, a number of countries, including France, Germany and that UK, have followed Natos lead to recognizing space as a separate domain and establishing their own space commands. Germany considers space to be “critical infrastructure that we need to secureAnd Berlin is engaged to significantly improve its space capabilities in order to better defend its own interests while contributing to both the EU and NATO space initiatives.
Sweden, at the same time, looks a direct link between its contribution to the development of pan-European space capacity and its ability to protect its commercial, environmental and indeed geopolitical interests. That’s why its state-owned space organization has been invest heavy in Esrange with the aim of transforming it into a European hub for space technology, the first orbital launch site for satellites in Europe and a test site for Europe’s first reusable vertical rocket.
The fact that states now have a renewed interest in space technology is not surprising given the growing importance of satellite technology for emerging digital economies, the fight against climate change and military operations. China and Russia growing presence in space and an increasing number companies in the private sector has also led some analysts to warn of the risk of space accidents triggering conflicts in other areas. As the demands for the development of a legal framework grow, Germany’s and Sweden’s mutual interest in “peace, security, democracy and a rules-based international orderMake them natural partners in both regional and international forums.
Individually, Germany and its various space-focused startups would benefit from having access to Esrange. Its large landing zone and remote location make it the ideal place for experimental rocket launches. For Sweden, on the other hand, space cooperation with Germany would be a complement to its broader cooperation with NATO, as it could facilitate a certain doctrinal and operational compatibility between the two sides. In addition, Sweden’s strategy of becoming the EU’s space hub would not only strengthen the country’s strategic value in the eyes of its European partners, but would quite nicely fall within the government’s broader strategic goal of maintaining a high degree of independence within the framework of its relations with the EU, where it wishes to choose at will and on the basis of EU-wide initiatives.
Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on RUSI. The article gives the author’s views, not EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics. Selected image credit: the European council