Speech by Defence Minister of Norway, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen,
at the Atlantic Council of Finland
May 11, 2009
Finland and Norway enjoy a very close and fruitful relationship within the security and defence sector, and the relationship and cooperation is flourishing and has developed considerable over the last few years. This is not least due to the fact that we share a common outlook on security challenges in our region. Both countries share a common border with Russia, and developments in the High North are important to both countries.
The challenges we are faced with in the High North cannot be addressed by individual nations independently. We have to manage these through working together, and within a broader international framework.
Over the years, the Nordic cooperation has developed into a broad and well functioning cooperation in the defence sector. The Nordic states are natural partners for co-operation, based on common values, shared geography and culture. Also, the Nordic countries share a common outlook on international challenges and how to handle them, despite different institutional memberships and commitments in NATO and the EU.
Two important reports have recently outlined a range of areas in which the Nordic five can benefit from working closer together to ensure that we meet security challenges in a more effective way and to ensure a more cost effective use of our defence budgets. First, the report by the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian chiefs of defence, and second the recent Stoltenberg report on enhanced Nordic cooperation in the security field.
The budget situation in most European countries, the current financial unrest, and the increasing cost of modern defence technology means that we cannot afford unnecessary duplication. Multi- or bilateral cooperation will therefore increasingly be necessary if we as relatively small countries are to have access to the strategic assets we need for the most demanding operations.
I therefore welcome your decision last week to procure “NASAMS” air defence system from the Norwegian supplier Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA). This is an important decision that will have a strong, positive impact on Finnish-Norwegian defence cooperation. Norway has been NASAMS-user for several years, and we are looking at how we can work more closely with Finland in areas such as training and logistics. I am also convinced that this will open up new possibilities for our two countries with regards to industrial cooperation.
Finnish-Norwegian cooperation in international peace support operations has traditionally been the cornerstone of our defence relationship. Our history of working together on the ground stretches back to the UN-led operations in the late 1950’s.
And we have since then worked together in various NATO-, UN- and more recently also EU-led operations. Finland and Norway were the two driving forces behind the establishment of NORDCAPS (Nordic Coordinated Arrangements for Peace Support) in 1998, which aim is to strengthen Nordic cooperation within peace support operations.
Nordic Defence Cooperation
The scope and intensity of Nordic defence cooperation has increased considerably over the last few years.
For a variety of reasons the Nordic states are obvious partners for cooperation, despite our differences when it comes to membership of NATO and the EU.
Today, non-NATO members Sweden and Finland are both actively involved in NATO-led operations, while Norway participates in EU-led missions, even if we are not members of the EU. We contributed to the EU Nordic Battle Group in the first half of 2008, and we will contribute to this again in 2011. We will send one of our new frigates to the ESDP Operation Atalanta outside the coast of Somalia later this year, and we have also recently decided to double our contribution to the EU police mission in Afghanistan.
As Nordic neighbours we share a variety of security interests that we can best address together, and we share a common culture and approach which makes it easier for us to work together in operations abroad.
In Afghanistan the Nordic countries, and particularly Norway and Finland, have successfully worked together in various operations and on various tasks. And we hope to further strengthen this cooperation.
We have also pooled our resources in order to assist countries in the former Soviet area and the Western Balkans in their security sector reform processes. We are also initiating joint Nordic support to capacity building in Eastern Africa. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full transcript (HTML format) on the Norwegian MoD website.