The Norwegian State Secretary within the Ministry of Defence delivered a speech to the EU Parliamenty Subcommittee on Security and Defence on February 27, 2108 which outlined Norwegian views on the threat as well as the role of NATO and the EU in dealing with the threat facing Norway.
It is a privilege to be invited to this distinguished committee of the European Parliament. This is a good opportunity to share some reflections on Norwegian security policy, including our cooperation with the EU in this field.
Norway is a very close partner of the EU. We are full members of the Single Market, including for defence equipment, and the Schengen Area. We share the same values, and cooperate in handling common challenges such as climate change, economic and social disparities and migration.
Norway is also a strong supporter of the EU’s Common foreign and security policy, as well as its security and defence policy. We will continue our efforts to improve our long-standing and close relationship, both by developing existing tools, and by looking into new possibilities and areas. I will go into more detail on that later.
Before doing so, a few words on Norwegian security policy in general.
Norwegian security policy
The primary objective of Norway’s security and defence policy is to secure Norway’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political freedom of action.
The overall framework of international law, the UN, NATO and trans-atlantic security cooperation are the cornerstones of Norway’s security and defence policy. The EU is also essential – as the prime vehicle for European unity and solidarity.
Situation in the High North and the Arctic
Norwegian security policy is closely tied to our geographic location,- in the northern-most corner of Europe. The High North is high on our agenda.
In a period of increasing tension, these are still regions of relative stability, and our overall goal is to keep it that way. Stability, sustainable development, and international cooperation are the main elements of our policy.
That said, we see a new dynamic also in our region. Climate change will open up the Arctic to new human activity, including the exploitation of resources, transportation and tourism.
Increased commercial activity in the Arctic will not necessarily have any negative consequences for security. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is the framework for solving most of the outstanding issues in the region. Most of the oil- and gas resources are within undisputed areas of jurisdiction of the Arctic coastal states. Presently, we do not foresee a race for the Arctic.
However, the consequences of a more assertive Russia are evident also in the high north. The Arctic is of increasing importance to Russia, both from a resource- and military point of view.
The Kola peninsula – located just across the border from Norway – continues to be home to the Russian sea-based nuclear strategic deterrent. We have the world’s largest concentration of non-western military assets on our door-step. Russia has revived its ability in crisis or war to threaten the sea lines of communication from the US to Europe, – and also the defence of Norway.
These developments have implications for Norway and NATO, – even if we do not consider Russia a direct military threat to Norway.
Part of our answer is continuity. The Norwegian Defence Forces already play an important role in the High North in peacetime. This routine military presence is important in terms of ensuring situational awareness, regular presence, sovereignty, and overall stability and predictability.
In view of the security situation, however, we have also seen the need to strengthen our national defences. This includes improved readiness, and procurements of new strategic assets like F-35 combat aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft and submarines. We are reviewing the army.
In serious crisis or war, Norway will relyheavily on Allied reinforcements. We welcome a somewhat increased Allied presence in the north. In the autumn we will host exercise Trident Juncture with 35 000 participants, the largest Allied exercise in Norway for years. These activities strengthen collective defence.
In view of Russia’s policies in the Ukraine, Norway has aligned herself closely with the EU-sanctions policy, and NATO’s suspension of practical military cooperation. At the same time we aim for a balanced approach. We have a long history of practical cooperation with Russia in the north, in areas like fisheries, and people-to-people. We continue to cooperate with Russia in certain areas, including the border guard, search and rescue, the Incidents at Sea-agreement, – and a hotline between Joint Operational Headquarters in Bodø and the Northern Fleet. This is our contribution to regional stability in the north.
NATO is a main pillar in Norwegian security policy. NATO – just like the EU – today faces serious challenges from both the East and the South.
The challenges from the East are the key driving force in re-directing NATO’s attention towards collective defence. This includes not only enhanced forward presence in the Baltics and Poland, but also updated defence plans for all exposed regions, improvements in readiness, logistics, and exercises. NATO has also agreed on a revised command structure, including a new dedicated headquarter with responsibility for the Atlantic. NATO’s increased focus on collective defence – including the maritime dimension – is highly relevant for our needs in the north.
Today’s Russia reminds us of some basic facts. The transatlantic link is vital for credible collective defence. We welcome the increased US military presence in Europe, – including in Norway. However, collective defence is a two-way street. The Europeans have to do more. Burden-sharing is a key part of this. Norway remains committed to moving towards spending 2 % of GDP on defence, as agreed upon by the Allies in 2014.
Another observation is the necessity of NATO-EU cooperation, also in relation to Russia. NATO is responsible for creating military deterrence, but the EU is vital in terms of the broader political and economic relations, including sanctions. The two organizations complement each other in a crucial way.
The challenge from the South is different in nature. NATO has decided to take a somewhat increased role in the South, and in the fight against terrorism. The fight against ISIL is approaching the end, but the real challenges lie ahead. It is related to post-conflict stabilization. This will guide NATO’s role, with a focus on capacity building and security sector reform. Military instruments are only part of the answer. Cooperation with other organizations will be vital, – especially the EU with its wider range of political and economic instruments.
Development of the CSDP
Developments in NATO cannot be seen in isolation from developments in the EU. Norway supports the idea that Europe must take a larger role in security and defence. It is natural and inevitable.
A coordinated EU that takes greater responsibility for European security is also good for our transatlantic relations, – as an expression of burden-sharing.
A key goal for Norway over the last twenty years has been to associate herself closely with this key European development. On foreign policy we have a strong tradition of aligning ourselves with EU-declarations and restrictive measures. We have contributed to several EU-led crisis management operations. We are a significant contributor to the European Defence Agency.
We follow with great interest the more recent initiatives which have been launched from the EU to strengthen the CSDP further.
This relates in particular to the establishment of the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), and the establishment of the European Defence Fund (EDF). Norway participates – as the only non-member country – in the research part of EDF.
PESCO, EDF and MPCC are all welcome. It is however important that a further deepening of CSDP does not lead to the emergence of new dividing lines in the security policy field. This brings me to my next point, – namely
EU- NATO Cooperation
Since the joint EU-NATO Declaration in Warsaw, there has been considerable progress on cooperation between the two organizations. There is a now a clear recognition that we face the same challenges. The resources are owned by the same member countries. The issue is no longer how to avoid competition or duplication, but how to ensure interoperability. HR Mogherini and Secretary General Stoltenberg lead the way by their dialogue at the strategic level.
The new dynamic of the CSDP – combined with the current security situation – is a strong incentive for further intensifying the cooperation between the two organizations. We have on the table several concrete proposals for cooperation.
The challenge is implementation. A realistic near-term goal should be to zoom in on a limited number of proposals of common interest. One of the most promising is aimed at reducing obstacles to the movement of military forces across European borders in crisis or war. It should be a deliverable for the July NATO Summit, – and it would give concrete content to a renewed common EU-NATO statement.
There is also room for increased cooperation in the Western Balkans, and on exercises. NATO-EU relations will be a key theme for the NATO-summit. By then we must have some tangible results.
The new dynamic in European defence cooperation comes in parallel with Brexit. Brexit has helped to release a potential on the part of the EU, which is taken forward under the lead of major member states. This is significant.
From a Norwegian perspective, it is vital to ensure that the new dynamic in CSDP – in combination with Brexit – does not have negative consequences for any of the parties involved – including the EU, the UK – and Norway.
We must avoid a weakening of CSDP as a result of Brexit. At the same time we want the UK to maintain her role as a key player in the CSDP – and European security. The most recent signals from the UK indicates a clear desire to be closely integrated into the CSDP. That is welcome.
At the same time we note that the UK’s desired arrangements for participation go well beyond what Norway currently has as a third party. The UK’s future third party arrangements with the CSDP is of considerable interest also to Norway.
Norway is not party to the negotiations between Brussels and London. But we have a legitimate interest in the outcome, due to our membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), our close cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs, as well as our participation as third party in the CSDP. We are therefore interested in keeping a close dialogue with the EU on the state of play. Being here today is a key part of the dialogue. This brings me to my last theme, namely…
Norway’s participation as partner in CSDP
It is important that the CSDP is developed in a transparent manner, and with the possibility for participation of Allied countries that are not members of the EU.
As indicated, Norway has a strong interest in being closely associated with the CSDP. We have made visible contributions to the CSDP over the years, including participation in three military- and nine civilian mission. We have assigned forces to the EU Battle Groups. We are among the most active contributors to EDA. We welcome the opportunity to participate in the research part (Preparatory Action on Defence Research/PADR) of the new European Defence Fund, – as the only non-member state.
Generally, we appreciate the existing opportunities for third parties to cooperate with the EU on security and defence. However, there is room for improvements in certain key areas.
In particular, a closer involvement in discussions, “decision-shaping” and information sharing would make participation in, and contributions to, future CSDP operations and missions more attractive to partners like Norway. We believe such involvement could best be achieved through differentiation between various partner countries, taking into consideration their individual characteristics. In other words, – a more tailored approach.
Another key issue is related to the new European Defence Fund. For Norway, it is important that we are invited to participate in the second part of this fund, – the European Defence Industrial Development Program (EDIDP). Our participation here would benefit all parties involved in this program, for a number of reasons:
Firstly, Norwegian defence industry is high-tech and internationally competitive, playing an important role in the European defence industry supply chain.
Secondly, for the EU, Norway is a highly relevant partner, as an integral part of the European defence equipment market, an active partner in Europeans armaments cooperation, and a large customer for European defence industry, It seems artificial to view the defence market as distinct from the internal markets Norway is an integral part of. This would be to the benefit of all 31 countries.
Thirdly, through our participation in the research part of the fund, Norwegian defence industry will make a significant contribution to research on defence capabilities. To be included in research on defence capabilities, but excluded from the development of those capabilities, is not logical.
We therefore believe it would be of mutual interest and benefit to invite Norway and its defence industry to take part in EDIDP-projects, where Norwegian participation is promoted by participating EU member states. Norway would shoulder its own costs linked to this participation.
We would also like to have the possibility for future participation in individual PESCO-projects.
EDF and PESCO illustrate a broader point. Finland and Sweden today have status as “Enhanced Opportunities Partners” in NATO and enjoy extensive participation in relation to operations and policy deliberations. There is unfortunately, an increasing asymmetry between the rights Finland and Sweden have as partners in NATO, and the rights Norway has, as a non-EU member in the EU.
This asymmetry is odd, given that NATO and EU are strategic partners and should aim for openness and involvement of all EU- and NATO-countries.
We welcome that the EU has initiated a process based on a more “strategic approach” towards partner-countries. We hope this process could also address the concerns of close partner countries like Norway.
The fact that there is room for improvement should not distract from my main message. Norway values very much the opportunity to be closely associated with CSDP. We have made significant contributions to this part of the EU-cooperation, and our clear aim is to continue to do so in years to come. It is in the common interest of all European countries.
Thank you again for inviting me, and for your attention.