NEWS ANALYSIS: Nordic cooperation undergoes gradual change
Arctic projects and defence cooperation open new areas of interaction
By Kari Huhta
Everyone in the Nordic region knows that there is nothing as positive, or as mind-numbingly dull as Nordic cooperation. Even one government minister has said this out loud.
Now all of that might be changing. Dramatic new visions are opening up for the Nordic Countries in the Arctic regions and in defence cooperation. Finland and Sweden are both considering participation in the aerial surveillance of Iceland.
One might have imagined that as a consequence, the prime ministers of the Nordic Countries might have pushed for change and upheaval at their summer meeting in the north of Norway. This would have been an erroneous expectation.
“Nordic cooperation is based on tradition, geography, values, and welfare society models”, said Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in his response to suggestions of possible upheavals in cooperation.
According to Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (Nat. Coalition Party), cooperation continues, but it is developing. In the view of the host of the meeting, Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg, the Nordic Countries have a single common identity, and Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt wanted to emphasise the development of society as a factor that deepens cooperation.
So is there any upheaval or not? Probably there is, but defence cooperation is kept in the background in joint messages of the Nordic Countries. The prime ministers mentioned it after first reading everything else.
A joint statement was issued at the end of the meeting emphasising security and defence cooperation, with a separate mention of the air surveillance project in Iceland.
However, in an interivew Reinfeldt commented on Swedish participation by saying that the matter was still very unfinished, even though sources had said earlier that preparations were well under way. The question is one of a national decision. That is why defence cooperation is discussed with such reserve.
An easier topic for the ministers is Arctic cooperation, on which Katainen feels the Nordic countries should have a common policy line. The Arctic regions are a great challenge, and an economic opportunity, but defence cooperation comes into play there as well. It was usually the last thing ever mentioned.
The Arctic regions were a natural topic for the prime ministers’ summer meeting, because they were right in front of their nose. This was no accident. Norway invited the prime ministers to areas where its own interests were most apparent – the Lofoten Islands and Tromsø.
The Atlantic Ocean opens up outside the rough and rugged Lofoten Islands, and the surrounding fishing areas and the oil and gas fields behind them.
This is how the Nordic Countries operate. Each of them builds cooperation from its own point of view. However, now the building is taking place. Wake up, people.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 12.6.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland considers sending jets to monitor Iceland´s air space (11.5.2012)
President Niinistö: Taking part in monitoring Iceland’s airspace does not draw Finland closer to NATO (28.5.2012)
Government concerned about border barriers in Nordic region (26.4.2012)
Stubb praises Nordic cooperation days after outburst (4.11.2011)
KARI HUHTA / Helsingin Sanomat