“It is important that the Nordic countries keep their focus on the north”, says Norway’s Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide, one of the hosts for the ministers that are gathered in the northern Norwegian town of Bodø this week. “Our most important strategic interests lie in the north. We have enormous areas and resources here, and we see that this part of the world gets more and more important when it comes to transport, natural resources and tourism”, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s web site reads.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland and Ministers of Defense from all the countries except Iceland – which does not have any military forces, are all gathered in Bodø these days.
“It is almost a historic event that we have the Nordic family gathered here in Bodø”, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre. “It is the first time the wish for a closer cooperation on defense and foreign policy will be discussed on such a high level.
The main issue up for discussions is the players in the development of the High North. Another important theme will be the consequences of the economic crisis on the cooperation on security policy in Europe, Nordic military cooperation on equipment and exercises and international crisis management.
The aim of the meeting is to find a joint Nordic basis for the further development of the High North and to discuss possible models for cooperation within defense and foreign policy. Three years ago Norway’s former Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg published a report touching on 13 fields of potential cooperation, with the Arctic as a key focus.
There are no plans to establish any new alliances, says Espen Barth Eide: “Some of us are allied in NATO, some have their primary connection to the EU. But I would say that the Nordic cooperation will mean a strengthening of both organizations”, he says to NRK.