A Note on the Internal Objectives of Nordic Foreign Policy Cooperation

Friday, 19. March 2010     1 comment(s)
Kaisa Korhonen
Researcher - The European Union research programme
Influence on other states is far from being the only valid criteria to justify regional foreign policy cooperation. Let the common efforts in the European North stand out as an example of the intrinsic value that characterises engagement in foreign policy cooperation built upon internal objectives.

There is a strong tendency to argue in favour of regional cooperation in the field of foreign policy by focusing on the external objectives of common undertakings. The normal justification for this type of cooperation is that the political, economic and military power of the Nordic states when working together gives them greater influence over other countries than they would have alone. Take for example a moment to think about the whole public debate about the EU and its comparatively limited political influence on the global stage that resulted in the new provisions on CFSP during the latest round of treaty reforms. It seems to me that the above, conventional assessment criteria played a crucial role in justifying the new reforms.

Fair enough, it is after all foreign policy we are talking about, but certainly there are other criteria to consider when validating regional foreign policy cooperation. Besides the external objectives, the internal objectives, defined by Keukeleire and MacNaughtan as interrelational, integration and identity objectives in their analysis of EU foreign policy, ought to be also remembered. These objectives certainly apply in the EU where foreign policy-making can and should be used to improve internal dynamics, deepen integration or strengthen the notion of a common European identity. Inter-institutional or intergovernmental cooperation in itself might be the added value needed to validate new forms of foreign policy cooperation. There is an intrinsic value in cooperating in the regional forums, since this engagement already on its own, and regardless of outcomes, serves the internal objectives of foreign policy cooperation.

If EU foreign policy-making has its internal objectives, this is, even more the case with regional cooperation in Norden. The arguments for internal objectives mobilising external action did in fact cross my mind while reading a debate article co-signed by the five Nordic foreign ministers published in Hufvudstadsbladet last week. In this opinion piece the foreign ministers jointly argue in favour of reinforced Nordic cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy. Here the added value of Nordic cooperation is partly built upon the notion that common efforts by the Nordic states are appreciated on the international stage. This would be the external objective. However, the added value of cooperation is also based upon a common value system – the identity objective – as well as the tradition of mutual understanding and informal cooperation – the interrelational objective. When the ministers call for concrete action in order to keep the Nordic cooperation in foreign and security policy alive, the integration objective is clearly underpinning the argument.

This is hardly surprising taking into account that getting as many people as possible involved in the exchange of experiences through projects is the engine for Nordic cooperation in many other policy fields. Even if this focus on the process of working together is not always regarded warmly by all observers due to the presumed efficiency deficit, many would still acknowledge that the mutual respect and trust gained through the process of cooperation often has higher value in the long run than the actual outcomes of that cooperation. Forget-it-not in foreign policy-making. While new external goals for Nordic cooperation are being looked for in an era of EU and NATO playing new roles in the European North, the internal benefits of the Nordic cooperation have always been there.

Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors

Discussion (1 comments)

26.3.2010, Terhi Tikkala
 

Thank you for bringing up the issue of internal vs. external objectives of international co-operation. That the EU -co-operation in this respect resembles Nordic co-operation seems like a valid conclusion.

Discuss the topic

Personal information
Name  
Email  
URL  
Comment
  Submit