Nordic countries have been seen as a model of social welfare, equality and progress. However, many Nordic efforts to reach important international positions have failed recently. Access to the UN Security Council was blocked for both Finland and Iceland while Sweden didn’t get a seat in the UN human rights council. Are the Nordic countries losing international credibility? Should they rethink the ways in which they work? Have the Nordics become blinded by their past reputation and international success? Wherein lay the opportunities for future Nordic influence? If the newest common project – defence policy cooperation – doesn’t fly high what will be left of the once so blossoming Nordic unity?
What does Norden and the Nordic countries stand for in today’s world, in their own view, and in that of the others?
Welcoming remarks and chair: Dr Teija Tiilikainen, Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Keynote speech: Mr Carl Haglund, Minister of Defence of Finland
Commentators and panelists:
Dr Gunilla Herolf, Vice President, Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences
Dr Herolf’s areas of expertise include Nordic Security Policy, small state defence politics, European integration and security cooperation, including the CSDP and NATO, transatlantic relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Prior to her current position Dr Herolf was a Senior Researcher within the Euro-Atlantic Security Programme at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI.
Dr Hans Mouritzen, Senior Researcher, research unit on Foreign policy and EU studies, the Danish Institute of International Affairs
Dr Mouritzen’s expertise includes foreign policy in general, democratic deficit in foreign policy, small state adaptation and intergovernmental organisations. Geographically his focus is on Danish foreign policy, Euro-Atlantic geopolitics and relations (NATO and the EU-US), Europe’s Eastern Neighbourhood, Caucasus and the Baltic Sea area in general.
HE Mr Jørg Willy Bronebakk, Ambassador of Norway to Finland
Jørg Willy Bronebakk is currently Norway’s Ambassador of Finland, a posting he took up in September 2012. He has previously served as the Norwegian Ambassador to Denmark, as well as various postings in Saudi Arabia, Germany, United States and in the Norwegian Delegation to NATO in Brussels. Bronebakk has also served as the Under-Secretary of State in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as Director-General of the Department for Security Policy in the Ministry.
Dr Hanna Ojanen, Visiting Researcher, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Summary of the seminar
Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Dr Teija Tiilikainen opened the FIIA Day seminar by reviewing the past year at the Institute. The economic and financial crises dominated the public debate in Europe, and the Institute gave its contribution to the discussion by releasing publications and hosting high level events on the topic. Politicians such as Finnish PM Jyrki Katainen, Italian PM Mario Monti and Commissioner Olli Rehn, alongside with other politicians and academics, participated in FIIA events last year. Dr Tiilikainen also mentioned the new cooperation with Finnish economic research institutes as well as funding from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation for a joint research project by FIIA and ETLA on the consequences of the European economic crisis. Dr Tiilikainen also noted that the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has given a three year grant for establishing a research center for US politics and power.
Dr Tiilikainen reminded that the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme has strengthened the focus on Russian domestic developments and on the country’s critical infrastructure. She recalled how the Institute’s Asia research team had organized the first ever China Research Days and how the Finnish Journal of Foreign Affairs Ulkopolitiikka was awarded the first prize for Finnish quality magazines last year. She gave many thanks to partners, parliaments, ministries, research institutes, embassies and other organisations for a successful cooperation during the past year as well as to the FIIA staff and its international researchers.
Minister of Defence Carl Haglund started his keynote speech by congratulating FIIA: he stated that the Institute has established itself as a top source of innovative thinking in international affairs. Minister Haglund remarked that the Nordic countries amount to the 9th biggest economy in the world, and they will continue to have a high standing in the international arena. This is why he suggested that there should be no reason to panic even if Finland and Iceland failed to get elected to the UN Security Council and Sweden to the Human Rights Council. Minister Haglund stated that Finland’s standing and role in the international community is very closely linked to the Nordic community as a whole and that Nordic countries are perceived as a collective entity by the outside world; Nordic countries are similar in many ways indeed. Here he referred to a feature article in The Economist about the Nordic model, and raised a question whether Nordic countries should further strive for a successful regional branding, Minister Haglund pointed out that, despite recent setbacks, Nordic countries are still viewed positively and they continue to top different rankings. He acknowledged the support Finland got in its UN campaign from other Nordic countries but asked whether there could have been even more coordination, and whether stronger regional cooperation would have yielded a better result in the UN campaign.
For Minister Haglund, there is a call for a stronger emphasis on regional strategies within the EU, and he stated that a stronger Nordic cooperation would not harm EU cooperation but could even strengthen it. Haglund suggested that the Nordic model needs updating, and has to adapt to the new realities of our time, such as structural budget deficits. He highlighted the need for competitiveness and economic strength in order to guarantee the continuation of the welfare state model, and called for a further liberalization of the Nordic economic system.
The Defence Minister also gave a brief overview of the recent developments in the Nordic defence cooperation. He reviewed the long tradition in collaboration, and how, in 2008, the Nordic chiefs of defence published a report on cooperation opportunities leading to the establishment of Nordefco in 2009. The Stoltenberg report and the Nordic declaration of solidarity further advanced the cooperation. Haglund described how the participation in Nordefco is flexible, how there are countries both inside and outside NATO, and how within the Nordefco framework further cooperation can be developed by individual countries. Haglund underlined the fact that Nordefco both inspires defence cooperation elsewhere in the world and enjoys strong political backing in all participant countries. At the same time, one also needs to be aware of the exact possibilities and limits to cooperation: it is not about mutual defence. Haglund gave concrete examples of relevant cooperation, such as Nordic collaboration in crisis management, data exchange, and joint exercises. There is more to the cooperation than air surveillance of Iceland, currently the most publicly debated question, and the outlooks are good for the Finnish presidency of Nordefco this year: the next step would be a common political vision for this cooperation.
Minister Haglund summarized his keynote speech by repeating his conviction that the Nordic model is not in crisis but should be kept up to date, without sacrificing core values and the Nordic social contract, and that this challenge has to be tackled today. Haglund answered questions whether limits of cooperation can be pushed further by emphasising his belief that a strong political will can move boundaries but that the limits should be analysed on a country-by-country basis. He also gave his opinion on the question whether Nordic cooperation should be seen as valuable per se or as an integrated part of the EU defence by stating that Nordefco isn’t comparable to NATO or EU defence, but that different forms of cooperation can coexist. To the final question about the possible inclusion of the Baltic states Haglund answered by calling the issue a kind of a hot potato in the Nordic debate, as there might be a risk of losing focus in a bigger group while, on the other hand, no one wants to reject friends.
After the Q&A with Minister Haglund, the event continued with a panel chaired by Teija Tiilikainen. Panellists were Dr Gunilla Herolf, Vice President of the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences; Dr Hans Mouritzen, Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies; HE Mr Jørg Willy Bronebakk, Ambassador of Norway to Finland; and Dr Hanna Ojanen, Visiting Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Teija Tiilikainen started the panel by asking the panellists how the Nordic defence and security cooperation is viewed in their respective countries. Dr Gunilla Herolf stated that in Sweden there is a unanimous view that Nordic cooperation is a good thing. Rather, the question is why we haven’t done more cooperation before. In Sweden, there are different views on which road should be taken, and NATO membership is also finally becoming much discussed. Dr Herolf also reminded the audience of Sweden’s already existing declaration of solidarity: Sweden would not be passive – regardless of the state of the Nordic defence cooperation – if any of the Nordic countries would come under attack.
Dr Hans Mouritzen said that the Danes have the same attitude to the defence cooperation as to the church: somehow the church has to be there even though people are secularized. What is most important for Denmark is the future of US presence in Europe, which is declining, and the possible UK exit from the EU. He thinks that Nordic defence cooperation will get strong political support in Denmark but the Danish military circles will be more hesitant.
Ambassador Jørg Willy Bronebakk said that Norway is serious about Nordefco, and Norwegians have a positive attitude towards the Nordic defence cooperation in general. After all, it’s pragmatic cooperation without large structures.
Dr Hanna Ojanen raised a question: if the Nordic cooperation is seen to be natural, why didn’t it happen before? She thinks that one explanation is the push from the European defence cooperation; before the European defence cooperation Finland had seen such cooperation as something dangerous. Also economic push is an important factor, as are shared values and proximity.
There were also several questions and comments from the audience. One commentator reminded that the Nordic countries have to be prepared for the future, and military competence requires money. However, the problem is that taxpayers are not willing to spend money on the military when there is no foreseeable threat.
Panellists were also asked where the boundaries of defence cooperation in their countries lie. Dr Hans Mouritzen said that inclusion of the Baltic States in the military cooperation might cause too much tension, since they have such a different view on Russia. On the other hand, he also stated Denmark has a different view on Russia than Finland, Sweden and Norway, which are geographically much closer to it. However, this claim was challenged by Jens-Otto Horslund, Ambassador of Denmark to Finland, who stated that even though Denmark is geographically closer to Central Europe, it is mentally as Nordic as Finland, Sweden and Norway. Dr Gunilla Herolf said that the boundaries depend on the field of cooperation. At a certain point things cannot be integrated anymore, as there’s a borderline between military cooperation and common defence. Common acquisition might be difficult as well: if one country is ready to make a new arms purchase, the other might not be.
A concern was expressed about illusions: cooperation does not equal common defence, and cooperation is not an answer to challenges of defence as such. However, Dr Hanna Ojanen stressed the importance of recent developments: ”It is not common defence but defence in common. It is deeper exchange of information, deeper trust and mutual understanding, which are already major steps.”
The next theme for discussion was the Nordic model. ”The Nordic model is seen as a positive brand, but now we want to get the failures analysed, especially in the UN. Do these failures have a more general meaning in the Nordic context?” Dr Tiilikainen asked.
Dr Herolf answered that there is no one Nordic model, but five of them – each country has its own. However, she thinks that popularity of the Nordic model is on the contrary increasing, as it has gained credibility by showing that it is possible to have both the welfare state and a functioning economy in times of crisis. Dr Mouritzen said that there has not been debate about the failure of the Nordic model in Denmark. Rather, if we want to analyse what has happened in the UN recently, we should analyse the UN process itself; the failure does not concern the Nordic model as a whole. However, we should also keep in mind that not every country wants to adopt our model. Not even the Baltic States have adopted that.
Ambassador Bronebakk described the elections in the UN not as failures but as setbacks. Naturally, some of the Nordic values are under pressure. The Nordic countries keep human rights high on the agenda, which is not highly valued in many other countries. However, this does not mean that we should abandon those values. Dr Ojanen said that there might be a need for a renewal of the Nordic model and self-understanding, to keep the model progressive. Also, prior to the next UN elections, changing the campaign tactics could be considered.
The last question was about inter-Nordic competition and its risks. Dr Mouritzen urged the Nordic countries not to compete but to look at the big picture: seen from outside, differences between the Nordic countries are not so big. Dr Herolf claimed that competition can also be a good thing, keeping in mind the competition between Sweden and Denmark in the 1990s: they competed on which country could help more in the Baltics, and everyone was on the winning side. Also Dr Ojanen said that competition between the Nordic countries does not harm anyone.