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Monday, May 29, 2017

Nordic Countries Working Together

Merkel's European 

Wake Up Call Is Being 

Answered in the 

Nordics

  • Nordic countries seek deeper economic and military ties
  • Region is promoting itself as world’s most integrated
With Vladimir Putin in the east and Donald Trump to the west, German
 Chancellor Angela Merkel is now telling Europe it has to stand up for itself
It’s a call that’s already being answered by the continent’s richest region.
Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway have over the past two years been 
deepening their military cooperation to counter a deteriorating security
 situation in the Baltic and the Arctic. They are also forging closer ties on
 softer issues, presenting this week a joint initiative to meet sustainability 
goals, promoting the 20 million-person region’s shared values on social 
equality, and discussing joint interaction with China.
“There’s no doubt that Europe needs to take bigger responsibility, we have 
to spend more on defense and security,” Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime 
minister, said in an interview on Monday as Nordic leaders start a two-day 
summit in Bergen. Norway will ensure good cooperation “with its closest 
allies, and some are in the EU and some are on the other side of the 
Atlantic,” she said.
The Nordic summit started a day after Merkel said reliable relationships 
forged in Europe since the end of World War II “are to some extent over.” The
 German chancellor made those comments after meeting with U.S. President
 Donald Trump in Brussels and Sicily over the past week.
Both Solberg and Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila cautioned against
 interpreting Merkel’s remarks as a major shift.

Not NATO

The comments were mainly about the economic side, “that European
 countries should take more responsibility on the NATO budget,” Sipila 
said. “This message has been quite clear all the time. At the same time this
 means that we can cooperate more inside the European Union” and that “the 
window is open for defense cooperation,” he said.
The broadest shifts in policy in the region have 
been seen in Finland and Sweden, which unlike
 Denmark and Norway aren’t members of NATO. 
The two neighbors have intensified military
 cooperation and also forged closer ties with the 
military alliance without outright joining NATO. Finland’s proximity to
 Russia has excluded it from becoming a full-fledged member, while Sweden
 has a long-held belief that official neutrality serves it best.  
All four countries have been boosting spending, with Denmark and Norway 
now working toward meeting the 2 percent spending goal that NATO members
 have been lambasted by Trump for not meeting.

‘Grave Difficulties’

Because of the different security alliances, Solberg said that closer Nordic
 cooperation will likely center around economic questions.
“European cooperation will become stronger going forward and then we 
will cooperate with those that are our closest allies, but Sweden and Finland 
are also close partners,” she said.
But even now Sweden is in “grave difficulties” after disarming since the end
 of the cold-war, according to Finnish diplomat René Nyberg, who has served
 as Finland’s ambassador to both Moscow and Berlin.
“There are many building blocks, which are quite solid,” Nyberg said in an
 interview in Helsinki May 24. “Finland’s military cooperation with Sweden 
has proceeded at an incredible pace, and it’s a great success. Sweden needs 
it -- it’s not just Finland that does.”
Sipila said the cooperation “is very important for both countries.”
Trump’s talk on raising trade barriers, and the U.K.’s decision to exit the 
European Union, have also jolted the trade-dependent region. The U.K. 
was seen as a key ally within the bloc by Sweden and Denmark, two other 
countries that have chosen not to adopt the euro. Norway, flush with oil 
wealth, has rejected joining the EU altogether.
Sipila said there are “a lot” of possibilities to strengthen economic ties across
 the region, including setting up a single “digital market” and a bio-fuels 
market.
The Nordic leaders also discussed more joint cooperation in dealing with
 China, albeit on an “ad-hoc” basis, according to Swedish Prime Minister 
Stefan Lofven, as well as combating climate change.
“As the most integrated region in the world we have today agreed to further 
deepen our cooperation,” Lovfen said at a press briefing.