The Stoltenberg report well received

The proposals for Nordic co-operation on foreign and defence policy by former Norwegian foreign minister Thorvald Stoltenberg's have received enthusiastic backing from several members of the Nordic Council, who think the time is ripe for a closer partnership.

"Closer co-operation on foreign and defence questions is clearly the way forward. This is also a policy area where the Region can show how well we are capable of working together, and as parliamentarians we would very much like to enter into a dialogue with the ministers on this subject," says Sinnika Bohlin, the President of the Nordic Council and a Social Democrat MP in Sweden.

Feedback was also positive in the other Nordic countries.

"If this had been proposed a decade ago, people would have shaken their heads. But Nordic co-operation is so close nowadays, and the geo-political situation has changed so much, that working more closely together on defence policy in the Region is now an obvious progression," says Danish MP Niels Sindal who chairs the Danish delegation to the Nordic Council.In his opinion, closer co-operation on defence policy is particularly important in relation to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the rest of the Arctic Region.

"The situation in the North Atlantic requires action and the proposals put forward are very sensible. The Russians have become more and more active in both the Arctic and the Baltic Sea, so we in the Nordic Region need to pull together and solve the challenges faced in the adjacent areas," the Danish Social Democrat says.

Finnish and Icelandic feedback has been equally positive.

"Closer co-operation on foreign and defence policy in the Nordic Region is necessary in order to maintain a credible defence capability in the Nordic countries at a time when military equipment is becoming more and more advanced and more and more expensive," says Christina Gestrin, another member of the Nordic Council Presidium.

Gestrin, a member of the Swedish People's Party in Finland, considers it to be a natural development that the Nordic Region should work together and guarantee to come to each other's aid in times of crises. She points out that a joint deployment force is not a dramatic proposal since the Nordic countries already work together on various deployments, e.g, under UN auspices.

Árni Páll Árnason, Iceland, thinks that there is a clear rationale behind Nordic foreign and defence policy co-operation, and hopes it will lead to a more intelligent utilisation of resources.

"Aerial surveillance - over Iceland in particular - is the way forward if the governments are able to reach agreement. It will be interesting to see whether a consensus is reached at government level," says Árnason, who is a member of the Presidium of the Nordic Council and an MP for the party Samfylkingin (A).

(NR Press release)

Rolleiv Solholm

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