Norwegian european policy in a changing world

State Secretary Elsbeth Tronstad's statement at the conference "European security and cooperation in turbulent times".

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Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends [of Europe],

Thank you for inviting me to celebrate Europe Day with you.

Europe Day brings us back 67 years ago. To Robert Schuman, the "father of Europe", as he declared that "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity."

Today's conference title could have been stolen from Schuman, who certainly knew turbulence and its consequences. And at the same time he understood the need for concrete measures and actual cooperation in rebuilding Europe and creating solidarity that keeps conflict at distance.

It is easy to take peace and prosperity in Europe for granted. However, not very long ago, the situation was altogether different. Europe was the continent where the most extreme ideologies of the 20th century were formed and played out, and where the most brutal wars were fought.

But a new era began in the post-war period. On the ruins of the old Europe, a completely new Europe was built.

A safe, stable and prosperous Europe. A Europe where battlefields were replaced by markets. A Europe where we can now trade, travel, study, work and find partners across national borders. For which the EU rightfully received the Nobel Peace Prize.

A community of shared values that defends and further develops international law, and that promotes democracy, human rights, gender equality and the rule of law.

We must hold on to these achievements. They are our strongest assets as we navigate in the new security landscape that has emerged in and around Europe the last few years.

To the south of Europe, we face a belt of instability. Weak governance and porous borders have enabled terrorist groups and organised criminal networks to operate more or less freely.

In the east, we see a more assertive Russia. In 2014, for the first time since the Second World War, a European country annexed parts of another European country. This was dramatic. Such violations of international law shake the very foundations of the international architecture we have built up since 1945.

In our own societies, we struggle with violent extremism and terrorism. We are also increasingly confronted with the threat of hybrid warfare and cyber attacks. And on top of these challenges, radical parties in several European countries promote isolationist and protectionist policies that only serve to undermine our ability to take collective action.


Against this backdrop, my government has presented a new White Paper to parliament on the future course of Norwegian security policy.

When launching the White Paper two weeks ago, foreign minister Brende emphasised the need to strengthen European cooperation.

For it is here in Europe and in its neighbourhood that we face our most serious security challenges. It is only natural that we Europeans take greater responsibility for our own security.

First of all, when it comes to hard security Europe must step up its financial contribution. Norway will do its share by delivering on the decision we took at the Nato summit in Warsaw gradually to increase defence spending in the years to come.

Second, Norway seeks closer cooperation with its European partners. In addition to the US, they are our most important partners in foreign and security policy. We share the same values. We most often agree on what is to be done.

We need to further develop our cooperation in a number of areas: Military and civilian crisis management, external border control, police and intelligence activities, and efforts to combat radicalisation and promote integration. Because failure to do so will affect us all.

We know that Europe will not be stable and secure unless the whole continent experiences a peaceful, positive development. This is why the government wants to continue to provide substantial support to the countries of the Western Balkans and eastern parts of Europe, to promote reforms, economic development and closer European cooperation.

Taking responsibility for European security also means that we must step up our joint efforts in fragile states and regions near Europe's southern border. The EU's global strategy call for an integrated approach to tackle conflicts and crises, and for investing in the resilience of states and societies to the east and south of the EU.

I could not agree more. We need to take a coherent approach, and coordinate efforts in the areas of humanitarian aid, long-term development, business development, peace and reconciliation, various forms of capacity building and military contributions. Finally, we must strengthen cooperation between the many organisations in our security architecture, especially the EU and Nato. They have different assets. We need them all.

Nato and the US security guarantee will remain the cornerstone of Norway's security policy. Greater European responsibility is not about replacing US engagement in Europe. On the contrary, it is key to preserving the vitality of the transatlantic ties.

The EU has a broad toolbox. Norway is pleased to contribute to this as a member of Schengen, the EEA and as a close partner in common foreign and security policy, because it is in our national interest to do so. We regularly stand together in statements and measures, the restrictive measures on Russia being a case in point. Our contributions to CSDP-missions another. And of course our many-faceted contribution to manage the sudden rise of migration to Europe.

Our time may seem particularly challenging. But we face the same tasks as previous generations of Europeans. Their answer was integration and closer cooperation.

Today it is our turn to safeguard our values and interests. Our turn to speak up for free and open societies based on democracy, the rule of law, human rights and an open market economy. Protectionism and isolationism is not the way to go. We must rather make sure the answer stays the same.

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