Meeting Europe's Security Challenges Together

Oslo, 1 February 2016

- Never before has security and prosperity in Europe depended so much on security and prosperity elsewhere, said Foreign Minister Børge Brende in his speech at The 51st annual security conference (Leangkollen) 2016.

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Dear friends,

It's an honor to join you here at the Nobel Institute to discuss European security – at a time when threats to our security are more complex than they have been for decades.

While security policy is attracting more and more public interest, the Norwegian Atlantic Committee deserves praise for always keeping it high on the agenda.

Tomorrow, I will be in Rome at the core group meeting of the coalition in the fight against ISIL.

Progress has been made – and we must use this momentum.

On Thursday, Norway will be co-hosting a donor conference in London to mobilise support for the people of Syria,

These meetings take place against the backdrop of a challenging and rapidly changing security environment.

We must respond to the current threats – and at the same time think through their long-term consequences for our security and prosperity.

Strategic thinking is more important than ever.

That is why the Government is preparing a new white paper on foreign and security policy, whose analysis will help us set the course for the future.

If the previous two years give any indication of what lies ahead, our ability to adapt to a more complex security environment will be crucial.

***

We are facing a cocktail of risks:

Risks involving our security, our economies and the very fabric of our societies.

The division between foreign and domestic affairs is disappearing day by day.

If a state in the Middle East collapses, we may notice the consequences at our own border in a matter of weeks.

In 2008, a housing bubble and a bankruptcy in the US became a worldwide financial crisis, literally overnight.

The international community has achieved a lot since World War II:

The triplet forces of trade, cooperation and respect for international law have transformed the way in which states interact and seek to promote their interests.

The combined effect of these forces has made win-win the prevailing paradigm for decision-making.

This paradigm is now at stake.

As we look at how we can roll back the return of zero-sum thinking, let us also reflect on some recent achievements:

After fifty years of armed conflict, there is now a real chance of peace in Colombia.

I welcome the UN Security Council's decision to establish a monitoring and verification mechanism of the ceasefire between the FARC guerillas and the government.

The agreement on Iran's nuclear activities was a breakthrough – and a major diplomatic achievement to which Norway actively contributed.

While implementation is still in its early phase – it shows what can be achieved through diplomacy.

In September, the leaders of the world agreed on ambitious goals to create sustainable development and eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

These are good news for the least developed countries – and for our prosperity and security.

The same goes for the climate agreement in Paris – whose follow-up will be crucial.

All these examples show that progress can be made when we act together.

While finding inspiration in these developments – the reality remains that the security situation in parts of Europe and its neighbourhood remains volatile.

We face conventional and unconventional security challenges which call for vigilance and effective responses – from Nato, from its members and partners – and from the EU.

Along Europe's southern border, collapsing state power and lack of development lead to violent extremism and waves of refugees.

In the east, Russia's actions are undermining the security architecture that Europe has enjoyed for decades.

Faced with weak growth, migration and reduced internal cohesion, Europe must stand together, stick to its principles and reignite its economy.

We must not allow Europe's past to become Europe's future.

Europe must invest in its own security.

I am pleased to see that the trend of declining defense budgets has now been stopped.

We do not choose between prosperity and security – one depends on the other.

***

Terrorism must be met with rapid and resolute action – and with strengthened efforts to address its root causes.

We must counter radicalisation and violent extremism, at home and globally.

Military action is sometimes necessary – as indeed in the case of ISIL – but it is never enough.

A multifaceted strategy is needed –ranging from police work and strengthened intelligence to creating development and countering extremist ideology.

***

At the London meeting on Thursday, we will mobilise additional humanitarian support for Syria and the region.

It is imperative that the UN receives sufficient resources – and Norway stands ready to double its previous commitments.

If other states follow suit, we'll be able to fully fund the UN appeals.

That would send a strong signal to the millions of Syrians in need of aid, and ease the burden on Syria's neighbours.

***

The Vienna process is the most promising expression to date of political will to reach a settlement in Syria.

The UN Security Council has finally managed to agree on something concerning this terrible tragedy, passing a resolution that provides a roadmap to what may become a political solution.

It is necessary to step up the pressure on all relevant stakeholders to move in the right direction.

***

Tomorrow, in Rome, we will discuss how we can further strengthen our efforts to eliminate ISIL.

Thanks to the coalition's efforts, ISIL is now under more pressure than ever before.

The military assistance to the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga is having its effect.

Norway will continue its training mission in Northern Iraq, and we will continue our stabilisation efforts in both Iraq and Syria.

Towns liberated from ISIL must be secured and rebuilt – and their citizens must be feel that they have a say in how Iraq is governed.

Let us root out ISIL while removing the root causes of their return – and the emergence of other terrorists – in Iraq and elsewhere.

***

The countries of the Middle East have a lot in common in terms of history, culture and religion.

It is a paradox that this remains one of the least integrated regions in the world.

Worldwide, trade has bound the destiny of nations together – and increased their interdependence and interest in solving conflicts peacefully.

The share of those living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990.

But too many countries are lagging behind, in the Middle East and North Africa, due to poor governance, human rights abuses and leaders who fail to recognise the benefits of the win-win perspective.

These zones of stagnation, and the growing contrast between them and the world of progress, are key to understanding the current security landscape.

Promoting economic cooperation and integration may be one way to reduce distrust in the Middle East – and to help it move beyond the state of being a region continually in conflict with itself.

Developing a regional security framework along the lines of the OSCE in the Middle East may seem far-fetched today.

But we have nothing to lose from lifting this idea out academic seminars and into policy-making circles.

***

In Europe, Norway stands firmly with Ukraine, our allies and partners in defense of the principles that have made our security and prosperity possible.

We all stand to lose from an international system where no cost is imposed on those that break the rules.

Norway's policy towards Russia will always be influenced by geographical proximity and a range of common interests, even in times of political differences.

During the Ukrainian crisis, Norway and Russia have been able to continue important practical cooperation and political contact.

Maintaining peace, stability and cooperation in the High North is a key foreign policy priority for Norway.

Continuing our cooperation in the Arctic Council will remain important.

We also need to address the broader security implications of Russia's actions – by strengthening Nato's military capabilities and reassuring our Eastern allies of our solidarity and support.

Their concerns are our concerns.

Norway has a robust defense budget and a high investment share, and contributes solidly to Nato's activities.

We are contributing troops to Nato's new rapid reaction force, we have assisted our Eastern allies on land, at sea and in the air – and we keep on doing so.

At the Warsaw Summit in July, the Alliance will continue to do what it does best – to adapt itself to a changing security landscape.

In Wales, we agreed on some of the largest enhancements of Nato's collective defense capabilities since the end of the cold war.

All allies must be confident that their security concerns are taken seriously.

Norway will continue to raise Nato's situational awareness in our region.

The Alliance must continue developing partnerships with regional partners and organisations, including the African Union.

Contacts with fragile states must be strengthened – not least by contributing to capacity-building in the security sector.

We must improve cooperation between Nato and the EU, allowing these two organisations to complement each other in the face of complex security challenges, drawing on their unique experiences, tools and comparative advantages.

***

As a result of the turmoil in the Middle East, Europe has received more than one million refugees and migrants over the past year.

We must be prepared to see even higher numbers.

This is not sustainable.

Once again, conflict and human rights violations are at the root of the problem.

Never before has security and prosperity in Europe depended so much on security and prosperity elsewhere.

This is one of the reasons why Norway is spending close to one percent of its Gross National Income on development assistance – and we will maintain a high level.

But the best thing we can do for development is to create global growth and improve the ability of recipients to trade and create growth themselves; not least through bolstering their private sectors and improving government, health and education.

Governments must pursue inclusive and sustainable growth.

In a world of open borders and win-win – any boost to the global economy will be good for us – and for developing countries.

We must continue to promote international law, negotiate trade agreements and do what we can to reignite the global economic engine.

Giving young people access to education and job opportunities is crucial.

Norway is increasing our spending on education in developing countries by one hundred percent.

From Pakistan to Nigeria, terrorists have declared war on education.

Let us show them what a formidable weapon education can be.

We will never allow the destructive extremist agendas to change our way of life.

Respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression are values which must be upheld in order to succeed in countering radicalisation.

We will use our development assistance more strategically – and do more to support fragile states.

Such new initiatives will combine and integrate key concerns with security, development, migration and humanitarian action.

The main purpose is to strengthen the capacity of fragile states to meet their own challenges – and to prevent more countries from joining the ranks of failed states.

Our stabilisation efforts need to include improving government capacity and accountability, and combating corruption and illicit capital flows.

Our efforts will contribute to regional progress – and in the long run improve our own security – and reduce the flow of migrants.

***

The main objective of Norway's foreign policy is to promote and secure our interests, welfare and values – today and for the future.

We can only achieve this in close cooperation with our allies and partners – and through accelerated efforts to promote trade, foster development and support fragile states.

The challenges ahead of us are tremendous, but let us not forget who won the cold war:

Open, democratic societies that proved superior – politically and economically.

Democratic societies are not perfect, but because disagreement is tolerated, they have an inherent ability to learn from mistakes and constantly innovate and improve themselves.

Such open societies have also proven able to provide the strongest military capabilities – and to build the strongest partnerships.

Thank you.