Enhanced Nordic dialogue and information exchange in the event of crisis and conflict – summary of defence ministerial meetings on 19–20 November
Sweden’s year as chair of the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) was summarised when the Nordic defence ministers met in Stockholm on 19 November.
"In 2019, Sweden and our Nordic neighbours have jointly laid the foundation for closer dialogue in the event of a serious crisis or conflict in our region. We have strengthened our ability to reach a common understanding of the security situation during a crisis", says Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist.
The ministerial meeting was held at Karlberg Palace in Stockholm on 19 November. It was the largest meeting in the NORDEFCO format during the year. In connection with the meeting, the Nordic defence ministers also met their colleagues from the Baltic states in a Nordic-Baltic meeting. A meeting in the defence policy forum the Northern Group was held on 20 November, which in addition to the Nordic and Baltic countries includes Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.
Further development of Nordic defence cooperation
The NORDEFCO ministerial meeting summarised the Swedish chairmanship and the accomplishments during the year. The objective of the Swedish chairmanship has been to improve the potential for cooperation at all levels of conflict. At the meeting, the Nordic defence ministers agreed on a mechanism for crisis consultations and information exchange between defence ministries, which can be used in the event of crisis or conflict.
Cooperation has also been deepened in several other areas.
The multinational air power Arctic Challenge Exercise – most recently held in May-June 2019 – was conducted as a European Flag Level Exercise.
The Nordic countries’ chiefs of air force signed an agreement on 9 November 2019 regarding the possibility of using alternate landing bases in another Nordic country for armed aircraft. The capability to exchange air situation and radar data have also been further developed.
Sweden took the initiative to include total defence issues as a NORDEFCO area of cooperation.
Denmark will assume the chairmanship of NORDEFCO on 1 January 2020.
Nordic-Baltic defence ministerial meeting
A Nordic-Baltic defence ministerial meeting was also held on 19 November. The defence ministers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Nordic ministers to discuss the security situation in the region, EU-related issues and how Nordic-Baltic cooperation can be further developed.
Northern Group meeting discussed regional security
At a meeting in the defence policy forum the Northern Group – which in addition to the Nordic and Baltic countries includes Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom – the security situation in the Arctic and northern Europe was discussed, as well as military mobility and strategic communications related to exercises. The participants also conducted a table-top discussion on a hybrid threat scenario.
Latvia will assume the chairmanship of the Northern Group in the first half of 2020, followed by Denmark the second half of the year.
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander US European Command General Tod D. Wolters attended the Northern Group meeting
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Tod D. Wolters, who is dual-hatted as Commander US European Command, participated in the Northern Group meeting. During the meeting, General Wolters, Minister Hultqvist and the other ministers of defence emphasized the importance of the Northern Group and the desire to continue the dialogue in the future. The discussions also highlighted the importance of transparency, and joint exercises and operations.
General Wolters praised the group for its resilience and contribution to the overall campaign for security.
“We must continue to do what’s right for our global security,” said General Wolters. “Thank you for your near and far term commitments.”
Priorities of the Swedish chairmanship
• Highlight and promote Nordic defence cooperation during NORDEFCO’s 10th anniversary (2009–2019).
• Enhance the Nordic-Transatlantic relationship.
• Share experiences and explore possibilities for cooperation in the area of total defence.
• Enhance NORDEFCO as a platform for crisis consultation between the defence ministries.
• Plan, conduct and continue to develop the Arctic Challenge Exercise (ACE) into a recurring high intensive Air Combat Flag Level Exercise.
• Implement the agreed Nordic Enhanced Cooperation on Air Surveillance (NORECAS) in peacetime between Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and explore the current platform for broader cooperation.
• Continue work on access issues within the framework of the Easy Access Memorandum of Understanding.
• Based on lessons learned from the joint Nordic Combat Uniform project, produce guidelines for Nordic procurement.
• Enhance the processes to identify common capability development projects.
• Discuss and if possible coordinate Nordic cooperation regarding the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP) and the European Defence Fund (EDF).