Nordic Defence Cooperation NORDEFCO: Some Inspiration for EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy?

Written by | Saturday, December 14th, 2013
Col. Arto-Pekka Nurminen

Exclusive Interview with
Colonel Arto-Pekka Nurminen, NORDEFCO Secretary General

Nordic Defence Cooperation, or NORDEFCO, is a collaboration among five Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, in the area of defence. The cooperation is based on the conviction that its NORDEFCO members can gain a lot through cost sharing, joint solutions, and joint actions. The NORDEFCO official website stresses that the organization “does not aim for new military or political alliances between the nations. Mutually reinforcing cooperation in capability development can be achieved without negative influence on participating countries’ different foreign and security policy orientation and membership obligations in NATO, the EU and the UN. On the contrary, closer practical cooperation in capability development would constitute a supplemental approach in providing the capabilities and forces required by these organizations.”

EUBULLETIN talked to Colonel Arto-Pekka Nurminen, NORDEFCO Secretary General, about whether the upcoming EU Summit can yield any tangible results and what lessons could European leaders learn from the Nordic Defence Cooperation while seeking to revise and revive the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

EUBULLETIN: What is your assessment of the prospects for the forthcoming EU Summit in Brussels which will focus on defense and security? Will the 28 EU member countries be able to come up with some tangible results, not only empty declarations?

Colonel Nurminen: I hope that there will be some tangible results but I am not sure because it is not really my area of expertise. But, of course, if they would reach some tangible results, it would be good. The problem is that if you do not know the agenda of each of the EU member states, their national commitments, and what is going on behind the curtains, you can never predict the actual results. I personally hope there will be some EU-level important results.

EUBULLETIN: In the run-up to the EU Summit, the NATO chief, Mr. Rasmussen, has recently stressed that here cannot be a credible EU foreign policy without the military means to back it up. I think he particularly referred to the kind of fiasco of EU military projection in Libya and Mali.

Colonel Nurminen: First of all, the thinking that the EU has not been capable of doing things by itself, it is true because in each and every area we are not capable of doing it. But what is actually going to be on the table in Brussels – surveillance drones, refueling planes or other military equipment – I do not know. But, first of all, it is also a question of procurement, or how to choose the best parts for the European drones, that is by the European Defence Agency, the EDA. These questions are so complicated.

EUBULLETIN: What is the Nordic approach, meaning by NORDEFCO, organization that you represent, to these complicated questions?

Colonel Nurminen: In the Nordic approach, in NORDEFCO, we are studying or trying to find ways how to mutually reinforce cooperation in capacity development. First of all, we need something to save money and we need to be more efficient and, of course, we have our own development programs, development plans, and finally we also have some procuring programs. But the time span is long if you want to have something immediately, it is not so easy because the money is tight and the program is ongoing – so we should look five, ten or fifteen years ahead and then decide that we would like to have, lets say, the drones in 2030. So, then it would be easier to have joint-ventures. That is the Nordic approach – I am not referring to the EU as a whole. It is very challenging, if you are already tied with some programs, to cut them to get a new one. Because the money is there, the people and the resources are there, the contracts are made, so that makes it challenging.

EUBULLETIN: What can NATO and the EU as a whole learn from the close defense and security collaboration among Nordic countries?

Colonel Nurminen: Yes, the idea of regional cooperation might be useful for EU and NATO and in that respect this Nordic solution might be something that should be considered as a supportive and not a competitive option for NATO and the EU. Because our basic approach is to save money, to be more efficient, while not compromising our links and membership obligations towards the EU or NATO. At the Nordic cooperation, we are pretty pragmatic – if there is an area, where we can sense a success, we will go for that. If there is an area of cooperation that will not fly, we will delete it. So, pragmatism underscores the Nordic regional collaboration and this system works very well.

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