Norway may fall outside EU’s new defense plans

EUEU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, center, talks with Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, right, and Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel during an EU Foreign and Defense ministers meeting at the EU Council building in Brussels, Monday, March 6, 2017. The European Union is set to give the greenlight to establish a headquarters for its military training missions in Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

A new defense cooperation has slowly begun to take shape in the EU. Norway is basically on the outside of such command structures.

– EU has always taken a soft approach to security. But we also have hard power which we will strengthen, said the  EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

She has now laid a number of proposals on the table on how EU member states can step up their military cooperation.

The backdrop is a growing recognition that Europe must take care of their own security in a situation where both Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election has created unrest.

Whether such new initiatives will be open for outside countries like Norway, is still under discussion.

Can be partner
The principle is that countries like Norway may participate as partners in EU operations, explained a central EU source. Norway will then be subject to EU command in such operations.

– Norway may also be part of  a command structure in the field. But the access countries will not be taken into the general command structure at a senior level, the official said.

According to the source, Norway cannot expect to be invited into the EU’s current structures. However, accession  countries may have the opportunity to participate in individual projects within these structures.

Unresolved ambitions
Until now , the EU countries have failed to agree on how far they should go in this area.

Germany especially has taken on the role of advocating for a strengthened defense cooperation. But other countries are worried that such efforts will encroach on what today is the NATO area of responsibility.

Meanwhile, the discussions are dominated by skepticism to relinquishing power to Brussels and about undertaking  costly obligations.

Ambitious ideas of an EU army have completely gone from the discussions, says Sweden’s Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist.

– There is talk of tighter intergovernmental cooperation, which I mean it is a step forward, he said.

Mentioned  Norway
Hultqvist told NTB that he drew attention to Norway specifically as possible partner country when the EU Defense and Foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday.

In discussions within the EU, Britain in particular, who is on their way out, have been concerned with how defense cooperation can be opened up for countries that are not members of the EU.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told NTB that she believes the issue of cooperation with countries outside the EU will take a “natural part” in the talks going forward.

– But so far we have primarily talked about the EU member states and how to collaborate better, she said.

 

Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today

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