INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION: What do Czech and Norwegian policy makers identify as the key fears to which they must respond? What opportunities can be identified for deeper Czech-Norwegian cooperation? Researchers from NUPI and the Institute of International Relations Prague have studied this in the project Common Fear Factors in Foreign Policy (COMFEAR).

Common fears, common opportunities?

Published: 5 Mar 2020

How do Czechia and Norway assess and respond to a changing international political context?

“Every change of scene requires new expositions, descriptions, explanations,” the author Milan Kundera once observed. With long-dominant structures in flux, many European states are now forced to rethink their foreign policy approaches and practices.

What do Czech and Norwegian policy makers identify as the key fears to which they must respond? What opportunities can be identified for deeper Czech-Norwegian cooperation? In a new policy report, researchers from NUPI and the Institute of International Relations Prague, explore how Czechia and Norway assess and respond to a changing international political context.

The new report builds on discussions and conclusions from roundtable discussions with policy makers and researchers in Prague and Oslo in late 2019 and early 2020. Initially, these expert communities were interested but perhaps a little skeptical:

– We expected to find some similarities, but we were surprised to see just how similar policy makers and researchers in Oslo and Prague assessed the current international situation, says Kristin Haugevik, Senior Research Fellow at NUPI. Together with Benjamin Tallis, Senior Research Fellow at IIR, she has managed the COMFEAR project – which has been financed through the EEA Norway Grants.

A key observation made in the new brief, is that while changes in for example US, Chinese and Russian foreign policies may trigger anxiety and uncertainty among smaller European states, fear can also have productive effects on foreign policy thinking and practice. For states like Czechia and Norway, it can create opportunities for re-thinking support networks and reaching out to new partners.

– For Norway and Czechia, the time is ripe to seek new and deeper friendships to help cope with their common fears – but also to explore new opportunities in the changing global context, says Benjamin Tallis.

While Norway and Czechia have different historical, geographical and (sometimes) political points of departure, the two states’ assessment of recent international developments is similar. This creates room for conversation and mutual learning - including on how to best respond to increased great power rivalry and changing dynamics in the EU and NATO. There are also similarities in how Norway and Czechia think about their regional collaboration with the Nordic and Visegrad states respectively – and considerable scope for them to branch out from their regional formats.

– Our research shows that the opportunities for progress are there, but how Czech-Norwegian foreign policy cooperation develops will depend on whether policymakers seize them, Haugevik and Tallis conclude.

The report can be read in full here.