The Nordics and the New European Security Architecture investigates the increasingly dense European security architecture – in other words the various new multinational security and defence related initiatives that have emerged over the last years.

The report, published in March 2020, offers an overview of formats for cooperation and analyses what role they play for the Nordic countries.

It includes country-specific contributions from national experts on how Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are navigating and positioning themselves within the new architecture.

'Nordic cooperation appears to be of secondary priority'

There has been a rapid development of forums and mechanisms for security cooperation in Europe in recent years. Novelties such as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF), the Joint Expeditionary Forces (JEF), Framework Nation Concept (FNC) and the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) have been added to a field already dense with acronyms.

This study summarizes recent developments in European security cooperation, analyses the added value of the new structures and discusses what these might mean for Nordic security and the Nordic states.

‘The Nordic states engage in these initiatives primarily to build strong bilateral relations with Europe’s larger powers – while Nordic cooperation appears to be of secondary priority, says Karsten Friis, Senior Research Fellow at NUPI.

Together with former colleague Maren Garberg Bredesen, Friis has written the report chapter on Norway.

Striking similarities

From a Nordic perspective, it is striking that Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – which differ considerably on European Union (EU) and NATO membership, as well as on EU defence policy and euro participation – have all adopted fairly similar positions on Europe’s new security formats.

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From different positions, and with somewhat different arguments, all of these states are trying to reap the benefits of the new EU structures and have joined “mini-lateral“ groupings focused around big players such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

This alignment of institutional choices should not, however, be interpreted as a surge of “Nordism” – the Nordic states as a political force. On the contrary, the report illustrates how Nordic cooperation and cohesion are formed within specific frameworks, such as bilateral links and Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO), but rarely leave these formats. Joint Nordic positions and interests are thus rarely leveraged in wider European platforms for security cooperation.

‘Nonetheless, one perceived benefit of all the Nordic states participating in the new platforms for cooperation is the increased levels of interoperability and enhanced habits of cooperation,’ Friis concludes.

This article is built upon this text published by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI).