Foreign investments mean that someone from abroad buys a company or part of a company in a country. This is normal, and most of the time unproblematic. In fact, a range of benefits may come from foreign investments, both for the company in question and for the country in which it is located.
Who, then, are buying companies in other countries? Normally, it is other, often multinational, companies that are privately owned. However, as of late, we see that some of these companies indirectly or directly also represent the interests of other states. A worry is therefore that foreign investments and the buying of companies can be used as a power-political instrument in the relations between states. This worry is partly a result of changing patterns of investments flows, where China, Russia and Gulf States have become more significant actors.
Usually, investments from such countries are also unproblematic but in the worst-case scenario, such investments can be used by other states as a basis for espionage, or as a means to gain leverage and exert political pressure on other countries.
An increasingly important question is therefore how liberal open societies can reap the benefits of open economies, but also protect their legitimate security interests. Where and how should we draw the borders between what is acceptable and normal, and the few cases where foreign investments may be a risk to society? Should a country decide this alone, or do we need international cooperation concerning the rules for screening foreign investments? If we can stop some kinds of investments, is there a danger that this can be abused for other purposes beyond societal security?
Researchers at Nupi therefore work to better understand the relationship between the benefits of foreign investments and how to best protect legitimate national security concerns.