One of the Nordic region's grey eminences, former Norwegian Defence and Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg, has presented his report on potential Nordic cooperation in foreign and security policy, including proposals for a joint military and civilian force that could help stabilise countries in the throes of national unrest.
Commissioned by the Nordic foreign ministers, Stoltenberg's 13-point plan includes proposals for a Nordic Stabilisation Task Force to address some of the new security challenges facing the UN and the international community that would be deployed to states affected by major internal unrest.
"The task force should have four components: a military component, a humanitarian component, a statebuilding component (including police officers, judges, prison officers, election observers) and a development assistance component," the report says.
It adds that the standing force could contribute to large-scale UN-led operations as well as operations led by the European Union, NATO, the Africa Union or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe that have a United Nations mandate.
Of the five Nordic countries, Denmark, Iceland and Norway are members of NATO; Denmark, Sweden and Finland are members of the European Union. Although Denmark has an opt-out on defence cooperation, none are members of the African Union and all are members of the United Nations and the OSCE.
The proposals, presented to the five Nordic foreign ministers in Oslo Monday, also suggest that the Nordic countries should take on part of the responsibility for air surveillance and air patrolling in Icelandic air space, initially deploying personnel to the Keflavik base. Iceland has no military of its own.
A third proposal for extended Nordic cooperation includes a civilian Nordic maritime monitoring system designed for tasks such as monitoring the marine environment and pollution and the monitoring of civilian traffic.
"A Nordic maritime monitoring system could have two pillars, one for the Baltic Sea ('BalticWatch') and one for the North Atlantic, parts of the Arctic Ocean and the Barents Sea ('BarentsWatch'), under a common overall system," the report says.
It adds that climate change and the resulting melting of the sea ice will make these areas even more extensive and may also result in greater activity in the northern seas, particularly related to oil and gas production, and in opening up new shipping routes between Europe and the Pacific via Arctic waters.
"Effective management of these areas requires an overview, preferably in real time, of what is happening in the sea and on the surface of the sea. This will require the development and coordination of different sector systems," the report says, adding that a system should be developed enabling the easy exchange of information with other countries, including Russia.
The system would also enable common patrols and search-and-rescue operations in the Nordic seas and, by 2020, include a Nordic polar orbit satellite system.
In addition, the report calls for the establishment of a common Nordic resource network to protect against cyber attacks.
"Its main task would be to facilitate the exchange of experience and coordinate national efforts to prevent and protect against such attacks and provide advice to Nordic countries that are in the process of building capacity in this area. In the longer term, the resource network could develop and coordinate systems for identifying cyber threats against the Nordic countries," the report says.
The Stoltenberg report also calls for the establishment of a Disaster Response Unit to deal with large-scale disasters and accidents in the Nordic region and in other countries.
"The unit's main task would be to coordinate Nordic efforts as needed. It would maintain an overview of available equipment and personnel and establish a network made up of the many public and private organisations working in this field," the report says.
The report, which is to be discussed at a meeting in Reykjavik later this spring, suggests several other areas in which the Nordic countries can cooperate -- including a war crimes investigation unit, joint diplomatic and consular missions, strengthened defence cooperation on medical services, education, materiel and exercise ranges and a joint amphibious unit.
Finally, the report says, the Nordic government should issue a mutual declaration of solidarity.
"In such a declaration, the countries could clarify in binding terms how they would respond if a Nordic country were subject to external attack or undue pressure," the report says.
A Man of Much Experience
Thorvald Stoltenberg, who was asked by Nordic foreign ministers to prepare the report, is one of the most prominent Norwegian politicians, and he has held an array of international posts. He is a former Norwegian defence minister and foreign minister, has been Norway's ambassador to the United Nations and, in the early 1990s, he was the UN secretary-general's special representative for the former Yugooslavia. He has also been president of the Norwegian Red Cross for three consecutive terms.
Nordic cooperation is currently organized under two umbrellas -- the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The former is a cooperation between the parliamentary bodies of all five members and meets once each year, while the latter is an organ of cooperation between governments, with regular ministerial meetings.
The Nordic countries are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and include representation for the Aaland Islands (Finland), Greenland (Denmark) and the Faroe Islands (Denmark).