24 June 2010 - HELSINKI SEMINAR FOCUSES ON BALTIC AND NORDIC PERSPECTIVES ON SECURITY, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s 74th Rose-Roth seminar in Helsinki, Finland from 17 to 19 June 2010, brought together over 100 participants to look at the unique security, economic and environmental challenges facing the Nordic and Baltic nations. The seminar, organised in co-operation with the Parliament of Finland and supported by the Swiss Ministry of Defence, assembled nearly 40 parliamentarians from a variety of NATO member and non-member parliaments. These were joined by government representatives from Finland and by participants from think tanks, embassies, and other international organizations.
The Seminar covered a wide array of topics, including Security Challenges in the High North, Nordic Views on National Defence, Evolving Finnish and Swedish Relations with NATO, the Regional Relationship with the
Seminar participants learned about the profound transformation of the Arctic region as climate change and the shrinking polar ice cap open up Arctic resources and seal lines of communication. This has led to concerns that these trends, coupled with some unresolved territorial sovereignty issues, might lead to rising tensions in this traditionally peaceful region.
However, the Canadian Ambassador to
In terms of the environment, climate change effects in the Arctic region are extremely complex. According to Olav Orheim, of The Research Council of Norway, the Arctic environment faces multiple challenges, including greater accessibility for exploitation of fossil fuels, transport, potential over-fishing and the accumulation of pollutants. These factors will certainly increase search and rescue (SAR) requirements as activities in the region rise. There has already been a huge increase in the number of cruise ships visiting the
Indigenous Arctic communities are also likely to be greatly affected by climate change according to Suvi Juntunen, advisor to the President of the Sami Parliament. Factors such as increased economic activity may pose new challenges to the traditional way of life.
Nordic speakers in particular considered the Arctic Council as the premier international institution promoting cooperation in the region. Foreign Minister of
Although the five Nordic countries (Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden) have much in common and their foreign policies stress values and multilateralism, they each differ with regard to their mentality, history, geography, economic profiles, and make different strategic choices. There is little integration among them and no real common ‘Nordic voice’. “Nordic nations don’t hate or love their neighbours enough to seek deeper integration” said Alyson Bailes, visiting professor at the
Mounting challenges, such as crime, environmental degradation, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), migration, climate change, and competition for Arctic resources, may require the Nordic countries to revisit their foreign and security policies to find collective ways to address these problems.
Jyrki Kasvi, Member of the Finish Parliament, discussed a different set of challenges relating to the revolution in information and communication technologies. The profound changes brought by this revolution, including the emergence of global social networks, will affect our values and the nature of conflicts that will be increasingly asymmetrical and will require new responses, he said. The Nordic states, being compact, democratic and technologically advanced, could lead the global effort to minimise security risks of this revolution.
Edward Lucas, correspondent for The Economist, said that the development of NATO defence plans for the Baltic States as well as other manifestations of the
The seminar also addressed economic and financial issues in the Nordic and Baltic regions. Hans Tson Söderström of the Stockholm School of Economics noted that Nordic countries were also hit hard by the global financial and economic crisis, although Finland, Sweden and, to a degree, also Denmark were better prepared to cope with it as they had learned their lessons of their severe financial crisis in the early 1990s. Ramunas Vilpisauskas, Director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Lithuania, said that the impact of the global economic downturn and excessive domestic spending were the main reasons behind the extraordinary economic difficulties in the Baltic States. However, the governments of the three countries had made a number of painful but necessary decisions that paved the way for rapid recovery.
Russia’s importance as an energy provider was repeatedly stressed in the exchanges and some participants pointed out that this would provide Moscow with substantial economic and political leverage, particularly vis-à-vis other CIS countries. Sandor Liive, CEO of Eesti Energia, and some other speakers stressed that the development of a common European energy market and construction of additional gas and electricity interconnectors would greatly increase energy security of the continent.
Boris Nemtsov, Co-Chair of the Solidarnosc Movement and former Deputy Prime Minister of
As new challenges will have significant consequences for the Nordic and Arctic landscapes, NATO’s political attention is shifting there as well, not least because two of three long-term security challenges, i.e. demographic changes, resource scarcity and climate change, are related to the region.
General (ret.) Klaus Naumann, former Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee envisioned that, in practical terms, NATO might consider a standing NATO fleet and contingency planning. He stressed that an increased profile for NATO in the region would not be directed against
Mr Seppo Kääriäinen, First Deputy Speaker of the Finnish Parliament underlined his country’s close collaboration with the
Mr Kääriäinen concluded that the challenges that the countries of the region are facing do not respect national boundaries. Compared to the Cold War reality there is now a real chance for intensive collaboration. Only through close bilateral and multinational co-operation can these challenges be solved - it is a win-win situation for all players and not a zero-sum game where one side wins at the expense of the other.
Seminar participants greatly benefited from the wealth of information provided and the open, frank discussions. Parliamentarians from Associate countries and from the Assembly’s
A complete seminar report will be available on the NATO PA website shortly.