Dear friends from the Nordic Institutes for International Affairs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon – góðan dag.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this event where we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 2009 Stoltenberg report – by looking back at the implementation of its proposals. I am especially happy, if not relieved, to see experts from Norway with us here today - Ulf Sverdrup and Kristin Haugevik, as I understand that the strikes at SAS kept us all in suspense.
This year, 2019, is a busy year for Iceland. In addition to regular international and foreign policy co-operation, and a new task that came with our election to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Iceland is assuming five-fold chairmanship during this year. We are chairing the N5 and the NB8 foreign policy co-operation, the Nordic Council of Ministers and this summer we will take a seat on the Executive Board of the World Bank on the behalf of the NB8 countries.
Iceland is also about to assume a two-year chairmanship in the Arctic Council. This will happen next week at a Ministerial in Rovaniemi where we will take over from our Finnish partners, who have over the past two years skillfully navigated the high seas of Arctic politics.
These chairmanship tasks are different in nature. The upcoming chairmanship in the Arctic Council is probably the biggest task, as the vast Arctic region is a now high on everyone´s agenda. Sustainable development and low-tension in the High North continue to be key, and we will focus our attention on the oceans, the climate and green energy solutions, but also on the interest of the four million people living in the Arctic.
This chairmanship will also be an exciting task because of the composition of the Council, with our neighbours in Russia, the United States and Canada joining the Nordic five at the table, and an increasing number of observer countries, including all the major economic powerhouses in Asia. The NB8 World Bank co-ordination will be focused on multilateral development co-operation and also last for two years
The N5 and NB8 Foreign Ministers co-operation also differs from the others - first because its informal character and, second, due to the range of foreign policy issues on our agenda. That brings me to the Stoltenberg report and the reason why we are here.
The Stoltenberg proposals 10 years ago are, in fact, a prime example of Nordic co-operation at its best. Back then, the five Nordic Foreign Ministers agreed to tasking the renown Norwegian statesman, Thorvald Stoltenberg, to come up with proposals for a closer co-operation on foreign and security policy. He was asked to think outside the box and his work was also meant to trigger debate and discussion in the Nordic countries.
This is, indeed, what happened, and the Stoltenberg report gathered a lot of attention - and action. It is sometimes said that reports only have one thing in common - to collect dust in the drawers or libraries of the world. The Stoltenberg report proved this myth wrong with its clarity of thought and clear proposals. It did exactly what it set out to do.
Ten years have passed and this is one of the reasons why Iceland proposed, at the Nordic Foreign Minister´s meeting in Oslo last October, to ask the Nordic Institutes for International affairs to write a report on the implementation of the proposals. This they have done, and we will hear more about the results from the speakers after me.
Without wanting to steal the thunder, I do know that many of the Stoltenberg proposals were implemented, while others were not. And that was to the point of the exercise as the proposals were some sort of a menu for the Nordic governments to choose from.
A few words on future co-operation. I see today´s report as an important evaluation of where we are, but also as a basis for possible further work to strengthen further Nordic foreign and security policy co-operation. We live in turbulent times and there is no lack of challenges. This makes the case for closer Nordic co-operation in the future even stronger.
I believe we as Nordics need and must do more for, at least, three reasons. First, I believe we must do more in protecting human rights around the world and preserving the rule-based international order. Unfortunately, there are deeply worrying developments in many parts of the world, but also closer to home. Countries like ours, the Nordics, need to speak clearly and stay firm on the principles of international law.
Second, free trade also needs to be promoted. I am a steadfast supporter of international trade, not only for the obvious economic benefit but also because it encourages people-to-people contacts, including amongst the young people. Both is needed in today´s world – maybe more now than ever. Isolationism and trade barriers, let alone trade wars, are not the answer.
Third, responding to global climate change is probably our biggest challenge both in the near and long term. We need to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, but also go beyond that. Our systems – societal, energy and economy, and basically our whole way of life, needs to be transformed and become sustainable.
On all these accounts, and indeed others, the Nordic countries can show themselves, and others, that positive change is possible. We may not agree on everything. In fact, we disagree on a range of topics - just as we do not see eye-to-eye on all issues in domestic politics.
The fact is, however, that the Nordic countries share the same fundamental values - democracy, rule of law, human rights, equality, diversity. We are ready to stand for these values, honor them, protect and promote. Therein lies our strength, also in our deep-rooted democratic culture, and allows us to discuss different ways and means to the shared goal of ensuring peaceful and prosperous societies and contribute to a stable and sustainable world.
I could talk for hours on this topic, but this is not why we are here! This is the day for the reassessing the Stoltenberg report - 10 years on. Again, congratulations on the report, Ulf, Kristin and Pia and your excellent co-workers at the University.
Please extend, on behalf of the Nordic Foreign Ministers, our gratitude to your colleagues in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Your work demonstrates the agility of Nordic co-operation – you were quick and professional in delivering your work. I am confident that it will lay the ground for vivid discussion and hopefully clever conclusions.
Thank you for your attention.