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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Air surveillance and Nordic solidarity

Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson writes:

We Icelanders do not always realise the value of the co-operation between the five Nordic States. It is the main reason why Iceland, just like the other four countries, punches considerably above its weight internationally. One of the lessons I have learned, as a Minister for Foreign Affairs, is that few things are more vital for us than the promotion and strengthening of this co-operation in all aspects.

The best example of this Nordic solidarity was evident in our darkest days following the economic collapse when the skies came tumbling down. Hard times followed when many, including myself, felt that Iceland stood there alone – and even those who we considered to have the closest friendship with let us down. That was a lesson learned.

Those we found extending their helping hand were those who stood closest to us ­– the Nordic countries. They, not least Norway, did not only provide the Icelandic nation with a moral capital, but also, along with Poland, provided half of the loans which underpinned our economic program in co-operation with the IMF. This was not as straightforward as many Icelanders thought when the world media deemed Iceland almost as a failed state. From this moment on Iceland began to rise from the ashes of the banking blaze.

Sweden´s and Finland´s readiness to participate in air surveillance in Iceland – a disputed matter in some corners – is a highly political decision because it reveals yet another sign of the strength of Nordic solidarity, in good times and bad. The decision puts into play one of the proposals of increased Nordic co-operation put forward by Thorvald Stoltenberg in his remarkable report delivered to us, the Nordic Foreign Ministers, in February 2009. It was the first meeting I sat in their midst. The interest of those two neighbouring states also stems from a declaration, which the Nordic countries signed up to in 2011, on solidarity when they find themselves in harm's way, either by natural causes or man-made, in the area of security and foreign affairs.

The decision by Sweden and Finland does not bring any of these three countries closer to or further away from NATO. It is, however, a strong, symbolic declaration: The Nordic family stands together and looks out for each other, no matter what.

The Minister's article (in Icelandic)

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