MEPs: The High-North must maintain a low-tension area
The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and its Subcommittee on Security and Defence, led by AFET Chair David McAllister, visited Norway and the High-North on 20-24 August.
At the end of the visit, David McAllister (EPP, DE) said: “Norway has been one of our closest and most reliable allies for many decades. Norway is the most integrated non-EU country to our Union. It aligns itself with most EU policies and its economy integrates in the EU internal market. During our visit we also confirmed our commitment to further strengthen the security and defence co-operation, and to continue to promote deeper co-operation between NATO and the EU.
We had fruitful discussions about the High North and the Arctic region. We share concerns with regard to the rapid changes that climate change brings to the High North, as well as the implications for the region’s socio-economic development and for the overall regional/global security. Besides these risks and threats, we also see opportunities for developing the living conditions in the north and supporting the national economies. Economic development must be carried in a sustainable manner and should involve local communities in the planning. The Arctic’s growing strategic importance also means increased responsibility for the EU and Norway to cooperate closely in meeting those challenges. Our overarching goal is to keep the region as a low-tension area and prevent its militarisation.”
The AFET/SEDE Delegation’s visit aimed to contribute to the EU-Norway partnership and its parliamentary dimension, and to further deepen the dialogue on Arctic policies and the strategic dimension of co-operation in the High North. Members also had an opportunity to exchange views with a variety of Norwegian stakeholders on foreign, security and defence aspects in the region. In addition, Members discussed other timely topics such as the developments and the geopolitical context of the High North, relations with Russia and China, and in view of climate change the fast changing landscape for political, security, economic and environmental considerations. MEPs noted the increased presence of Russian forces in the Arctic. They also paid attention to China’s interest in using new shorter shipping routes to Europe and to access natural resources. Members stressed the important role of the Arctic Council in maintaining constructive cooperation, low tension and stability in the region.
In Oslo, the Committee Members held productive meetings with prominent members of the Norwegian government including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Committee chairs and leading MPs from the Stortinget (MPs representing the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Energy and Environment, EU-EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee), Norwegian Intelligence Services and representatives of think tanks. In Bodø meetings were held at the Joint Norwegian Army Headquarters and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, and in Tromsø at the Arctic Council, the Norwegian Coast Guard and Arctic research institutes. Subsequently in Svalbard the MEPs met the Vice Governor of Svalbard, and observed the impacts of climate change in person at the Yoldiabukta and the Wahlenberg Glaciers and visited the Satellite Station.
In addition to David McAllister the delegation was composed of ten MEPs: Mr Cristian Dan PREDA (EPP, RO), Mr Bogdan Andrzej ZDROJEWSKI (EPP, PL), Mrs Ana GOMES (S&D, PT), Mr Doru FRUNZULICA (S&D, RO), Mrs Neena GILL (S&D, UK), Mr Wajid KHAN (S&D, UK), Karol KARSKI (ECR, Poland), Mr Urmas PAET (ALDE, EE), Mr Javier NART (ALDE, ES) and Jørn DOHRMANN (ECR, DK) the Chair of the EP Delegation to the EEA Inter-Parliamentary Delegation.