Angela Merkel’s European wake-up call is being answered in the Nordics

US President Donald Trump shares a word with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as Tunisia's President Beji Caid Essebsi, ...

US President Donald Trump shares a word with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi, centre, listens, at a G7 Summit expanded session on Saturday. Photo: ANSA/AP

 

Oslo: With Vladimir Putin in the east and Donald Trump to the west, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now telling Europe it has to stand up for itself. It’s a call that’s already being answered by the continent’s richest region.

Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway have over the past two years been deepening their military cooperation to counter a deteriorating security situation in the Baltic and the Arctic. They are also forging closer ties on softer issues, presenting this week a joint initiative to meet sustainability goals, promoting the 20 million-person region’s shared values on social equality, and discussing joint interaction with China.

“There’s no doubt that Europe needs to take bigger responsibility, we have to spend more on defense and security,” Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, said in an interview on Monday as Nordic leaders started a two-day summit in Bergen. Norway will ensure good cooperation “with its closest allies, and some are in the EU and some are on the other side of the Atlantic,” she said.

The Nordic summit started a day after Dr Merkel said reliable relationships forged in Europe since the end of World War II “are to some extent over”. The German chancellor made those comments after meeting with US President Donald Trump in Brussels and Sicily over the past week.

The broadest shifts in policy in the region have been seen in Finland and Sweden, which unlike Denmark and Norway aren’t members of NATO. The two neighbours have intensified military cooperation and also forged closer ties with the military alliance without outright joining NATO.

Finland’s proximity to Russia has excluded it from becoming a full-fledged member, while Sweden has a long-held belief that official neutrality serves it best.

All four countries have been boosting spending, with Denmark and Norway now working toward meeting the 2 per cent spending goal that NATO members have been lambasted by Mr Trump for not meeting.

Because of the different security alliances, Ms Solberg said that closer Nordic cooperation will likely centre on economic questions.

The Nordic leaders also discussed more joint cooperation in dealing with China, albeit on an “ad-hoc” basis, according to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, as well as combating climate change.

Just in time, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang begins his Europe tour on Tuesday. He will visit Germany and Belgium and will co-chair the 19th China-EU leaders’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Germany is also keeping its options open, with Dr Merkel hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

Full article: Angela Merkel’s European wake-up call is being answered in the Nordics (The Age)

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