The Nordic countries have a long tradition for working closely together. This includes within the area of defence and security policy. The Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) encompasses all of the Nordic countries, i.e. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The Nordic Defence Cooperation includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Illustration
The Nordic countries have a long tradition for working closely together. This includes the area of defence and security policy. The Nordic Defence Cooperation encompasses all of the Nordic countries, i.e. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, and primarily takes place within the framework of NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Cooperation).
NORDEFCO was established in 2009 with the aim of bringing together a range of separated collaborative fora (NORDAC, NORDCAPS and NORDSUP). The Nordic Defence Cooperation has evolved significantly in recent yearswith the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014 became as a significant turning point for NORDEFCO. In light of the recent changes to the European security situation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the beginning of 2022, the Nordic Defence Cooperation has intensified significantly, including within operations, training and exercises, as well as within capability development. Substantial results and progress have been made within a wide range of areas, which strengthen the defence capabilities of the Nordic countries over all as well as the regional security and stability in the region. The Nordic Defence Cooperation is an important priority for Denmark, as it adds essential value to the broader international defence cooperation within e.g. the UN, NATO, and the EU.
The chairmanship of NORDEFCO rotates between the four Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden (Iceland participates but does not serve as chairman). In 2021, Finland held the chairmanship of NORDEFCO taking over from Denmark, who was chairman in 2020. In 2022, Norway is chairman.
Among the most significant results in recent times is the agreement on ”Easy Access”, which was ratified in 2016, when Denmark took over the rotating chairmanship of NORDEFCO. The aim of the Easy Access-agreement is to secure easy military access to sea, air, and land territories between the Nordic countries, e.g. through simplifying and streamlining the administrative processes in the countries. This creates an opportunity for closer and more operationally effective Nordic defence cooperation in peacetimes. The Nordic agreement on Easy Access has also given inspiration to other regional security forums that have begun the work to promote military mobility between member countries as well.
Another significant result from 2017 is the agreement on increased radar data sharing (NORECAS), which aims to create an overview of activities in the Nordic and Baltic region. Given the increasing unpredictability and complexity of the regional security situation in recent years, an enhanced and combined picture of the security situation in the region is of great importance. In addition to this agreement, secure and direct communication channels have been established between the Nordic countries, which allows for classified conversations and videoconferences to be held in a closed communication system. This is a unique feature within international defence cooperation. Lastly, a lot has happened within defence capability cooperation, where the Nordic countries are looking to acquire a common Nordic combat uniform in 2022.
The shared Nordic interest in strengthening the security in the Nordic neighbourhood is reflected in the ambitious political goals for the cooperation. In November 2018, the Nordic ministers of Defence signed the ”Vision 2025”, which sets out the political framework and ambitions for the defence cooperation in the Nordic region towards 2025 through general guidelines along with 16 specific goals. Vision 2025 raises the ambition of the Nordic defence cooperation by stating that it should apply not only in peacetimes but also in the event of a crisis or conflict. The aim is, among other things, to make NORDEFCO a platform for close political dialogue, information sharing, and, if possible, coordination of common Nordic positions on possible crisis situations.
In the face of a growing threat from terror, cyber, and hybrid challenges, Vision 2025 assesses finds the need for a closer cooperation within all of these areas. Moreover, the aim is to strengthen the inter-operability, deterrence, and cooperation on the common defence in the Nordic region.
The ambition for the strengthening of the Nordic defence cooperation extends beyond the Nordic region. Thus, it is a stated ambition in the vision to strengthen the Nordic-Transatlantic partnership and to further develop cooperation and dialogue with the Baltic countries. This includes capacity building, where the Nordic and Baltic countries have developed a shared program with a special focus on Georgia, which provides a framework for increasing the cooperation and dialogue.
Norway takes over the chairmanship in 2022
Norway serves as the chairman of NORDEFCO in 2022 and was in May the host for the bi-annual meeting between the Nordic ministers of defence. You can read the Nordic Defence Ministers’ joint statement on strengthening Nordic defence cooperation here.The country holding the chairmanship is responsible for leading and developing the cooperation in accordance with the goals described in the NORDEFCO Vision 2025. This includes the responsibility for organising and hosting the semi-annual ministerial meetings, the annual meeting of the permanent secretaries of defence, as well as a number of other regular meetings in both the political and military columns of NORDEFCO (read more about the NORDEFCO structure and meetings on nordefco.org).