Kort over Norden

Nordic defense co-operation includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Illustration.

In recent years, the security landscape has changed markedly - including in Denmark’s neighbourhood. In light of this, the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) is more important than ever and it becomes increasingly relevant in Danish defence and security policy.


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 forums (NORDAC, NORDCAPS and NORDSUP). The Nordic defence cooperation has evolved significantly in recent years, and especially the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014 became a turning point for NORDEFCO. In light of the changed security situation, 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 all together strengthen the defence capabilities of the Nordic countries as well as the regional security and stability in the region – the details of which appear below. The Nordic defence cooperation is an important priority for Denmark, and it adds on 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 holds the chairmanship of NORDEFCO, which they took over from Denmark, who was responsible for the task in 2020.

Significant results and areas of cooperation

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, there have been established secure and direct communication channels between the Nordic countries, which means that classified conversations and videoconferences can 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 a looking to acquire a common Nordic combat uniform by 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 defence ministers signed ”Vision 2025”, which sets out the political framework and ambitions for the defence cooperation in the Nordic region towards 2025 through some 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, the 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 that there is a need for a closer cooperation within all of these areas. Moreover, the aim is to strengthen the inter-operability, deterrence, and cooperation on total 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 program together with a special focus on Georgia, which provides a framework for increasing the cooperation and dialogue.

In the area of operations, Denmark cooperates with Norway and a range of other countries on the deployment of transport aircrafts to the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali. The deployment is part of a Nordic-initiated rotation scheme, in which the participating countries are responsible for deploying aircrafts to the UN mission on a rotational basis. The rotation scheme ran until November 2020. Sweden has previously contributed to the rotation scheme.

In addition hereto, the Nordic countries are working together on arranging movable training teams for NATO’s mission in Iraq. This cooperation includes the Baltic States as well.


Danish NORDEFCO chairmanship in 2020

Denmark served as chairman for NORDEFCO in 2020. Strengthening the Nordic defence cooperation was a significant goal for Denmark during the chairmanship. The implementation of Vision 2025 was therefore one of the most important priorities.

The Danish chairmanship put forward ambitious goals in order to succeed in creating results on a number of specific points set forth in the Danish chairmanship priorities. Although the COVID-19 crisis affected the meeting activity in NORDEFCO, there continued to be a substantial progress within all the prioritised areas in 2020. The secure and direct communication channels established within NORDEFCO were especially part of securing the maintenance of the close dialogue despite the limits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nordic ministers of defence kept in close contact during the crisis and used, among other tools, the newly established crisis consultation mechanism to mutually provide information and exchange experiences and ideas for the handling of the pandemic and its consequences for the armed forces.

The COVID-19 crisis has therefore emphasised the importance of the close Nordic cooperation within NORDEFCO, especially including crisis management. For a summary of the most significant results accomplished during the Danish chairmanship of NORDEFCO in 2020, please see the NORDEFCO Annual Report 2020.

Finland takes over the chairmanship in 2021

Finland serves as the chairman of NORDEFCO in 2021. The Finnish chairmanship priorities can be found 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). If the COVID-19 situation does not allow for physical meetings during the Finnish Chairmanship, the meetings will instead be held virtually.

The ministerial meeting in the fall will, apart from the Nordic ministers of defence, also bring together the ministers of defence from the Baltic States in a separate Nordic-Baltic ministerial meeting as well as the ministers of defence from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland in the context of Northern Group. Holding the meetings in continuation of each other creates opportunities of synergy between the different arenas, not to mention the possible widening of perspectives on regional security developments and challenges.

Last updated March 4, 2021 - 10:21