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Why Norway participates in Atalanta?

(BRUSSELS2) Norway's participation in the European anti-piracy operation “EUNAVFOR Atalanta” may come as a surprise. Why did this country, a member of NATO and not a member of the EU, decide to join the operation of the latter and not the former? The Norwegian Minister of Defense, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, recently justified this involvement before her national parliament.

A reason, very strategic. Among the various reasons mentioned (necessary fight against piracy, need to maintain Norway's maritime rank, direct support for UN efforts, complement to Norwegian policy of humanitarian engagement in the region, etc.), there is one more strategic: “ The EU is strengthening its global commitment. The EU is increasingly becoming an actor in foreign policy and aims to take more responsibility for peace and security in Europe and throughout the world. emphasizes the Minister. For Norway, this development is “ positive ". We have " aims to pursue an active European policy and work closely with the EU in defense and security policy. (…) It is in (our) interest to have insight and the ability to participate in the security policy and military cooperation that is currently being developed within the EU, both in projects and in contribution in equipment for EU civil operations. “But the Minister also confides to being” concerned that NATO and the EU should complement each other rather than compete with each other ».

What lesson to draw from it? In other words, the ESDP is working, it is developing. And it is not an EU member who underlines this but a non-member. It is important for a country like Norway to participate (as it already participates in EU economic policies via the European Economic Area agreement). Because the country cannot be satisfied with remaining only in NATO. At the same time, it is important that the emerging European defense policy does not diverge too much from that pursued by NATO. Even if nothing has yet been specified, it does not seem impossible that Norway will participate more clearly in several civil or military operations of the ESDP. This participation suggests others.

Behind the scenes: the debate on membership. More generally, this position is part of a debate, more political this time, on a possible accession of the country to the EU. Difficult debate when we know that the Norwegians have already twice rejected this opportunity (even though everything was ready). But this debate could, undoubtedly, be revived with the Icelandic request for membership. Norway would, in fact, remain one of the only Nordic countries not to be part of the EU and almost alone in the EEA (with Liechtenstein).

NB: The agreement concluded in 2004 between Norway and the EU allows it, when it participates in an EU operation, to participate in decision-making both in terms of planning the operation and in the conduct of the operation. operation, notably through the presence in the Committee of Contributors and the involvement of officers in the General Staff (it does not, however – unlike the Member States – have the right of veto over the termination or prosecution of the operation and the definition of its format).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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