The departure of Carl Bildt and Radoslaw Sikorski as foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland respectively is an interesting development for European foreign policy. The timing is awful. At a moment when Europe is faced with crises in the east and the south, Europe can ill afford to lose either its most experienced statesmen or the vision they bring to the table. Both leaders simultaneously believe in the strategic necessity of the EU and they are as comfortable in Washington as they are at home in Warsaw or Stockholm. With Bildt and Sikorski gone, the EU is also lacking any obvious hardliners on Russia. This may satisfy some in the EU but surely Vladimir Putin must be pleased with their replacements.
It has been an exciting New Year for High North policy in the Scandinavian countries. In the annual Foreign Policy Declaration last Tuesday, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt reiterated the government’s intent to push its new Arctic Strategy as one of its core foreign policies. To the west, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Garh Störe announced Oslo’s new project of drilling for petroleum (together with Russia) in the northern parts of the Barents Sea. In the south, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal appointed the country’s first Arctic Ambassador, Klavs A. Holm, previously an emissary to London, Singapore and the EU.
The Arctic is the new buzz word in Scandinavian corridors of power. All three states have now drawn up comprehensive strategies articulating their vision for the region. But are their visions compatible? While Scandinavian states are often considered politically indistinguishable (and have pledged themselves, as signatories of the “Nordic Declaration of Solidarity,” to govern in respect of their common heritage) their geographical differences could bring them into competition over the Arctic.
Europe aims to be the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy. To this end, the EU set up different framework programs (FPs) to fund research in almost all scientific fields. The budget of the current program (FP7) amounts to the remarkable sum of EUR 1.4 billion – a bunch of golden pots attracting researchers and practitioners from all over Europe.
Those working on the ‘security research‘ theme are currently in Stockholm at the SR Conference hosted by the Swedish EU Presidency. The objective of the security theme is to develop technologies and knowledge to protect citizens from threats such as terrorism, natural disasters and crime while respecting their privacy and fundamental rights. In his opening speech Vice-President of the European Commission Günter Verheugen reminded the representatives of the industries such as Boeing, Saab, Thales or EADS as well as civil servants and academics that technology alone cannot do the job pointing to the political and ethical dimension of security research. “Our security must be based on our values,” he stated.
The annual conference is the meeting place for security stakeholders to debate Europe’s research agenda. EU representatives outline the Union’s priorities and expectations to those interested in conducting the research and implementing the results. They then take the opportunity to coordinate their efforts, fine tune their proposals and find new partners to work with.
As a long-standing network for IR professionals offering information on a wide range of security related issues, the ISN is of great interest to the conference attendees. Some require to learn about a specific topic such as energy security, others are interested in joining our partner network, want to write for us or simply learn more about our activities such as e-Learning.
There are also those who know us already. Their compliments are very reassuring of the work we do and motivating to keep up our high standards. “I learnt about you at last year’s conference and am now a big fan of your Security Watch service, ” one of the visitors said.