Leaders from Norway and the European Union (EU) signed a new defence and security partnership that reaffirms their already well-established co-operation.

Signed on 6 June 2024, Norway’s Minister of Defence Bjorn Arild Gram, Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell in Brussels, the agreement was made in Belgium during the second annual Schuman Security and Defence Forum.

It builds on Norway’s long-standing participation in numerous EU security initiatives, including the European Defence Agency and its PESCO project on military mobility; Norwegian funding and personnel toward the EU’s training of Ukraine’s armed forces; as well as Norway’s contributions to ramping up artillery ammunition capacity (ASAP).

Citing a desire to establish a partnership that truly “complements Nato,” Gram’s objective implies a close and composite security ecosystem intermingling EU and Nato structures.

What’s new?

Under the new rules of the bilateral relationship, the EU will be able to invite Norway to its ministerial meetings while also establishing a new annual defence and security dialogue.

These changes essentially form closer ties on the political level, allowing both sides to coordinate and interoperate collectively in response to crises management and military escalation – a necessity since the outset of the war in Ukraine more than two years ago.

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However, neither side has disclosed the specific areas of cooperation beyond the broadest possible terms: “crisis management, the defence industry, space activities, critical infrastructure and hybrid threats.”

Reaching Europe’s defence industrial ambitions

Bringing Norway further into the EU fold, may also help the EU achieve its new defence industrial ambitions outlined in its inaugural European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP).

Responding to a saturation of US-manufactured defence equipment in a starving European market after 20 years of complacency, the new strategy will help to cultivate the continent’s defence market attractiveness.

One objective is to ensure that by 2030 the value of intra-EU defence trade represents at least 35% of the value of the EU defence market. While GlobalData intelligence suggests that the missile and missile defence sector represents the highest value worldwide in Europe following its munitions build-up over the past two years, it is still behind in other areas.

A policy of inclusion to its bordering neighbours may help to expand continental offerings in the global defence market.