Nordic parliaments agree on mutual defense against cyber attacks
Nordic MPs this week stepped up their language and mutual defenses against cyber attacks.
In the future, a cyberattack on one of the Nordic parliaments will be seen as an attack on all – and on Nordic democracy.
The proposal for a mutual Nordic defense clause was tabled by conservative Nordic Council parliamentarians and supported by all parties from left to right at the Council’s annual meeting in Copenhagen (2-4 November).
The Nordic Council, founded in 1952, includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.
The group of northern European states – some in the EU, others not – are already among the most digitized countries in the world – and therefore also among the most vulnerable to cyberattacks.
“It’s generally positive to be digitized, but at the same time, it makes us even more vulnerable to potential cyber attacks. Our defense is no longer just land, sea and air, but must also work in cyberspace, ”Danish Social Democrat Annette Lind said during the debate.
“Spying on the Nordic states, hacking citizens’ information or cyber attacks on businesses are the type of digital attack that the entire Nordic region is exposed to every day,” she said, adding that this week, she had been alerted that her friend’s phone had been hacked.
The Finnish parliament was attacked last fall and a cyberattack in March 2021 compromised the Norwegian parliament’s messaging system. An investigation by the country’s intelligence services revealed that the attack came from actors operating from China.
Nordic parliaments can only afford moral support, however.
“After all, parliaments do not have their own military force. But to push back, it is important that we publish cyber attacks and protests against them in public,” Swedish conservative Hans Wallmark told EUobserver.
The fallout from the “failure” of Covid-19
Nordic deputies meet once a year in one of their parliaments. The council has a total of 87 members, divided into five political groups and reflecting the political makeup of all parliaments.
Nordic prime ministers also met in Copenhagen for a parallel summit.
They agreed on better joint emergency preparedness in the event of pandemics, major fires, floods and risks imposed by climate change. The strategy comes after many public concerns, as the Nordic states have largely failed to coordinate their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When struck by the coronavirus in the spring of 2020, Sweden did not impose restrictions on citizens, while – for example – Norway in the first 54 weeks of the pandemic changed the restrictions 48 times.
This different approach has had major consequences, especially for those who live and work in northern border regions. As a result, nine in ten people in the Nordic region are disappointed with the lack of coordination in the response to the pandemic, according to a recent opinion poll.
However, their leaders did not promise to take a very different approach if a third wave of Covid-19 were to be triggered in the near future.
“When something like this strikes, you have a responsibility for your own people and for ensuring their safety. It is a fundamental responsibility,” New Norwegian Social Democratic Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said at the conference. Press.
He and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir expressed gratitude to Sweden for sharing vaccines during the worst of the crisis.
The Nordic countries have weathered the pandemic relatively well, the PMs concluded.
But, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, Sweden recorded just over 15,000 deaths from Covid-19 in November 2021, while the rest of the Nordic countries together recorded less than 5,000.
Growing Concerns About China
Out of respect for the non-aligned status of Sweden and Finland, the Nordic Council has traditionally avoided discussions on security and defense issues. But times are changing.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke as NATO’s first high-level representative to the Nordic Council this week and welcomed greater Nordic defense cooperation, notably with Finland and Sweden , non-NATO countries.
“We have witnessed a significant Russian military rearmament in the Baltic, with the deployment of new modern weapon systems,” Stoltenberg said, and reaffirmed that NATO’s door remains open to Finland and Sweden.
Such a decision would however be up to the Finns and the Swedes, stressed the parliamentarians.
Stoltenberg sharply criticized China and warned that, for the first time, the soon-to-be-strongest economic power in the world is undemocratic.
“China will soon have the world’s largest economy. It already has the world’s largest navy and the world’s second-largest defense budget. And it is investing heavily in new long-range nuclear weapons,” he said. he warned.
Several Nordic countries have suffered from Chinese reprisals in the form of an export boycott or the end of political contacts.
When the Nobel Peace Prize in Olso was awarded to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiabo, China reacted immediately. He ended all political contact, boycotted Norwegian exports and made it clear that he would do anything to oppose Norway, Stoltenberg recalled. He was then Prime Minister of Norway.
“Denmark had a similar experience when the Dalai Lama was invited here for a visit. In Sweden, too, we recently saw how the Chinese Embassy threatened journalists who wrote negatively about China. These are just a few examples of how China is trying to dominate other countries, ”Stoltenberg said.
The chairman of the council’s youth organization, Rasmus Emborg, said that across party lines there is genuine concern among young Nordic politicians about China.
“If we do not prevent Chinese power from spreading in our societies in due time, there is a risk that one day we will be threatened with silence and that our values of democracy, freedom of expression and rights human rights are no longer saved, ”he added. noted.
Emborg, a young Danish social democrat, suggested that critical infrastructures be identified and mapped, and that they be prohibited from being sold to Chinese actors.
NATO enters – Russia leaves
In addition to NATO’s Stoltenberg, distinguished guest speakers from the Polish Senate, the German Bundestag and the UK House of Commons addressed the Copenhagen meeting.
As in tradition, a delegation of Russian parliamentarians was invited to observe the Nordic Council meeting – but Russian MPs canceled their attendance this year, without giving any reasons. And a scheduled meeting with the presidium of the Nordic Council had to be canceled.
Swedish Conservative MP Hans Wallmark was not too disappointed. He said the cancellation had actually made “things easier”.
“I note that there are no representatives of the [Russian] Duma here …… it is much easier for representatives of a democratically elected parliament to associate with only other democrats ”.
However, others regretted the absence of Russia. “Before, we had a good dialogue with the Duma delegation,” Danish Greens-Left MP Christian Juhl told EUobserver.
Greenland prepares its Arctic strategy
Cooperation in the Arctic is one of the few forums where Russia and Western countries always sit at the same negotiating tables and the situation in the Arctic is another reason to strengthen foreign policy and security cooperation Nordic countries, Juhl said, calling it a “big step forward”.
“When I started in the Nordic Council, it was not at all possible to discuss foreign policy. Our proposals on Palestine, Western Sahara, the search for peace and the like were categorically rejected. But the arctic situation and since US policies have become less stable, the Nordic Council is now open to discussions on China, Russia, cybersecurity – everything. ”
“The big three of the world [powers] power rival to influence the arctic region. We find that whatever happens there has to be in the best interests of the people who live there, it has to be environmentally friendly and militarily kept low voltage, ”Juhl said.
A sign of this new geopolitical strategic thinking, the US Consulate in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, reopened in June 2020 – after an offer from then-President Donald Trump in 2019 to simply buy Greenland was rejected.
Russia appointed an honorary consul in Nuuk in January 2021 and the European Union tabled a new Arctic strategy in October 2021.
The EU strategy proposes a moratorium on oil and gas exploration “to promote stability, security and peaceful cooperation in the Arctic” and provides for the opening of an EU representation in Greenland.
Greenland initially welcomed the EU’s approach, including money that would come from Brussels. Greenland is the largest island in the world, but populated by only 56,000 people, and is struggling to make ends meet financially despite Denmark’s budgetary contributions.
Greenland and the Faroe Islands are former Danish territories and they still coordinate foreign and security policies with Copenhagen.
But a long-awaited Nordic strategy for the Arctic has not matured since this year’s Nordic Council meeting in Copenhagen because Greenland has yet to come up with its own plans.
The process was delayed by the general elections, sources close to Nuuk’s government told EUobserver.
Greenland’s left-wing environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit won the April 2021 election by promising to stop mining for uranium and untapped rare earth minerals.
“But now it is only a matter of weeks before the strategy can be presented by Nuuk and discussed with the Faroe Islands and Denmark,” the source said.