Anniken Huitfeldt’s first trip as Foreign Minister goes to Tromsø. There she has to focus on one of the world’s most experienced foreign politicians – Sergei Lavrov.
Huitfeldt (Labor Party) will host the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in the Barents Council in Tromsø on Tuesday.
There she will have bilateral meetings with, among others, her colleague Lavrov, who has been Russia’s foreign minister since 2004.
– How will it be to meet him?
– I do not know. I have not met him before, says Huitfeldt to NTB.
– What kind of expectations do you have for the meeting?
– I think it is very predictable what Norwegian is interested in. There are no surprises on my part. What is the Norwegian line is very clear, she says.
– New giv i nord
In foreign policy, the political parties are largely the only ones on the main lines. But a stronger focus on the High North will be a priority theme for the new Labor-SP government, and this is something that separates this government from its predecessors, according to Huitfeldt.
The Hurdal platform dedicates «A new give in northern areas» and its own section. It states that the High North is Norway’s most important strategic focus area, and that the government has great ambitions for development.
– We believe this is Norway’s most important peace project. Our position on Russia is clear: we fully agree with the sanctions. We do not want any other line than the previous government has had, nor have we had it in the Storting.
– But Russia is a neighbor. And we are completely dependent on talking to the neighbor and developing cooperation, support the Foreign Minister.
Cod and coniferous forest
Huitfeldt believes that Norway and Russia have common interests in a number of areas that they will look at:
* Management of the cod stock
* Climate cooperation on boreal coniferous forest
* People-to-people collaboration.
* Strengthen institutional cooperation through the Arctic Council and the Barents Council
* Contribute to more knowledge and mapping of the seabed
* Further develop bilateral cooperation with Russia with an emphasis on the sea, resources, climate and coastal issues.
Increased great power rivalry
The Minister of Foreign Affairs puts forward good neighborliness and co-operation as the goal itself. She will not say that these are other goals she will work for in the conversation.
– If there is a shipwreck in these areas, then it is the neighbor who is there. It is a necessity that we coordinate on search and rescue. It is not necessarily something we want to achieve to further strengthen the collaboration, she says.
At the same time, Huitfeldt describes developments in world politics with increased great power rivalry. Norway disagrees with Russia on key issues, such as challenges in terms of freedom of expression and the annexation of Crimea. The Foreign Minister uses the room that the plans are fixed for the military present in the north.
In a time of increased rivalry, dialogue becomes all the more important, she believes.
– It is not a question of either deterrence or reassurance. Often it is both at once, she says.
Nordic Council next
Huitfeldt’s next trip is abroad, but this time too it is about politics in the immediate area. She is attending a meeting of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen.
Strengthened Nordic co-operation in security and defense policy is important for the government, she emphasizes. Defense co-operation is about concrete content, but also about coordination.
– It will be a main priority for us in the time to come, she says.
Norway’s commitment to NATO remains unchanged. The emphasis on increased co-operation with the Nordic neighbors and European countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany does not come at the expense of relations with the United States, according to Huitfeldt.
– No, on the contrary. In the field of defense, we have very close military cooperation, and we must enter into agreements that formalize that cooperation. When we look at the tension in the world, it becomes clear to us that we are not doing best alone. We are completely dependent on a credible defense in the north, completely dependent on a security guarantee from NATO, she says.