Norway’s delegation: Øyvind Halleraker, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, Svein Roald Hansen and Sylvi Graham. Photo: Storting.

Norway’s delegation: Øyvind Halleraker, Christian Tybring-Gjedde, Svein Roald Hansen and Sylvi Graham. Photo: Storting.

Discussing EU foreign, security and defence policy

Europe’s response to challenges relating to the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East was one of the main topics at a European Union parliamentary conference in Malta from 24–28 April.

Øyvind Halleraker (Conservative Party), Svein Roald Hansen (Labour Party), Christian Tybring-Gjedde (Progress Party) and Sylvi Graham (Conservative Party), all members of the Storting, attended the semi-annual Interparliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy. The conference was hosted by Malta in its capacity as holder of the presidency of the Council of the European Union until summer.

The conference brings together members of the foreign and defence committees of EU member state parliaments and the European Parliament. EU candidate countries and European NATO members participate in the conference as observers. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Maltese Foreign Minister George Vella held keynote addresses during the first meeting day. 

Three-part agenda

The agenda of the conference was divided into three parts: 1) the status of the European Neighbourhood Policy, 2) Europe’s response to instability and security threats in the southern Mediterranean region and the Middle East, and 3) the EU’s priorities and strategies in foreign, security and defence policy.

On its second day the conference split into three working groups to discuss, respectively, the EU’s migration challenges in the coming years, the fight against propaganda and information warfare, and the work of developing an EU defence plan and a plan for the EU-NATO relationship.

High Representative Mogherini took part in the conference after attending the informal meeting of EU defence ministers and before the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers. In her introduction Ms Mogherini presented a broad overview of current EU affairs in her area of ​​responsibility. Among the topics were Brexit, cooperation with NATO and more purposeful spending on European defence.

Russia’s military expansion in the north

The head of the Storting’s delegation, Øyvind Halleraker, questioned Ms Mogherini about Russia’s increasing military capacity in the north, about the best way of exerting a positive influence on Russia and about improving EU-NATO relations in a way that strengthens both parties.

In her reply, Ms Mogherini noted the she had recently visited Russia in what was the first visit by a higher-level EU official since 2012. For the EU, she said, it is important to continue clearly pointing out breaches of international law while maintaining a stable relationship with Russia. As for EU-NATO relations, Ms Mogherini said that better, more effective spending on defence in Europe, such as by reducing the number of different weapon systems, would also increase NATO’s effectiveness.

“Important and useful meeting place”

“The EU parliamentary conference is a very important and useful meeting place for Norwegian parliamentarians to meet their colleagues from key European countries and discuss major European security policy issues of the day, both formally and informally,” said Mr Halleraker.

The next meeting in this format will be held in Tallinn, during Estonia’s presidency, in the autumn of 2017.

Last updated: 04.05.2017 17:56