“This is the first-ever High North whitepaper that deliberately has a third leg to stand on, in addition to the international situation in the Arctic and the relationship with our neighbors, i.e. development in Northern Norway. That is so because having people live in the High North and having a strong, vital, and competent Northern Norway is the best way in which we can assert Norwegian interests. That is why societal development here matters to all of Norway.”
These were the words of Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide during Friday’s launch of the Norwegian government’s new High North whitepaper, together with Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
It has been almost a decade since the previous High North whitepaper, which was presented by the Stoltenberg government back in 2011.
The new whitepaper sets the course and framework for the next years’ High North policy.
People and development of society
The government in its future High North policy stresses the human dimension.
“The High North whitepaper is about Norwegian core interests. That is why it has been named after what matters the most in our Arctic policy: people, opportunities and Norwegian interests in the High North”, Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said.
“In the whitepaper, we state that Norwegian interests in the Arctic should be asserted through a strong, vital, and competent Northern Norway. It is about a people and a region growing and developing. Presence and welfare does not only carry economic and strategic importance, it also holds enormous significance for the security of the entire country.”
Creates investment fund
“Foreign and security politics are key to our High North policy, and it must be understood in connection with people who live in the High North”, said PM Erna Solberg during the launch.
The prime minister stressed that the government’s High North policy project is about emphasizing secure jobs and economic growth in the High North.
“One of the initiatives we now take is to establish cooperation with local investors about a capital fund for entrepreneurs and start-ups that can facilitate local growth and innovation. This will promote local ownership and entrepreneurship in Northern Norway.”
Foreign Minister Søreide says that the government, through its work with the whitepaper and input from communities in the High North, most of all received input about the need for capital.
“We want to stimulate innovation and growth through the creation of an investment fund based on both state and private funds, an initiative that was clearly much in demand. The fund should be managed from Northern Norway and should contribute to securing access to capital for profitable business projects.”
“We are also establishing a new three-year fund for young entrepreneurs and start-ups in the High North. That will provide a boost for innovation and investment.”
Foreign and security policy interests
Søreide stressed that increased big power rivalry and changed security policy framework conditions necessitate updated analyses, which the government provides in its whitepaper.
Amongst others, she pointed out that Russia in the past decade has increased its military capacity, and that the government considers the military development on the Russian side of the border up north a strategic challenge for both Norway and NATO.
“The world’s security policy situation leads our allies to also increasingly look north. Along with the USA and other NATO allies we increase training and exercise activity in the High North. NATO’s reinforced focus on the North Atlantic is positive and something we have wanted for years and years. At the same time, we care about maintaining the balance between deterrence and reassurance in our relationship to Russia. That is important for Norway, and it is important for Northern Norway”, the Foreign Minister added.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.