May 4, 2021

A Northern Agenda for an Open and Secure Europe

The Oresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden
The Öresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark.
The Öresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark.

The discussion about Europe’s ability to forge a more independent route in international affairs has spilled over from the realm of defence to other areas such as foreign policy, trade, digital and health.

As EU member states are still forming their views, the debate continues. The Nordic-Baltic countries—Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden—constitute a fairly like-minded group of countries.

A fresh policy paper produced in cooperation between EFPI/ICDS and the Finnish Institute for Foreign Affairs (FIIA) provides a brief overview of what are the Nordic-Baltic countries’ positions vis-à-vis strengthening European autonomy or sovereignty, what are the guiding principles and where the red lines run.


  • The concept of strategic autonomy has been received with scepticism, especially by the Baltic states and Sweden. But it is not about to disappear.
  • In the field of defence, the six countries are likely to support measures that are focused on increasing European capabilities but do not create obstacles to smooth military or defence-industry cooperation with the US.
  • In foreign affairs, the Nordic-Baltic countries are in principle supportive of a stronger, more unified Europe in global affairs. However, it is not easy to reach a common position on ways to strengthen EU foreign policy-making, e.g. by extending qualified majority voting.
  • Strengthening the single market is a key objective for the Nordic-Baltic countries in pursuing digital and industrial sovereignty.
  • Despite differences, the US is seen as a partner in promoting free trade and pursuing digital sovereignty.
  • Among the Nordic-Baltic member states, there is no appetite for expanding EU competences in the health sector.

Download and read the analysis: A Northern Agenda for an Open and Secure Europe (PDF)