The President of the Nordic Council in 2016 is the former Danish minister Henrik Dam Kristensen (S). He has been a minister in Denmark since 1993 and up until 2013. Today he is a member of the Danish Parliament and responsible for several committees, among others the committee for defence.
The Danish presidency of the Nordic Council has chosen to focus in particular on increased defence and security cooperation in the Nordics and in the Arctic. The Nordic countries have much to gain from closer defence cooperation in the region and its surroundings. Disturbing actions in the international arena places new demands on the Nordic defense. Also, melting polar ice results in a need for Nordic cooperation and common solutions in the areas around the Arctic.
"Wanting to put defence on the agenda is because defence cooperation is very important - also for the debates in the Nordic Council. We have five member countries plus the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland in the Nordic Council. Some member countries are in NATO, some are not, and the same applies for membership in the EU. We have different starting points. It's exactly in the Nordic Council where we can meet and discuss such important matters as defense cooperation, and find out if it would be better and cheaper to buy common stock, for instance," says the former Danish minister and President of the Nordic Council in 2016, Henrik Dam Kristensen. "We also have a strong focus on our immediate environment, and of course in this context an increased focus on the Arctic. It is important that we discuss current and future security and defence alliances."
The Arctic is an extremely important piece of the puzzle, if you ask Dam Kristensen. According to him, an upgrade in the focus on Arctic is a necessity.
"It is important that the Arctic will not become a new military buildup area. The ice is melting and new shipping routes will open. Safety on the sea is extremely important, also in relation to tourism and cruise ship traffic. We in the North and in the Arctic have to cooperate. Therefore, this is my priority for my presidency in the Nordic Council."
Nordic defence is already in strong development, also as a result of the Stoltenberg report on Nordic cooperation on foreign and security policy from 2009. In 2016 the Danish presidency of the Nordic Council continues to focus on future prospects for the Nordic defence and seek further areas of cooperation that will be beneficial and useful for the Nordic countries. During 2016 two defense conferences will be held, focusing on enhanced defence cooperation in the Nordic and the Arctic.
"Also environmental, climate and climate change issues are a part of the program. We must measure and map the Arctic ocean further, so we can handle unforeseen challenges," concludes Henrik Dam Kristensen.