In last two years, Norway has committed to increase its diplomatic presence in Asia and Africa, and reached a historical level of cooperation in the Nordic region. At the same time Norway has been closing some embassies and consulates in continental Europe, and losing interest in the idea of a rapprochement in the region.
Recently, support for Norway's EU membership has decreased to a historically low level. Only 14 percent said yes in a poll conducted by Norstat for NRK. Although Norwegian people's this skepticism against the EU cooperation is attributed to the crisis affecting some European countries, some top politician's statements show that this moving away from Europe is not a temporary stance.
For example, Coalition government member, Center Party’s (Sp) president Liv Signe explicitly stresses her concern about EU's influence in the country and has even declared an intention to terminate the EEA Agreement with Europe. She thinks the agreement with Europe leads to less democracy, adverse influences on some Norwegian interests and ties Norway to close to the EU.
On the other hand, the country's cooperation within the Nordic Council has been carried to multi-dimensional level from culture to military alliance. When the Nordic ministers met on 15 of November, they confirmed their commitment to a broader, flexible and effective Nordic cooperation.
One of the outcomes of the meeting was strengthened and deepened Nordic cooperation in Afghanistan and improvement in military capacities of the region's states.
“Through Nordic cooperation we see opportunities to increase our operational capability, cut costs and achieve improved sustainability. It is our strong conviction that an enhanced and more focused cooperation will bring gains for the Nordic region and will increase our abilities to act within an international or regional framework,” said the ministers, signaling their intention to build an internationally influential regional block.
The recent change in the diplomatic presence of the country also indicates a new phase. The Foreign Ministry has started restructuring in 2010 to free up resources to strengthen Norway's presence in several countries and regions, especially in Asia. In 2011, nine countries have been strengthened by 12 positions – including Indonesia, Brazil, Russia and India.
“In recent years, Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in collaboration with professionals both nationally and internationally, focused on Norwegian challenges and opportunities in a globalized world. The changes we are now doing is a part of this work. Therefore we have decided to strengthen Norway's diplomatic presence in these regions,” says the Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Included in these changes are staff reductions and closings at some of Norway’s embassies in Europe. The Foreign ministry first announced that the embassy in Brussels with responsibility for relations with Belgium is still maintained, but staff has been reduced. There will also be staff reductions in other individual stations in Europe.
The Embassy in Skopje (Macedonia), General Consulate in Alicante (Spain), and Slovenia have been closed, while the Hamburg (Germany) general consulate has been turned into an honorary consulate general.
“There is a shift in economic and political power in the world, towards the south and east, particularly Asia, which will play a more prominent role in the future. This also has consequences for Norwegian interests,” adds Støre.