During a two day Nordic Baltic Summit, the British prime minister said that, “right across the north of Europe there stretches an alliance of common interests.” He believes Britain, Scandinavia and the Baltic nations can lead in European job growth and prosperity.
Political and business leaders from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden joined Prime Minister David Cameron for the summit in London. There is much the countries have in common, he professed.
We get enterprise. We embrace innovation. We understand the potential of green technologies for economic growth. So at a time when much of Europe is in desperate need of fundamental economic reform, it makes sense for us to come together for the benefit of all our economies: an “avant garde” for jobs and growth.
The economies of the Baltic and Scandinavia are among the most modern in the world, leading in high and green technology. They are also among the freest economies in Europe and have implemented difficult austerity measures to balance their budgets in the wake of the crisis. Estonia this year joined the eurozone; Latvia and Lithuania are set to adopt the single currency in the years ahead.
In all of these countries similar conservative parties have been on the rise. Empowered by anti-immigration sentiments and the need to rein in government spending, from the Baltic to Scandinavia, traditional liberal and conservative parties have joined forces with populist newcomers.
As the same time, conservatives have become more moderate economically. While the nationalists gained a foothold in the Swedish parliament for the first time in their history, for instance, Prime Minister John Fredrik Reinfeldt moved his Moderate Party to the center in order to appeal to formerly leftist voters.
Like David Cameron, who has vowed to protect the National Health Service from austerity, Reinfeldt presents himself as the guardian of Sweden’s pervasive welfare state, despite his party’s ideological support for deregulation, privatizations and tax cuts.
With their more national orientation comes a skepticism of the European project. David Cameron could find considerable support from Nordic nations when he opposed raising Europe’s budget last year and all are reluctant to enhance the bailout facility that exists for eurozone members in financial crisis.
Europe is divided on the question of expanding the stability fund with Angela Merkel, chancellor of the continent’s largest economy, leading the opposition. Her previous willingness to compromise with France on the question of sanctioning budget rule breakers may have led Cameron to look for allies on the fringes of Europe.
Finland’s liberal prime minister for one was adamant. Although she said to be willing to find ways to make the facility more “flexible” in an interview with CNN, Finland is “not ready to increase the amount,” according to Mari Kiviniemi.
The Scandinavian nations also share a particular relationship with Russia as many are eying the Arctic for future exploitation.
The Arctic is estimated to contain about 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and so much as 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas resources. Together this represents 22 percent of all untapped but technically recoverable hydrocarbons. Over 80 percent of these resources lie offshore.
As polar icecaps retreat, it will become possible to begin to extract part of these resources. Regional trade may increase moreover as shipping lanes north of Eurasia and North America become ice free.
In the summer of 2008, for the first time in recorded history, the polar icecap retreated far enough to allow commercial shipping in the region. By 2013, these sea routes are expected to be completely ice free during the summer.