The Irish Times view on Government’s Nordic strategy: Post-Brexit alliance-building

Brexit highlighted Ireland’s over-investment in one bilateral relationship to the neglect of others, forcing the Government to seek out new alliances

The new Nordic strategy, published on Wednesday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, sets a route map for closer relationships with Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Photograph: Tom Honan

The new Nordic strategy, published on Wednesday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, sets a route map for closer relationships with Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

One of the most positive by-products of Brexit has been a new focus on Ireland’s European relationships. The Irish and British governments may have diverged on some policy issues, and their views of the European project itself grew far apart, but in general the British were Dublin’s closest allies around the EU table. Brexit highlighted Ireland’s over-investment in that bilateral relationship to the neglect of others, forcing the Government to seek out new alliances.

An ensuing strategic reorientation is reflected in Global Ireland, the 2018 document that commits to doubling Ireland’s impact and influence in the world by 2025. Impact and influence are hard to measure, but in real terms the plan envisaged a massive increase in Ireland’s physical presence on the world stage: new embassies and consulates, more trade-promotion offices and a larger presence in international organisations. Improving connections in Europe is a key part of the plan.

That’s the context for the new Nordic strategy, published yesterday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, which sets a route map for closer relationships with Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Like similar recent strategies for France and Germany, it focuses on areas such as trade, education, culture and people-to-people links, and is upfront about the anticipated political benefits that would flow from closer relationships across the board.

Setting down strategic objectives is one thing. Putting up the resources to achieve them is another. Despite these countries’ proximity and their close natural affinity with Ireland, the State still has a modest diplomatic footprint in the region, where it has just eight posted officers in total. The annual promotional budget across the entire Nordic network comes to just €100,000. If building relationships in Europe is the priority in this early post-Brexit period – and it should be – that will have to be reflected in the division of resources. And it will require sustained focus not only from the lead agencies but from all Government departments that have a role to play.

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