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NATO's Enhanced Opportunities Partners

This post was co-authored by Laura Basagni, Trainee in GMF’s Brussels Office

This post was co-authored by Laura Basagni, Trainee in GMF’s Brussels Office

At the 2014 NATO Wales Summit the Allies identified five countries as eligible for enhanced opportunities partnership for dialogue and cooperation (EOP), namely Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan, and Sweden. The EOP status has different implications for each country and a general framework for implementation has not been yet implemented. What is the nature and scope of EOPs and what will be their future through the upcoming 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw?

Australia

  • Population: 23 million
  • GDP:  $1.137 trillion
  • Defence spending: $31.9 billion
  • ISAF operation and Resolute Support Mission (Afghanistan) and Counter-Piracy Task Force ( Somalia)

Defence priorities:

  • Cyber security and disruptive technologies
  • Counterterrorism
  • Security and freedom of navigation in Southeast Asian maritime routes

Future of EOP

According to the Defence White Paper for 2016 published in March, Australian foreign and security policy will turn inwards compared with the last decade. Nevertheless the country shares with NATO members crucial challenges, such as cyber security, counter-terrorism, security in the Indo-Pacific region and the relationship with China. Therefore, stable if not increased exchanges of best practices, intelligence sharing and joint efforts to promote civil-military approach to conflict management are expectable. Moreover, the Australian government has reaffirmed its commitment to growing the defence budget to 2% of GDP within a decade, in accordance with the NATO guidelines on defence spending established at the Wales summit. Australia is undertaking a naval and areal modernization program through the largest defence investment in Australian history.  

Finland

  • Population: 5,471,753
  • GDP:  $234.578 billion
  • Defence spending: $2.886 billion
  • Peacekeeping forces in the Balkans and Afghanistan

Defence priorities:

  • Baltic Sea Security
  • Strengthening security cooperation, on both bilateral (Sweden, US) and regional levels (EU, NATO, NORDEFCO)

Future of EOP

The Finnish government has recently commissioned a study on the effect that NATO membership would have on Finnish foreign and security policy. From the report, three main points emerged: a widespread sense of vulnerability of Finnish security due to Russia’s “disregard for the established system of norms;” the strategic significance of joint defence efforts of Finland and Sweden in order to secure the Baltic basin; and a so called ‘fast track option,’ meaning the exceptional prospect of article 5 commitments to apply to Finland (and Sweden) without the need to acquire full NATO membership. Even though such an option is unlikely, closer cooperation between NATO, Finland and Sweden is an ongoing process which will continue through and after the Warsaw summit, building on the memorandum of understanding on Host Nation Support signed in 2014. Ongoing talks surround the creation of a body for regular consultation on Baltic Sea security and further inclusion of the two partners in the enhanced NATO Response Force.

Georgia

  • Population: 3,713,804
  • GDP:  $ 35.6 billion   
  • Defence Spending:  $ 324 million
  • Operation Active Endeavour (Mediterranean)

Defence priorities:

  • Relationship with Russia and the continued militarization of occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
  • Civil and military reforms towards NATO membership

Future of EOP

NATO support Georgia’s reform process as part of the joint efforts towards membership. In 2015 the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) was inaugurated: it will train Georgian military units and enhance regional security cooperation by offering training opportunities to both NATO members and regional partners. NATO and Georgia have signed the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP) for 2016, including support to 13 areas of defence and security-related sectors. The terms of Georgia’s admission to NATO are still ambiguous, and some Allies are sceptical about the consequence it would have on Russia’s foreign policy. Georgia’s lack of territorial integrity also remains an issue. Nevertheless, Georgia’s Minister of Defence, Tinatin Khidasheli, has declared multiple times that Georgia’s highest expectation from the Warsaw summit would be to acquire full membership. Joining NATO is considered the best way to deter further Russian aggressions against Georgian territory, and to fulfill the security vacuum in the region.                                            

Jordan

  • Population:  9,531,712
  • GDP: $82.991billion
  • Defence spending: $2.5 billion
  • Peacekeeping operation in Bosnia,  ISAF operation (Afghanistan),  Operation Unified Protector in Libya

Defence priorities:

  • Regional stability and counterterrorism
  • Refugee crisis: Syrian refugees in Jordan are currently around 1.4 million and make up for 13% of Jordan population

Future of EOP

This May, the North Atlantic Council has agreed to accredit the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Belgium as Mission to NATO, the last step in the history of stable cooperation between Jordan and NATO. As the Alliance turns its head to the south, it might further capitalize on the partnership with Jordan, a country that has historically been considered a reliable partner by both NATO and the EU in their respective programs in the Mediterranean. Stronger three-way cooperation in the field of security can be envisioned, and would fit with the aim to strengthen interoperability between NATO and the EU in the European southern periphery. From its side, Jordan could benefit from NATO support in pursuing several goals, from increasing cyber resilience to dealing with the constant stream of refugees coming from Syria. Syrian refugees in Jordan are currently around 1.4 million and Jordan advocates for the implementation of a humanitarian safe zone at the border with Syria.

Sweden

  • Population: 9,658,301
  • GDP:  $467.450 billion
  • Defence spending:  $ 5.77 billion
  • Peacekeeping forces in the Balkans and in Afghanistan, mission Resolute Support in (Afghanistan)

Defence priorities:

  • Baltic Sea security: Sweden will implement a permanent military presence on the island of Gotland by 2018
  • Strengthening security cooperation, on both bilateral (Finland, US) and regional levels (EU, NATO, NORDEFCO)

Future of EOP

Baltic Sea security is at the core of Sweden and NATO cooperation. On its side, NATO needs to develop a strategic outlook for the Baltic region and strengthen its presence in new members' territory. The Allies need to take into account the 1997 NATO-Russia founding act, which forbids the placement of permanent NATO troops at Russian borders, but also to deal with the presence of Russian A2/AD capabilities in Kaliningrad. On the other side, Sweden seeks further cooperation with NATO on collective defence and deterrence, while keeping its non-military aligned status. Given the mutual interest in developing a military strategy for the Baltic Sea, the Warsaw summit will be the occasion to further develop the design of EOP with both Sweden and Finland. Both countries want to be involved whenever the organisation discusses new initiatives in the Baltic region, take part in advanced exercises in surrounding countries and engage in regular policy consultations on regional security.