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North Sea Countries Team Up for Infrastructure Protection

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Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and Denmark recently signed a joint declaration on cooperation regarding the protection of infrastructure in the North Sea, a release hosted on the Norwegian government’s website revealed.

“Damage to energy pipelines and subsea fiber optic cables has placed the resilience and security of critical underwater infrastructure in the North Sea high on the agenda,” the release noted.

“At the North Sea Summit on 24 April 2023 in Belgium, national security advisers from nine countries met to discuss better cooperation on the security of our energy and telecommunications infrastructure,” it added.

“This resulted in the joint declaration on cooperation regarding protection of infrastructure in the North Sea. This declaration was signed … [April 9] by six North Sea countries,” it continued.

The declaration sets out an agreement to cooperate and share information on the protection of underwater infrastructure, the release stated, adding that there is a significant volume of critical infrastructure in the North Sea.

“This includes subsea fiber optic cables, gas and oil pipelines, electrical interconnectors, and wind farm installations,” the release added.

“It is crucial that this infrastructure is secure and resilient to preserve international communications and energy security,” it continued.

The release noted that, due to the interconnected nature of subsea infrastructure across North Sea territories, the need for a regional approach to its security and protection is clear.

“Adopting a joint approach when it comes to resilience and security is in the interest of all North Sea countries,” it added.

The release outlined that the aim of the declaration is “to join forces in order to take appropriate measures and exchange information and best practices”.

“The joint declaration focuses on resilience and prevention and is therefore complementary to NATO’s endeavors, which all participants involved are part of,” it highlighted.

Terje Aasland, the Norwegian Minister of Energy, said in the release, “together with our neighbors around the North Sea basin, we share a common interest to safeguard our critical infrastructure”.

“This is crucial both in terms of energy security and resilience, and to ensure the safety of those who work offshore. The collaboration of signing this joint declaration is a necessary foundation for maintaining overall security and strong evidence of our shared interests,” Aasland added.

“Together, we are stronger,” Aasland continued.

Paul Van Tigchelt, the Belgian Minister of the North Sea, said in the release, “the first condition for energy independence is securing that same energy independence”.

“The threats and challenges have increased considerably in recent months. At the North Sea Summit last year in Ostend, we have decided to work together to ensure that our data cables, oil and gas pipelines and windmill parks will be secured at the same level,” he added.

“In addition, we are going to structure the reporting of incidents on a collective and secured platform, in which Belgium is investing one million euro ($1.07 million). The participants of this joint declaration will work closely with relevant bodies and institutions such as Nota and EU. Together we can make a difference and protect our critical infrastructure at sea,” he continued.

Mark Harbers, the Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Water management, said in the release,  “the North Sea is of vital importance for our future energy security, and this security can only be achieved if we work together”.

“We are already collaborating with our neighboring countries, and this declaration is a good next step towards reaching our goals,” he added.

Tobias Lindner, the Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office, said, “with its many ports and terminals, subsea pipelines and cables, as well as offshore wind farms, the North Sea is one of the areas with the highest density of maritime infrastructure”.

“Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly vital to securely provide Europe with sustainable energy. This makes it all the more important that we cooperate more closely than ever with our neighboring countries in order to protect critical infrastructure across borders,” he added.

“With this declaration, we have taken an important step toward further deepening our close cooperation in this effort, which we are also driving forward within the EU and NATO,” he went on to state.

Andrew Bowie, the UK Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, said in the release, “the North Sea is the powerhouse driving Europe’s renewable and net zero ambitions, helping to bolster energy security on the continent”.

“So, it’s crucial we protect its critical energy infrastructure now and in the future. Strengthening ties with our key northern European neighbors as we have today will do just that, ensuring the infrastructure is resilient against those who may seek to threaten or disrupt it,” he added.

Lars Aagaard, Danish Minister for Climate Energy and Utilities, said, “the North Sea has the potential to become the cradle of a renewable and secure energy supply in Europe, while supporting the road to a fossil free future”.

“In order to utilize this opportunity, we must stand united and coordinated in our efforts to protect critical infrastructure across borders. This understanding is an important step in that direction,” he added.

In a statement posted on its website earlier this month, the Norwegian government said it is proposing to parliament “a historic increase in defense spending with 600 billion kroner ($56.2 billion]) over the next 12 years”.

The Norwegian government proposes to spend a total of NOK 1.624 trillion ($152.3 billion) on Norway’s defense over the next twelve years, the statement highlighted. By 2036, the defense budget will be almost twice as large as it is today, measured in real value, the release pointed out.

“Norway is a maritime nation with a strong maritime legacy,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in the statement.

“The government commits to strengthening the Navy, with new frigates, submarines, and other vessels. The plan also involves a robust air defense package, including Norway’s first long-range air defense system,” he added.

“We will also strengthen the land forces by expanding the army from one to three brigades and increasing the Home Guard to a total of 45,000 soldiers,” he went on to state.

Norway’s Minister of Finance, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, said in the statement, “as our security environment is deteriorating, we need to spend more on and pay more attention to defense and preparedness”.

“Norway is in a unique position to take action. Our model of securing income for society from our natural resources enable us to increase national security spending, without a cut in people’s public services,” Vedum added.

“Our proposed defense investments will benefit the whole country in several ways. When we spend so much on defense, it must be in a way which creates Norwegian jobs and investments,” he continued.

According to Norwegianpetroleum.no, which is run in cooperation by Norway’s Ministry of Energy and the Norwegian Offshore Directorate, the Norwegian gas pipeline network alone “is roughly similar to the distance from Oslo to Bangkok”.

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com

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