Africa occupies a special position in the foreign policies of the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In spite of their limited capacities, lack of colonial ties with Africa, or any significant economic interests in Africa, the Nordic countries have attained a relatively high profile, especially in Southern Africa. After Finland and Sweden joined the European Union (EU) in 1995, Africa assumed an even greater level of foreign policy significance for the Nordic countries. Most notable in this regard is Finland’s assumption in 1999 of the EU presidency, a position that makes Finland responsible for the negotiations over the continuation of the EU’s Lomé Convention with 71 countries of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. It is in this context that this article assesses Nordic perceptions of the Clinton administration’s foreign policy toward Africa. It is important to note, however, that there is no one monolithic “Nordic perspective.” The opinions and approaches documented in policy papers or informal statements by individual civil servants following African affairs can widely vary. People working with development cooperation, for example, tend to be more recipient-oriented than those looking at Africa from a more general foreign policy point of view. The tradition of outspoken human rights policy still differentiates Norwegian and Swedish approaches from the cautious policy of Finland. Yet behind these different tones, one can distinguish common premises stemming from the many similarities of the Nordic countries and their conscious efforts to generate coherent, coordinated foreign policies toward Africa.
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