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Keeping your Friends Close: British Foreign Policy and the Nordic Economic Community, 1968–1972

  • MATTHEW BROAD (a1)
Abstract

The Nordic Economic Community (Nordek) was a short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to strengthen cooperation between the four Nordic states. While the importance of the project to Britain has often been overlooked, this article suggests that Whitehall took considerable interest from the start. It demonstrates how, although officially neutral, London sought first to mitigate the effects of Nordek, then to undermine its establishment and, finally, in the wake of Nordek's collapse, to guard against its re-emergence. The aim throughout was to protect three central tenets of British foreign policy: EFTA unity in light of the second veto, Britain's own application for EEC membership and a cohesive Western Europe militarily integrated in NATO. However, the article highlights the absence of a coherent strategy towards tentative Nordic integration and the mixed success this brought, the interdependency of Anglo-Nordic relations in the pursuit and success of British foreign policy goals and the relative decline of the Britain's influence in the Nordic region.

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1 ‘16th Congress, Minutes of the Second Meeting, 17 Feb. 1968’, in Council, Nordic, Nordiska Rådet: 16:e sessionen i Oslo 1968 (Stockholm: Nordic Council, 1968), 62. By way of definition, ‘Scandinavia’ here means Denmark, Norway and Sweden, while ‘Nordic’ is these three countries plus Finland but not Iceland. Iceland was always more sceptical about international cooperation; it did not join EFTA until 1970 and was never more than an observer to the Nordek negotiations. On Iceland's exclusion see Guðmundur Jónsson, ‘On the Sidelines: Iceland and the Nordek Negotiations, 1968–72’, in Hecker-Stampehl, Jan, ed., Between Nordic Ideology, Economic Interests and Political Reality (Helsinki: Finnish Society of Science and Letters, 2009), 159–68.

2 On the various proposals see Ludlow, N. Piers, The European Community and the Crises of the 1960s: Negotiating the Gaullist Challenge (London: Routledge, 2006), 147–53.

3 Denmark, Norway and Sweden were among the seven original signatories of EFTA's founding treaty, the Stockholm Convention, which was penned on 4 January 1960. Finland joined EFTA as an associate member through the FINEFTA agreement signed on 27 March 1961.

4 Foreign Staff, ‘Denmark seeks EFTA move on agriculture’, Financial Times, 1 May 1968, 5. See also Curzon, Victoria, The Essentials of Economic Integration: Lessons of EFTA Experience (London: Macmillan, 1974), 174–96; Thorsten Borring Olesen and Poul Villaume, I Blokopbygningens Tegn 1945–1972 (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005), 505–9.

5 Eriksen, Knut Einar and Pharo, Helge Ø, Kald Krig og Internasjonalisering 1949–1965 (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1997), 368–70.

6 Nordic Economic Community derives from the Swedish Nordiskt ekonomiskt gemenskap. While the project did not adopt the name ‘Nordek’ until the beginning of 1969, to avoid confusion I refer to it as such throughout.

7 For instance, Furby, Daniel, ‘The Revival and Success of Britain's Second Application for Membership of the European Community, 1968–71’, Ph.D. thesis, Queen Mary, University of London, 2010; Jan Váška, ‘Between Tradition and Modernity? Britain's Foreign Policy in the Second Half of the 1960s’, Studia Territorialia, 9, 4 (2009), 119–48.

8 Pine, Melissa, Harold Wilson and Europe: Pursuing Britain's membership of the European Communities (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007), 77.

9 Steinnes, Kristian, The British Labour Party, Transnational Influences and European Community Membership, 1960–1973 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014), 143.

10 Robin M. Allers, ‘Alternatives to Membership or Temporary Solutions? The German Proposal for a Commercial Arrangement and the EEC's Attitudes towards Nordek, 1967–1970’ and Suvi Kansikas, ‘“Nordek is an Anti-Soviet Group”: The Soviet Attitude to Finnish Participation in the Nordek Plan’, both in Hecker-Stampehl, Between.

11 The best route into this aspect of Nordek available in the English language is probably Hecker-Stampehl, Between; and Sonne, Lasse, Nordek: A Plan for Increased Nordic Economic Co-operation and Integration (Helsinki: Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters, 2007).

12 Finland was considered neutral but was widely accepted as part of Moscow's sphere of influence, whereas Sweden was seen a ‘friendly’ neutral power informally integrated into the Western defence framework.

13 Ludlow, Peter, ‘Britain and Northern Europe, 1940–1945’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 4, 1 (1979), 123–62, here 124–5.

14 Nilson, See Bengt, ‘Butter, Bacon and Coal: Anglo-Danish Commercial Relations, 1947–51’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 13, 2 (1988), 257–77; Nilson, Bengt, ‘No Coal Without Iron: Anglo-Swedish Trade Relations in the Shadow of the Korean War’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 16, 1–2 (1991), 4572; Mariager, Rasmus, ‘Political Ambitions and Economic Realities: Anglo-Danish Relations and the US in the Early Cold War’, in Sevaldsen, Jørgen, ed., Britain and Denmark: Political, Economic and Cultural Relations in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2003), 540–5.

15 Aunesluoma, Juhana, Britain, Sweden and the Cold War. 1945–54: Understanding Neutrality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 26–7; Milward, Alan, The Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1945–51 (Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984), 318.

16 Aunesluoma, Britain, 43. See also Aunesluoma, Juhana, ‘An Elusive Partnership: Europe, Economic Co-operation and British Policy towards Scandinavia’, Journal of European Integration History, 8, 1 (2002), 103–19.

17 On the Nordic states and EFTA see Laursen, Johnny and Malmborg, Mikael af, ‘The Creation of EFTA’, in Thorsten, B. Olesen, ed., Interdependence Versus Integration: Denmark, Scandinavia and Western Europe, 1945–1960 (Odense: Odense University Press, 1995), 197212; Olesen, Thorsten B., ‘EFTA 1959–72: An exercise in Nordic cooperation and conflict’, in Götz, Norbet and Haggrén, Heidi, eds., Regional Cooperation and International Organizations: The Nordic Model in Transnational Alignment (London: Routledge, 2009), 133–51.

18 Mariager, Rasmus, I Tillid og Varm Sympati: Dansk–Britiske Forbindelser og USA under den Tidlige Kolde Krig (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2006), 221–30.

19 Brief for Prime Minister's Meeting with the Danish Prime Minister, 11 Jun. 1959, Prime Minister's Office records, The National Archives, London (henceforth TNA), PREM 11/2642.

20 Aunesluoma, ‘An Elusive Partnership’, 104.

21 Pharo, Helge, ‘Bridgebuilding and Reconstruction: Norway Faces the Marshall Plan’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 1, 1 (1976), 125–53.

22 Sørensen, Vibeke, Denmark's Social Democratic Government and the Marshall Plan 1947–1950 (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2001).

23 Silva, Charles, Keep Them Strong, Keep Them Friendly: Swedish-American Relations and the Pax Americana (Stockholm: Akademitryck, 1999), 147.

24 Pharo, ‘Bridgebuilding and reconstruction’; Pharo, Helge, ‘Together Again: Anglo-Norwegian relations and the early Cold War’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 37, 2 (2012), 261–77, here 267–72.

25 Sørensen, Vibeke, ‘Danish Economic Policy and European Cooperation on Trade and Currencies’, EUI Working Paper, 86/251 (1986). See also Sørensen, Vibeke, ‘The Danish Social Democrats, 1947–63’, in Griffiths, Richard, ed., Socialist Parties and the Question of Europe in the 1950s (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 178200.

26 Villaume, Poul, Allieret Med Forbehold. Danmark, NATO og den Kolde Krig. En Studie i Dansk Sikkerhedspolitik 1949–61 (Copenhagen: Eirene, 1995).

27 Laursen, Johnny N. and Olesen, Thorsten B., ‘A Nordic Alternative to Europe? The Interdependence of Denmark's Nordic and European policies, 1945–1998’, Contemporary European History, 9, 1 (2000), 5992.

28 Olesen and Villaume, I Blokopbygningens Tegn, 511–2.

29 Aunesluoma, Britain, 161.

30 Pharo, Helge Ø. and Salmon, Patrick, ‘Introduction’, in Helge, Ø. Pharo and Patrick, Salmon, eds., Britain and Norway: Special Relationships (Oslo: Akademika forlang, 2012), 20; Salmon, Patrick, ‘Great Britain and the Nordic countries in the 20th Century’, in Aunesluoma, Juhana, ed., From War to Cold War: Anglo-Finnish Relations in the 20th Century (Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2005), 22–7.

31 Branner, Hans, ‘Small State on the Sidelines: Denmark and the Question of European Political Integration’, in George, Wilkes, ed., Britain's Failure to Enter the European Community 1961–63: The Enlargement Negotiations and Crises in European, Atlantic and Commonwealth Relations (Abingdon: Routledge, 1997), 150.

32 Heathcote-Smith to Mason, 7 Feb. 1963, TNA, FO 371/171355; Marjoribanks to Keeble, 31 Jan. 1964, TNA, FO 371/177340.

33 O'Neill to Marjoribanks, 31 Jan. 1964, TNA, FO 371/177340.

34 Record of conversation at lunch, 9 Nov. 1964, TNA, PREM 13/813.

35 Melville to O'Neill, 7 Feb. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

36 Palliser to Day, 30 Sept. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2413.

37 Hancock to O'Neill, ‘EEC: A Possible Scandinavian Union’, 12 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

38 O'Neill to Gore-Booth, 12 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

39 Hancock to Statham, 18 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32; Wright brief, ‘Background note on Nordic cooperation’, 25 Sept. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/280.

40 Wright to Hancock, 1 Feb. 1968, and Robinson to Barry, 21 Jun. 1968, both TNA, FCO 30/32.

41 Copenhagen to FO, tel. no. 154, 25 Apr. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349.

42 Kleppe, Per, ‘Momentum of Nordic integration’, in Corbet, Hugh and Robertson, David, eds., Europe's Free Trade Experiment: EFTA and Economic Integration (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1970), 162–3; Pedersen, Thomas, ‘Denmark and the European Union’, in Miles, Lee, ed., The European Union and the Nordic Countries (London: Routledge, 1996), 84.

43 Laursen, Johnny, ‘Blueprints of Nordic Integration: Dynamics and Institutions in Nordic Cooperation, 1945–72’, EUI Working Paper, 92/20 (1994), 28.

44 East to MacGlashan, 14 Jun. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349. See also Michael Hatfield, ‘Deadlock in EFTA over smelter’, The Times, 10 May 1968, 28.

45 Wright telegram, tel. no. 154, 25 Apr. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349.

46 White to Robinson, 29 Jan. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/257.

47 FO to Brussels, tel. no. 178, 26 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/125.

48 Brussels to FO, tel. no. 34, 28 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/129. See also Pine, Harold Wilson, 29.

49 O'Neill note, 15 Jan. 1968, and Melville to O'Neill, 7 Feb. 1968, both TNA, FCO 30/32.

50 Barrett telegram, tel. no. 119, 3 May 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349.

51 East to Brown, 23 Feb. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349.

52 Killick to Robinson, 18 Aug. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/259.

53 See Eriksen and Pharo, Kald Krig og Internasjonalisering, 394–6; Villaume, Allieret Med Forbehold, 806–10; Nordentoft, Johs and Rasmussen, Søren Hein, Kampagnen Mod Atomvåben og Vietnambevægelsen 1960–1972 (Viborg: Odense Universitetsforland, 1991), 130–5; Rolk, Tamnes, Norsk Utenrikspolitikks Historie: Oljealder, 1965–1995 (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1997).

54 On Scandinavian defence see Hanhimäki, Jussi M., Scandinavia and the United States: An Insecure Friendship (New York: Twayne, 1997); Carsten, Holbraad, Danish Neutrality: A Study in the Foreign Policy of a Small State (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).

55 O'Neill to Gore-Booth, 15 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

56 Author's correspondence with Tom McNally, 25 Jan. 2013.

57 Geoffrey Smith, ‘A Nordic customs union possible’, The Times, 5 Nov. 1968, 11.

58 Brown to Crosland, 3 Jan. 1968, Crosland to Brown, 5 Jan. 1968 and Stockholm telegram, tel. no. 58, 2 Feb. 1968, all TNA, PREM 13/2111.

59 Chalfont to Brown, 11 Jan. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2110.

60 Ross to Hancock, 24 Jan. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

61 Wright to Hancock, 1 Feb. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

62 Palliser to Holland, 30 Apr. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2112.

63 Holland to Palliser, 30 Apr. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2112.

64 ‘Why be subordinate to Great Britain?’, Aftenposten, 28 Sept. 1968, transcript of article in TNA, FCO 30/257.

65 Melville to Hancock, 7 Feb. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/32.

66 Hancock to Wright, 5 Feb. 1968, and Ross to Hancock, 7 Feb. 1968, both TNA, FCO 30/32.

67 Wright to Hancock, 1 Feb. 1968, Ross to Hancock, 7 Feb. 1968, Hancock to Wright, 5 Feb. 1968, and Melville to Hancock, 7 Feb. 1968, all TNA, FCO 30/32.

68 Stockholm telegram, tel. no. 585, 12 Oct. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/257.

69 Crosland to Stewart, 6 May 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2112.

70 Wright to Stewart, 25 Sept. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/280.

71 Champion to Lloyd, 13 May 1968, TNA, FCO 95/55.

72 Lloyd to Champion, 20 Jun. 1968, TNA, FCO 95/55.

73 Wright to Stewart, 31 Dec. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2572. On the Eurogroup, see Cromwell, William, The Eurogroup and NATO (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Foreign Policy Research Institute, 1974).

74 Stewart to Winchester, 13 Dec. 1968, TNA, FCO 33/657.

75 Wright to Stewart, 31 Dec. 1968, TNA, PREM 13/2572.

76 Barry to Robinson, 11 Nov. 1968, TNA, FCO 30/257.

77 Wright to Stewart, 10 Jan. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/257.

78 Hancock to Robinson, 17 Feb. 1969, and East to MacGlashan, 18 Feb. 1969, both TNA, FCO 30/258.

79 Wright to Hancock, 25 Feb. 1969, and Hancock to Robinson, 18 Mar. 1968, both TNA, FCO 30/258.

80 Summary Record of Council Meeting, 13 Mar. 1969, and Hancock to Robinson, 18 Mar. 1969, both TNA, FCO 30/258.

81 See, among others, Bossuat, Gerrard, ‘De Gaulle et la second candidature britannique aux Communautés Européennes’, in Loth, Wilfried, ed., Crises and Compromises: The European Project, 1963–1969 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2001), 511–38; Pine, Harold Wilson, ch. 6

82 Oslo telegram, tel. no. 7, 1 Mar. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/258.

83 Robinson to Hancock, attaching note Nordic Economic Cooperation, 3 Mar. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/258.

84 Summary Record of Anglo-Danish Liaison Committee Ninth Meeting, 3 Oct. 1968, TNA, FCO 9/349; Minutes of Tenth Meeting of the Anglo-Danish Liaison Committee, 30 Sept. 1969, TNA, FCO 67/1.

85 Visit of the President of Finland to London: Record of a Meeting held at 10 Downing Street, 17 Jul. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/258.

86 Killick to Robinson, 18 Aug. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/259.

87 Wilson to Palliser, 1 Aug. 1969, TNA, PREM 13/2639. For JIC report JIC(A)69(N), Nordek Treaty, 31 Jul. 1969, TNA, PREM 13/2639.

88 Wright to Brimelow, 6 Aug. 1969, TNA, FCO 33/458; Petersen, Nikolaj, ‘Danish security policy in the Seventies: Continuity or Change?’, Cooperation and Conflict, 7, 7 (1972), 15–6.

89 May to Andrews, 10 Jul. 1969, TNA, FCO 33/458.

90 Healey's comments at press conference, 10 Oct. 1969, TNA, FCO 33/458.

91 Note of Olesen-Thomson meeting, 10 Feb. 1970, Social Democrat Archives (SDA), Danish Labour Movement Library and Archives, Copenhagen, box 440.

92 On the Kekkonen plan Osmo Apunen, ‘Three “Waves” of the Kekkonen Plan and Nordic Security in the 1980s’, Security Dialogue, 11, 16 (1980), 16–32.

93 Note of Olesen-Healey meeting, 10 Feb. 1970, SDA, box 440.

94 Note of Olesen-Thomson meeting, 10 Feb. 1970, SDA, box 440.

95 Dales to MacGlashan, 30 Apr. 1970, TNA, FCO 33/886.

96 Ledwidge to Robinson, 17 Jan. 1970, and Ross to O'Neill, 18 Feb. 1970, both TNA, FCO 30/547.

97 Maclehose to Robinson, 25 Feb. 1970, TNA, FCO 30/547.

98 Sonne, Nordek, ch. 8; Juhani Suomi, Taistelu Puolueettomuudesta: Urho Kekkonen, 1968–1972 (Helsinki: Otava, 1996).

99 Kansikas, ‘“Nordek’”, 109–22.

100 Lever to MacGashan, 8 Apr. 1970, TNA, FCO 33/1111.

101 Dales to MacGlashan, 10 Apr. 1970, TNA, FCO 33/1111.

102 Ledwig to Morgan, 29 Dec. 1969, TNA, FCO 30/260; note of private conversation between Wilson and Palme, 7 Apr. 1970, TNA, PREM 13/3509.

103 Thorpe to Morland, 15 Feb. 1971, and Morland to Browning, 16 Feb. 1971, both TNA, FCO 30/695.

104 Stark telegram, tel. no. 19, 19 Sept. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1555.

105 Cable to Brimlow, 4 Mar. 1971, TNA, FCO 41/819.

106 Peck to Bridges, 22 Dec. 1971, and Bridges to Beck, 6 Jan. 1972, both TNA, FCO 41/988.

107 Culham to Kerr, 6 Mar. 1972, TNA, FCO 41/989.

108 Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 812 House of Commons Debates, 2 Mar. 1971, cols. 1416–7; Oslo to FCO, tel. no. 61, 4 Mar. 1971, and Cable to Brimlow, 4 Mar. 1971, both TNA, FCO 41/819.

109 Stark telegram, tel. no. 19, 19 Sept. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1555.

110 Report by Tom McNally, ID/1971-72/39: Further Developments in European Security, undated, National Executive Committee Minutes, 23 Feb. 1972, Labour Party Archives, Manchester.

111 Stark telegram, tel. no. 19, 19 Sept. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1555.

112 Robinson to Franklin, 30 May 1972, Brief for Prime Minister's Visit to Copenhagen, 5 Jun. 1972, and transcripts of Heath's speeches in Copenhagen, 8–9 Jun. 1972, all TNA, FCO 30/1464.

113 Stark to Robinson, 11 Oct. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1556.

114 Selby to Douglas-Home, 4 Oct. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1556.

115 Stark telegram, tel. no. 19, 19 Sept. 1972, and Crossley note, 27 Sept. 1972, both TNA, FCO 30/1555.

116 FCO telegram, tel. no. 770, 27 Oct. 1972, TNA, FCO 30/1557.

117 Piers Ludlow, N., ‘European Integration and the Cold War’, in Leffler, Melvyn and Westad, Odd Arne, eds., The Cambridge History of the Cold War: Crises and Détente (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 179–97.

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Contemporary European History
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