24.09.2021 · The Government

Faroe Islands between super powers

Faroe Islands between super powers

Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen gave a talk at the national security conference "Føroyar millum stórveldini" [Faroe Islands between super powers] on 24 September 2021.

The following is an English summary. Click here for the full speech in Faroese.

Ladies and gentlemen

I was a teenager in 1989, when the Berlin wall fell.

The wall was a dominating feature in the seventies and eighties. It was the epitomy of the Cold War. The nuclear threat and the possible destruction of civilization was real.

The world view was simpler back then.

It was the closed Soviet Union versus the open West. It was capitalism versus communism. It was Reagan versus Gorbatjev.

In the Faroe Islands, some of us were pro-NATO. Others were anti-NATO.

Thirty years is a long time, however.

The world is not that black and white anymore. It is more complex than during my formative years during the Cold War.

In addition to land, sea and air defence, today we also have to defend ourselves on digital platforms, where critical infrastructure, services and information is located.

This presents us with new challenges, demands and, by extension, politics.


Historically, questions of national security and their politics have never been a conspicuous part of Faroese politics.

This gap in our political debate was a result of others deciding on our behalf, and not including us in their decisions. Of course, it was not satisfactory that information was kept from us.

Today, this means that many Faroese are sceptical towards issues of national security policy. We have never really had a coherent and continuous political discussion on national security in the Faroe Islands.

This is about to change because it needs to change!

National security already features more prominently in Faroese politics.

We take the matter seriously, which is reflected in the first two years of this government. If we are to succeed, we need to actively collaborate within the [Danish] Commonwealth.

And we have never been better able to do just that.

Cooperation within the Commonwealth has improved in the past two years, which also means that we have gained a more prominent role internationally.

We have noticed increased goodwill from the Danish political system – including matters of national security. Several fundamental steps have been taken to fulfil formal requirements intrinsic to a more active role in international security.

There is a sharp contrast between the healthy cooperation with Danish authorities on the one hand, and the picture that some people in the Faroe Islands are trying to paint on the other.

My impression of the recent national security debate is that the goal for some is to recreate tensions between Denmark and the Faroe Islands during the Cold War, and also to accuse Denmark of exploiting the Faroe Islands in a geopolitical game.

I am not surprised that some people are sceptical towards the plans made by outsiders when those plans concern the Faroe Islands. People remember the Cold War. People remember that the Faroe Islands were not included in important decisions, and that we were not informed very well either. I understand you. But times have changed. And I assure you that the situation could not be more different today.


The Faroe Islands are located in an area of increasing geopolitical importance. This is a golden opportunity for us to take part and to become more active.

Our goal is clear: Peace and low tension in the North Atlantic and the Arctic.

The competition between the United States, Russia and China is heating up, and we are right in the middle of that. As a result, their interest in our area and their willingness to cooperate with us is increasing. This also means that the balance of power is shifting slightly to the north, from Copenhagen to Tórshavn and Nuuk.

A concrete example is the United States, with whom we have made an agreement on trade, research, culture and education. The US has also asked about the possibility to use our harbours and maritime services.

Together with our neighbours we are an integrated part of the West and of NATO. Via the Commonwealth we have been part of the alliance since 1949. NATO is the foundation for security and durable peace in the West, including in the Faroe Islands.


The Faroese political system has worked well to find agreements on foreign affairs. Hopefully we can develop similar productive internal cooperation on matters of national security.

This depends, however, on our ability to let go of the past. It compels us to acquire a correct understanding of the present – and to take responsibility for national security in the future.