EU concerned about youngster joining extremist groups: Helen Campbell
The European Union’s Ambassador and Head of the EU delegation to Norway, Helen Campbell has been working with the European Commission since 1993, and prior to her appointment in Norway she chaired EU’s Division of Policy and Coordination. Ambassador Campbell, in a short and exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s, Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, talks about the role of the EU delegation in Norway, the steps the European Union is taking to curb extremism, the Union’s role in Iraq and much, much more.The Excerpts below are an edited version of the interesting conversation that followed:
Ms. Campbell, First of all thank you for accepting to do this interview with us on such a short notice, and, it’s a great pleasure to have you with us today.
Will Norway become a European Member anytime, soon?
That is not for me to answer, but rather a question for the people of Norway. If you allow me, I would like to tell you about the EU Delegation. I think this interview is an excellent opportunity to explain our role here as maybe not many people know about us. Some people that I meet are quite surprised to hear that EU has a delegation in Norway, so I could just maybe explain briefly what we are focused on and our main interests.
First, we are one of 140 European Union Delegations worldwide. In all of the countries that we work in, we have broadly the same role, but with Norway the relationship is very close because Norway is a part of the European Union’s internal market. But let me just give you, in a nutshell, what we do here.
We have a sixteen staff and most of my colleagues are Norwegian, actually only four of us are EU staff from Brussels and the rest are local staff, which I think is a good way to work in a country with such a close relationship. We follow very closely the relationship between the European Union and Norway, which is extremely broad. Just to give you an idea of the areas we cover, our relationship is governed by the Economic Area Agreement, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. That means Norway is a part of the EU’s internal market even though it is not an EU member.
We also have very close policy cooperation on foreign policy. We have a dialogue on many
There are 24 EU member states with Embassies in Oslo and some countries that have applied to join the European Union. The four that have applied are Iceland, Serbia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We meet regularly- usually every month. We have had meetings for example, with the Prime Minister and the Minister for European Affairs. In a few weeks we will be going to meet with KS – the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities – so we have a regular schedule of activities to coordinate work on EU matters with the EU Delegation and EU member states here.
On top of that, we have a lot of visitors coming through Oslo and Norway. In the last few months we had EU Commission Vice President Michel Barnier for discussions on financial supervision authorities, we had Commissioner Maria Damanaki on fisheries, Commissioner Günther Oettinger on energy, and Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva who came here for the South Sudan humanitarian pledging conference. Every day we have visiting EU officials across the country and I think on average about three a day, it could be in Oslo, Tromsø, Bergen and all over the country. I hope that gives you a view of the intensity of our relationship. It keeps us busy on a day-to-day basis as well. So this was the overview of our activities in a nutshell.
As an EU Ambassador, what do you think are the biggest challenges that Europe faces, Today?
I think the biggest challenge today is around the economy and around jobs. I am sure that will be the focus of the future EU Commission, if you listen to the comments recently of the new team in Brussels. Whilst progress has been made since the crisis started a few years ago, there is still much to do.
The economic and employment situation is still a concern and in the June European Council meeting where EU leaders met, there was an agenda which had a real focus on the jobs, growth, and
With regards to Norway’s suspension of payments to Hungary under the EEA and Norway Grants, that is primarily a bilateral issue between Norway and Hungary. More generally, the Commission is confident that Hungary, like any other Member State, will respect the obligations to which it subscribed by agreeing to the Treaties of the European Union.
What do you think about Gender Equality in Europe?
I think we have made a lot of progress. It is very interesting being in Norway to see here that a decision was taken by Prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, to have more women in public positions and boardrooms, It has had such an effect. I think Norway is still a model but in the rest of Europe too there has been enormous progress. However, I still think it is an area where we can do more.
Now moving away from Europe, there’s a big war going on in Iraq, how can you define this war in Iraq?
I am not the person to define it. I think it is something we are very concerned about in terms of the impact it will have particularly in the region and the countries concerned, but also potentially more widely. At the last European Council meeting in August the situation in Iraq was given considerable focus. Coordinated action by countries from the region is important in order to counter these threats. To tackle the crisis it is important that Iraqi leaders form a truly inclusive government.
We need to counter the threat posed by ISIL and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, as called for by United Nations Security Council. We are positive to the efforts made by the US and other partners and the initiative of holding an international conference on security in Iraq.
It is important for us to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to victims inI chose to come to Norway and I am happy to be here, I have met a lot of people and during the course of my first year here I have managed to travel to the Northernmost tip (Nordkapp) and the southernmost tip of the country (Lindesnes Fyr). I have been to the Arctic circle 4 times – to Svalbard, Tromsø twice and Bodø once. I have really enjoyed meeting people and have had many interesting good discussions. It is a country that has a very high standard of living, beautiful nature and it is a very tolerant country and so I think it’s a good place to be.
Ms. Campbell, do you have a message for our worldwide readers?
I think the first thing to do is to look back. And if you look back and see where we were 100 years ago, when Europe was entering the First World War in 1914 and 75 years ago , the Second World War, and just to think generally about where we have come from. We should not take for granted the freedoms we enjoy and the standard of living we have become accustomed to. We need to value and cherish that and work to sustain and maintain that for our children and grandchildren. I think the Nobel Peace Prize given to the EU in 2012 was a good reminder of what we have achieved and I think it serves as a motivation to continue working for those values worldwide.
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