The Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The overall purpose of NORDEFCO is to strengthen the participants’ national defence, explore common synergies and facilitate efficient common solutions.

Here you can read more about the coorperation activities, the NORDEFCO organisation, aims and objectives, Vision 2025, the history and background of NORDEFCO and third nations’ involvement.


The NORDEFCO structure is a cooperation structure, not a command structure. Cooperation activities initiated from top or bottom are facilitated and agreed within  the structure, but the actual realization and participation in activities remain national decisions.

Once a cooperation activity is implemented, it will be run by the regular, existing national chain of command. When the activity is being implemented, a NORDEFCO agreement will decide upon a framework or lead nation concept for the activity. Examples of this could be educational cooperation, where responsibility is divided between the nations or a common exercise plan with a rotating host nation scheme for major exercises.


The NORDEFCO structure includes both political and military cooperation levels.


At the top of the political level are the Nordic ministers of defence who meet twice a year. The day-to-day work at the political level is carried out by the Political Steering Committee (PSC).  The PSC consists of four subcommittees on policy, operations, capabilities and armaments, as well as the PSC Secretariat, which functions as the executive staff of the PSC.

In the Policy Steering Committee, nations are represented by senior departmental officers, such as the Policy Director and The Military Coordination Committee consisting of flag-officers, representing the nations ‘chiefs of defence.

At the military level the Chiefs of defence also meet twice a year, once a year with the Military Coordination Committee (MCC) and once a year with the Nordic National Armaments Directors. The MCC coordinates military activities within NORDEFCO between the Chief of Defence meetings. They are supported by the Coordination Staff, which functions as the executive staff of the MCC.

The concrete projects and activities are developed and staffed by the Cooperation Areas (COPAs). These include COPA Capabilities (COPA CAPA), COPA Armaments (COPA ARMA), COPA Human Resources and Education (COPA HRE), COPA Training and Exercises (COPA TEX) and COPA Operations (COPA OPS).

To learn more about the COPAs click here


The main aim and purpose of the Nordic Defence Cooperation is to strengthen the participating nations´ national defence, explore common synergies and facilitate efficient common solutions.

In order to achieve this aim, the objectives of the Nordic Defence Cooperation include (but are not limited to):

  • A comprehensive, enhanced and long-term approach to defence related issues
  • Identify and discuss defence related strategic and policy issues of common interest
  • Increase operational effect and quality of the armed forces
  • Strive for an optimum resource allocation and cost-efficiency in defence related areas
  • Develop interoperability and capability to act jointly
  • Develop cooperation in the area of multinational operations, defence related security sector reform and capacity building in support of international peace and security
  • Achieve technological benefits
  • Promote the competitiveness of the defence industry; and
  • Strengthen cooperation on any other possible future area of cooperation.

Objectives on the military level

The overall objective of NORDEFCO on the military level is cooperation across the entire range of defence structures in order to achieve better cost-effectiveness and quality, and thereby creating enhanced operational capability. This objective can be divided into three parts:

  • More efficient production of military capabilities that will allow the release of resources in benefit of increased operational capability. Mutual cooperation within the entire range of defence structures will create cost-effectiveness, and thereby release resources for increased operational capability. Over time, as systems integration and interoperability increases, the potential for cost effective use of recourses will increase.
  • The ability to maintain and develop nationally-defined operational capabilities. Through cooperation in the development and production of capabilities the Nordic countries can maintain and develop depth and width of their national capabilities. This means the ability to keep single capabilities over the point of critical level.
  • Combined and cost-effective contribution to international efforts for peace and security. The best way to face the contemporary challenges to peace and security is through collaboration. Deep and comprehensive cooperation will enable us to contribute with larger, more efficient and sustainable units to international efforts for peace and security within EU, NATO and UN-led operations.

(Currently Denmark does not participate in EU-operations)


In November 2018, the Nordic defence ministers signed ”Vision 2025”, which sets out the political framework and ambitions for the defence cooperation in the Nordic region towards 2025 through some general guidelines along with 16 specific goals. Vision 2025 raises the ambition of the Nordic defence cooperation by stating that it should apply not only in peacetimes but also in the event of a crisis or conflict. The aim is, among other things, to make NORDEFCO a platform for close political dialogue, information sharing, and, if possible, the coordination of common Nordic positions on possible crisis situations.

In the face of a growing threat from terror, cyber, and hybrid challenges, Vision 2025 assesses that there is a need for a closer cooperation within all of these areas. Moreover, the aim is to strengthen the inter-operability, deterrence, and cooperation on total defence in the Nordic region.

The ambition with the strengthening of the Nordic defence cooperation extends beyond the Nordic region. Thus, it is a stated ambition in the vision to strengthen the Nordic-Transatlantic partnership, and to further develop cooperation and dialogue with the Baltic countries. This includes within capacity-building, where the Nordic and Baltic countries together have developed a program with a special focus on Georgia, which provides a framework for increasing the cooperation and dialogue.

Vision 2025 can be read here (pdf) 


Cooperation is not new to the Nordic countries who, apart from sharing similar history, language and culture, also have a past in the political and military areas. The Nordic Council, formed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Nordic Passport Union are examples of cooperation in spite of the substantially diverse foreign political circumstances under which the Nordic countries existed during the era of the Cold War.

Nordic Contributions to United Nations Operations

The Nordic countries have always been strong supporters of the United Nations and have a long tradition of troop contribution to UN operations beginning with the very first UN Emergency Force in Suez/Sinai in 1956, followed by peace support operations side-by-side in Lebanon and the Balkans; notably the combined Nordic units as Nordbat and the Nordic-Polish IFOR brigade.

The contributions gave evidence of the far-reaching cooperation at the military level, regardless of national differences in foreign and security policy. To facilitate the peace support capabilities, responsibilities for training were divided among the nations. Thousands of officers and civilians from around the world have ever since followed the various courses at the Nordic training centres.

Peace Support Education and Training - the NORDCAPS

From the 1960s, this area was coordinated under the 'NORDSAMFN', until 1997 when the 'Nordic Coordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support' (NORDCAPS) was established, continuing the successful coordination of common Nordic efforts in military peace support.

The NORDCAPS Peace Support Operations Education & Training programme was an excellent example of how the Nordic nations can cooperate. By dividing the responsibility for the different types of courses, it was possible to reach international top-level. This had not have been possible if the nations would have attempted to set-up the courses individually.

Armament Cooperation - NORDAC

In the 1990s, closer cooperation on acquisition of materiel was established, based on the principle of mutual exchange of national procurement plans, in order to find opportunities for common development, procurement and maintenance related to defence materiel. During its fifteen years of existence the NORDAC has saved an estimated € 100 million. The work of NORDAC continues within NORDEFCO Cooperation Area Capabilities.

2008 - Enhanced Cooperation – NORDSUP

An initiative from the Chiefs of Defence of Finland, Norway and Sweden in 2008 laid the foundation for a wider approach through the NORDSUP, starting with a feasibility study naming more than 140 areas where cooperation either is possible or even necessary to retain defence capabilities. The areas ranged over the entire military spectrum and about a third of the potential areas were assessed to be possible to realize within the following years.

2009 – Nordic Defence Cooperation – NORDEFCO

At a ministerial meeting by the end of 2009, it was decided to merge the three parallel cooperation structures into one and a Memorandum of Understanding between the all five Nordic nations on the establishing of NORDEFCO was signed 4 November 2009. 

The Memorandum of Understanding can be read here (PDF)


The NORDEFCO Memorandum of Understanding opens up for NORDEFCO cooperation with nations outside the Nordic countries.

Section 7 states that "Nordic Defence Cooperation activities or projects with others than the Participants to this MoU will be based upon a pragmatic approach, as a result of a defined need assessment. The Participants to a specific activity or project will jointly formulate the provisions under which such cooperation may be performed."

The initiation of such cooperation at the military level could come either from the political or ministerial level, or as a bottom-up initiative through the military level.

Possible practical cooperation will be subject to individual assessment on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the governing principles for third party cooperation. The Policy Steering Committee or the Military Coordination Committee will, within given mandates, make the decision to invite a new third party. A request for participation in a NORDEFCO activity should be forwarded to the chair nation of NORDEFCO.