After a gruelling three months as the key figure of Jacinda Ardern’s coalition, Foreign Minister Winston Peters might have been looking forward to a quiet Easter at his Northland seaside hideout. Instead he’s on a weeklong mission to the capitals of four Nordic countries as part of what he calls a “deliberate and targeted” effort.
He says NZ needs to be “well-positioned” in a changing European landscape, particularly post-Brexit.
“It is important to maintain bonds with countries which share our values for rules-based international order, and there is much we can learn from these countries”.
The mission, which will include talks with the leading politicians of Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland over the week, follows the opening of the NZ Embassy in Stockholm last year. The decision to open an embassy in Stockholm can be traced back to Peters’ earlier stint as Foreign Minister when he pushed hard for it, despite the then strong focus of widening diplomatic initiatives in Asia.
Some say he’s had a bit of fixation with the Nordic countries which – although part of Europe – succeed in preserving an essentially Scandinavian flavour in their international policies.
Peters will hold talks with Foreign Minister counterparts in each country to discuss a range of geo-political issues, areas of mutual cooperation, and trade opportunities. He will be the first NZ Foreign Minister to make an official visit to Iceland.
As part of his programme, Peters will deliver speeches in Oslo and Copenhagen to international affairs institutes. The Minister will also lay a wreath at the Norwegian Memorial for the 2011 terrorist attack.
Peters, who celebrated his 74th birthday on April 11, is displaying a stamina which has astonished those who believed he might be showing signs of fatigue, halfway through the election cycle.
After what party stalwarts see as a personal triumph for Peters in killing off Labour’s capital gains tax policy, the NZ First leader’s appetite for life in the Beehive, however arduous it is, appears undiminished.
It certainly makes speculation about Shane Jones taking over as leader a bit of political moonshine.