Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

Focus

Nordic states want more say in Europe

  • The first week in November is always the one week of the year when all the Nordic parliaments stop normal lawmaking and each send a delegation of their members to the Nordic Council. (Photo: EUobserver)

“Something about the Nordic environment”, said one woman, when asked why buses in Copenhagen were adorned with two flags this week.

“The red one is easy enough. It's the Danish flag, but the blue flag? Something UN or Nordic, perhaps?," her friend said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Swedish conservative MP Hans Wallmark, suggested that the Danish-German boarder should be controlled on behalf of the entire Nordic area, replacing a temporary border control introduced between Denmark and Sweden 4 January 2016 in response to the refugee (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

She was right. The blue flag on the buses belong to the Nordic Council meting in Copenhagen this week.

The redesigned logo is not the only new thing about the old institution.

As other political structures in Europe seem fragile, more attention has turned to the regional body.

"Nordic countries must push more strongly in the European debate," said Danish liberal MP, Eva Kjer Hansen, who tabled a proposal for opening a joint Nordic office in Brussels.

"The Nordic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers together would establish and staff an office in Brussels to give the Nordic cooperation greater political clout and weight," the proposal said.

The first week in November is always the one week of the year when all the Nordic parliaments stop normal lawmaking and each send a delegation of their members to the Nordic Council.

On Tuesday (1 November) the seats in the assembly of the Danish Folketing, were filled with Swedes, Finns and other fellow Nordic parliamentarians.

Older than the EU

The Nordic Council is older than the EU. This year’s session was number 68, but the Nordic Council does not have any sovereign powers. It can only recommend for member states to act.

With all the Nordic prime ministers also sitting in the assembly, it is however a unique body, and not without impact in the world when they act in unity.

For many years it was dreamed that the Nordic countries might even develop into some form of a Nordic Union.

It only came as far as allowing Nordic citizens to travel without passports between Nordic countries, where citizens have had the right to work, study and settle in each other’s countries.

The dream ended when Denmark - as the first Nordic country to do so - broke ranks and joined the EU in 1973, Sweden and Finland followed later, while Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the Aaland Islands stayed out of the European Union. Greenland left the EU following a referendum in 1982.

Gender equality

This year’s Nordic officially session focused on implementation of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how to implement them in the Nordic region.

“Nordic countries played a central role to 17 SDGs of the UN, but fulfilling of the goals has to happen at home”, reminded Norway’s conservative prime minister Erna Solberg and quoted Elvis Presley in her Nordic Council speech: ”A little less conversation, a little more action please”.

“Our strength lies in being equal. Because of this we are rich and modern”, said the Swedish Social Democrat premier Stefan Loefven.

Gender equality is one of the UN's 17 goals and it is remarkably high in the Nordic area.

Iceland’s parliament had a record high number of 30 female MPs elected just last Saturday, where 47.6 percent of the votes went to female candidates in the general elections.

The vote saw Iceland jump up seven places internationally as regards the representation women in national parliaments, to fourth in the world, after Rwanda, Bolivia and Cuba.

Border checks

Border control and refugees were other topics touched often in the Nordic Council’s general debate.

“Passport-union has been a crown jewel in Nordic cooperation, but it is now almost out of function. This is a European reality today”, said Pia Kjærsgaard from the Danish People’s party, who is chairman of the Danish parliament.

“It feels like being sent back to square one, when you have to show your passport at the border with Sweden,” she said, referring to recently imposed checks.

Swedish conservative MP Hans Wallmark, suggested that the Danish-German border should be controlled on behalf of the entire Nordic area, replacing the temporary border control introduced between Denmark and Sweden 4 January 2016 in response to the refugee crisis.

The decision has had severe implications for the around 30,000 people who daily crosses the Oresund Bridge by train.

The Swedish government announced on Wednesday it will continue the controls for another three months.

“Nordic joint border controls would not be a problem for us”, said Juho Eerola, in response to the idea of joint Nordic border controls instead of EU controls. He represents the Finns Party, previously known as the True Finns, a populist and nationalist-oriented Finnish political faction.

”We already look after the Finnish border towards Russia on behalf of us all”, he said.

Russia

Relations with Russia was another hot topic at the Nordic Council, but all pressures on Sweden and Finland to join Nato were firmly rejected.

“For the time being there are no changes needed in our relations [with Nato]. But if the situation changes, we are prepared to discuss it again quickly,” said Finland’s liberal prime minister Juha Sipilae.

The Nordic Council's conservative group proposed governments in the region to conduct a critical analysis of environmental risks from Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

During the building phase, the consortium wants access to strategically important Swedish ports such as Slite and Karlshamn, which would also increase the risk of spying and infiltration, the group said. It recommended Sweden's government to co-ordinate positions.

“We are looking forward to discussing in the EU and if the proposal is in line with the energy union,” Finnish premier Sipilae said. He added, that for Finland the concerns with the Nord Stream 2 project are mainly linked to environmental risks for the sea.

Next year the Nordic Council meets in Helsinki, when Finland chairs the Nordic council, while Norway chairs the Nordic council of ministers in 2017.

Nordic soldiers advised to study French

Nordic troops ought to learn French to better contribute to UN peace missions in future, security experts and politicians have been told.

Letter

Nordic contribution to global goals

Prime ministers of the Nordic countries took the decision on Monday to launch a new initiative focused on Nordic solutions to global societal challenges.

Swedes warned of EU collapse ahead of vote

The EU would "collapse" if parties like the far-right Sweden Democrats took power across Europe, Sweden's former leader, Carl Bildt, said in a TV duel six days ahead of elections.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. Real Brexit progress needed by October, Barnier says
  2. Poland to face EU top court on rule of law
  3. Austria's EU presidency: a bridge over troubled water?
  4. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  5. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  6. New book: Why war is coming
  7. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  8. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us