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23rd Jun 2018

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'Who rules the world? Riyadh vs. Bergen'

  • Stefan Loefven (Sweden), Lars Lokke Rasmussen (Denmark), Erna Solberg (Norway), Juha Sipila (Finland) and Bjarni Benediktsson (Iceland) (Photo: Nordic Council)

Last week, a photo of US president Donald Trump, Saudi king Salman, and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi holding a glowing orb went viral.

This week, the Nordic leaders met in Bergen, Norway, and agreed to promote an initiative called Nordic Solutions To Global Challenges that is aimed to achieve the UN's sustainable development goals for 2030.

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The Nordic leaders also had their photo taken while holding a soccer ball with the UN goals written on it.

"Who rules the world? Riyadh vs. Bergen," Norway's conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg wrote on her Facebook profile on Tuesday (30 May) under the Trump photo and the photo of herself and fellow Nordic leaders.

"Don't know what those in the upper photo were thinking," she wrote. "In the lower one are the five Nordic prime ministers, holding a ball with the sustainability goals. We're hoping they'll be a roadmap for the future."

The two photos captured two very different visions of how the world should develop in future, with the Nordic countries determined to decouple economic growth from climate change.

"For almost two decades now, we have been reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, without negatively affecting jobs and the economy," the Nordic leaders wrote on Monday in a letter published by EUobserver, explaining their vision.

"One thing we want to share with the rest of the world is the work we have done in making cities good places to live. Another is what we have learned about renewable energy, and market models for sustainable energy investment," the Nordic leaders said.

"We want to enter into dialogue and partnerships with other regions, share our good solutions with them and get to know about theirs."

The Nordic prime ministers meet regularly within the Nordic Council of ministers, which is currently chaired by Norway.

The five countries have different international relations. Three are EU members (Denmark, Sweden, and Finland), three are in Nato (Denmark, Norway, and Iceland), while only one has adopted the euro as its currency (Finland).

Despite these differences and the leaders' varied party affiliations, they maintain close and personal relations via their meetings in the Nordic council.

At their talks in Bergen, the prime ministers officially launched the global initiative and set aside €10 million to present Nordic knowledge to the wider world on transition to a greener economy, of gender equality at work, and of sustainable food and welfare solutions.

"I personally believe that all of our good systems are based on our history, it takes a long time and you can't just transform our societies into other societies. But you can inspire people to find a way to move towards that based on their own history and background," Solberg, the Norwegian prime minister, told EUobserver.

"I think it is very important that we are not talking about Western ideas, we have to talk about universal ideas and individual rights," she said.

"The Nordic countries have found such good solutions for a combination of family life and work life which makes it much more easy for woman to participate fully in the work force. I think we can be an inspiration”.

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