Thursday

21st Nov 2019

Focus

Nordic-German climate action signals broader alliance

  • Gender balance was for long an important issue on the Nordic political agenda (Photo: Nordic Council of Ministers)

Angela Merkel fulfilled an old dream to visit Iceland this week, amid plans to strengthen Germany's relations with Europe's most northern countries.

The German chancellor flew into Reykjavik on Monday (19 August), as Nordic prime ministers met for their Nordic Council summer summit.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • German Chancellor Merkel and Iceland's prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir on a symbolic walk in the growing rift between the North American and European techtonic plates at Thingvellir, Iceland (Photo: Nordic Council of Ministers)

Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Aaland are all members of the EU, while Iceland, Norway and Greenland are not. Their prime ministers meet on a regular basis, but it is the first time Merkel has come.

Regardless of EU membership status, the Nordic leaders agreed to a new joint vision on making the region the most sustainable and integrated one in the world by 2030.

The idea is to align all future policies with an overall climate target.

"We know that it's difficult to prioritise, but we must accept our responsibility. We have to show people, and not least the younger generations, that we mean what we say, and that we practice what we preach," Iceland's green prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, who chaired the meeting, said.

"It will make it so much easier to focus political work when we have an overall vision to guide us," one diplomatic source, who attended the talks, told EUobserver.

Germany did not sign up to the new 'Nordic 2030' vision, but aims to become climate-neutral 20 years later, by 2050.

Merkel also agreed to establish a new platform together with the Nordics to co-ordinate climate policies.

"We plan to have a platform for the Nordic countries and Germany in the future, where we can cooperate more closely in particular to find solutions for climate challenge and democracy," Jakobsdottir said.

Denmark's new social democrat prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told EUobserver that the platform would already be used to co-ordinate positions ahead of the UN climate action summit in New York on 21 to 23 September.

Finland's Antti Rinne is another new Nordic social democrat prime minister.

He is currently also the head of the EU's rotating presidency and said that even the EU budget could be used as a tool to support climate goals.

"There are Nordic countries that are in the European Union and with Germany we have a common understanding that it is important to use the [EU's] multi-annual financial framework to create rule of law and also to use it when it comes to halt climate change", he said.

A private-public partnership with a group of Nordic company CEOs was also signed in Reykjavik.

The companies, which included wind turbine maker Vestas, phone firm Nokia, and the SAS airline, pledged to align their business models with "the most important ethical, social, and environmental issues of our time".

Trump cancels trip

Merkel's visit took place at a time when the Arctic and northern European regions are attracting more than usual international attention.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is jetting in to Helsinki on Wednesday to meet the Finnish president.

American president Donald Trump recently expressed a wish to buy Greenland in a challenge to potential Chinese investors, who had hoped to get a foothold on the island.

He wanted to talk about it while he visited Denmark on 2 and 3 September, while his vice-president, Mike Pence, is to visit Iceland at the same time.

But Trump abruptly cancelled his trip with a tweet on Tuesday evening.

"Based on prime minister Mette Frederiksen's comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time," he said.

While in Iceland, Merkel took the opportunity to visit Thingvellir, Iceland's 1,000-year old open air parliament, which is built on a fissure that divides the North American tectonic plate from the Eurasian one.

The plates move apart by approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have being doing so for millions of years.

Tectonic cracks

And Merkel referenced the geological feature when commenting on transatlantic relations, which were also discussed in Iceland.

"We are here at the tectonic junction of the European part and the American part [of the world]," she said.

"So we see how connected this world is, even if parts of mountains have moved a little bit apart from each other in the last 9,000 years," she added.

With Brexit on the horizon, Denmark's Frederiksen said cracks were also appearing in the European order.

"Angela Merkel's presence at this meeting is a sign of Europe breaking up a bit and that Germany looks a bit more to the north, that we have been used to," she said.

Nordic countries and the UK used to be close allies inside the EU, and with Britain leaving, Germany could step into its shoes, she indicated.

"No matter what happens about Brexit, Britain would still be a close partner for the Nordic countries, but of course if we are looking into a hard Brexit, then co-operation with Germany will only be more important," Frederiksen told EUobserver.

"The most important thing to say today is, that Nordic countries are going to stick together. But we are also all in favour of a stronger co-operation between the Nordic part of Europe, Scandinavia, and Germany. We share the same values and the same ideas on the world that we want to pass on to our children," she said.

"When Angela Merkel decided to come here today, it is also a clear signal from Germany that they may be looking a bit more to the northern part. And that is good," she added.

Trump to meet Greenland leader in Denmark

Donald Trump is to meet Greenland leader Kim Kielsen while in Denmark next month, amid global attention prompted by Trump's offer to buy the vast island.

Denmark set to complete social democrat sweep of Nordics

The leader of the Danish Social Democrats, Mette Frederiksen, is poised to win national elections on Wednesday and complete a shift of power in all the three Nordic EU countries to having social democrat leaders.

Von der Leyen gives Timmermans green deal

EU Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced that Frans Timmermans will coordinate the European 'Green Deal' and climate action policies.

Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us