Published in the Helsinki Times on the 27.11.2014.
What is the future Nordic region going to look like? The Nordic region can be seen from several different perspectives. Nordic welfare states share common values such as transparency, equality and democracy. In the Nordic Council, these values become a reality when it gathers annually to discuss health, the environment, citizen’s rights and Nordic security, just to mention a few things.
Security issues were strongly on the agenda when the Council gathered in Stockholm at the end of October. There was a lot of public interest in the speech by the former Defence and Foreign Minister of Norway, Thorvald Stoltenberg. He proposed a new instrument – a Nordic Security and Defence Commission – that would serve as a political tool to react to a rapidly changing security environment. Stoltenberg is not just any old politician. He was the one whose previous proposal for closer co-operation in security and defence policy has been carefully examined by Nordic decision makers and put into force for example by protecting the airspace of Iceland. His prestige has certainly not been diminished by his son Jens’ promotion from Prime Minister of Norway to the Secretary General of NATO. It was therefore no wonder that Nordic politicians were eager to voice their opinions to Stoltenberg despite him formally stepping down from professional politics.
Issues that concern the Sami people are often discussed in the Nordic Council despite them not having permanent representation of their own. They are often consulted but remain the only Nordic nation with no right to participation in plenary sessions. However, the Sami Convention is due to be approved in the near future as well as the ratification of the ILO Convention by Finland on native peoples’ rights. This would be a significant step in strengthening the position of the Sami in the Nordic community.
Could we possible expect to see even closer co-operation between the Nordic Countries and their autonomous areas? Something along the lines of a Nordic federation? This vision has been unveiled but has not yet achieved majority support. Nevertheless, integration in many areas is seen as a desirable goal. For example the Centre Group of the Nordic Council has called for a borderless healthcare system and energy cooperation. The Nordic Council already cooperates on fighting climate change and removing “border barriers”. In addition, the Nordic Youth Council has proposed a common electronic admissions portal for students.
My vision of the Nordic includes the use of natural resources in a sustainable way. The future Nordic is moreover, excepting of peoples differences and celebrates diversity. In the future Nordic people have hope and the opportunities to develop and find a meaningful place in society. In tomorrow’s Nordic everybody feels safe.
Together the Nordic Countries can influence the EU and the international community for example to reduce the usage of unnecessary antibiotics, influence better learning outcomes and improve the work bureaucrats to better serve citizens. By sharing best practices the Nordic Countries can also combat crime and human trafficking.
Together the Nordic Countries are able to protect the frail arctic nature and conserve natural resources for future generations. There has been peace between the Nordic Countries for 200 years. Together we can show that conflicts can be resolved by means of democracy and that people can trust, that their human rights can be guaranteed regardless of who may be in power at that point in time.