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The United Nordic Federation

Nordic politicians have a unique opportunity to shape the future of the Region for its people, businesses and culture.

Nov 01, 2010

Realistic utopia

About a year ago, I wrote a couple of articles in Dagens Nyheter proposing that the Nordic countries and autonomous territories should establish a federal state.

Seldom have I witnessed such passionate reactions. As a result, I drew up a more detailed set of proposals, which has been published in the Nordic Council and Council of Ministers’ Yearbook 2010.

The difficulty does not lie in outlining how a federal state might look. Switzerland is one possible model for a similar federation, which would have as its members the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) and the three autonomous territories (the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland).

The United Nordic Federation would only have powers that are expressly ceded to it by its members. Foreign and defence policy would be federal matters; economic and labour-market policy would need to be co-ordinated; and research policy would probably also be best served at federal level.

Bringing the countries together in a federal state would not mean that all political decisions would be taken at federal level. The Nordic countries have a strong tradition of local autonomy – the local authorities and county/regional councils are responsible for many areas, especially social services, but equivalence is guaranteed at national level.

The Federation would work in the same way, as an arena for comparisons and co-ordination, without the need for decisions to be unanimous before they can be implemented. Most taxation would remain at national level, as would most social services, perhaps including social security, unless it is generally agreed that a joint system would be more beneficial.

The federal state would need a constitution, a legislative assembly and a government, the exact nature of which would be a matter for the member countries.

Establishing the Federation would undoubtedly be a long process, but it could start with the Nordic Council taking the initiative to launch a feasibility study of alternative forms of future co-operation.

The prospective members would then negotiate on the basis of the feasibility report. Later, the parliaments and the peoples of the Region would need to have their say about the outcome of the negotiations. By around 2030, the people of the Region would be ready to elect their first joint legislative assembly.  

Past impediments

The strange thing is that this has not happened already.

The Nordic countries may well be internationally renowned for their peaceful and successful co-operation but alternative interpretations of the Region’s history are equally plausible.

Elsewhere in Europe, similar areas with the same culture and language have long since formed countries and states: England and France in the early Middle Ages, Spain in the 15th century, the United Kingdom in the 17th century, Germany and Italy in the 19th century… only the five Nordic countries have stubbornly remained separate.

This is partly because Denmark/Norway and Sweden/Finland were equally strong for a long time, with no single kingdom managing to dominate the others, and partly because major powers such as the Hanseatic League, the USA and the Soviet Union opposed any attempts at unification.

Nowadays, however, the great powers no longer interfere in Nordic affairs. For the first time in 600 years, the Nordic countries have the opportunity to discuss their collective future in peace and quiet. During the 19th century, Nordism was borne by strong cultural and idealistic currents. Today, I would venture that economic and foreign-policy reasons are at least as important. 

The world’s 10th-biggest economy 

This all started with me playing about with numbers. I added together the GDP and population statistics for the countries. The results were astonishing. As things stand today, the United Nordic Federation would have 25 million citizens and a GDP of approximately $1,600 billion – about the same as Spain and Canada – making it one of the world’s 10–12 biggest economies.

This opens up two important perspectives.

The financial crisis has made international co-operation far more important. The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s heralded a period of deregulation, during which the role played by international organisations diminished significantly.

However, in recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the financial markets are incapable of operating properly without international regulation. The problem is that the UN, WTO, IMF/IBRD and even the OECD have sometimes been far too unwieldy to achieve the results needed from major international negotiations.

The solution has been the G20, which draws the big picture and then lets the traditional organisations deal with the detail. Presumably, this is not a passing phenomenon: for example, there will be an equally great need for similar mechanisms when it comes to solving the climate issue.

Unfortunately, the Nordic Region is not part of the G20. – a loss for both the Region and the world.

The Nordic countries are more supportive of free trade than some G20 members, and have also been prepared to do more about the environment. Yet a divided Region means that the Nordic perspective carries no weight in the most important international bodies, to which only the biggest economies have access.

The United Nordic Federation would play an obvious and constructive role in the G20.    

Stronger together

It is also a matter of the Nordic countries’ own economies. A joint economy with a population of 25 million would be far more dynamic and fruitful than five economies with populations of 10, 5, 5, 5 and 0.5 million respectively.

More joint legislation, an active joint labour market and a co-ordinated research policy would provide a significant boost to the Region’s growth potential.  

The United Nordic Federation would also be less economically vulnerable than five individual countries. 

The small countries are heavily dependent on individual goods, industries and/or markets, whereas a federal state would be less susceptible to the vagaries of economic fluctuations. The United Nordic Federation could be a USA in miniature. The more we feel at home in each other’s countries, the more people will be able to ward off the effects of economic fluctuations by moving to areas where their services are in demand.  

In fact, the Region’s companies and people have already made some progress towards federation.  

In Oslo, one in 10 employees are Swedish. Every day, 3% of the population of Malmö commute across the bridge, and half of them are Danes. Business has gone even further. Half of the finance and insurance sector is Nordic; the forestry, energy and food industries are heading in the same direction; and multinational companies often have a Nordic presence rather than a national one.    

Federation over co-operation

The main objection is often as follows: “Yes, but surely closer co-operation could do that?” Or: “Why bother about the Nordic Region, when EU integration involves so many more countries?”

But it’s not like that.

Closer co-operation is significantly different from a federal state. With closer co-operation, each individual project would have to be negotiated separately. If all five countries fail to see sufficient advantages, the proposal comes to nothing.

This has happened to many important proposals over the years. If closer co-operation is the route we are to take, then there is a grave risk of the Nordic countries sliding further apart. 

In a federal state, on the other hand, new issues have to be dealt with all the time. For its members, federation is a matter of swings and roundabouts – concessions one day facilitate progress the next.

A joint federation would create a completely different framework and preconditions for agreements than that offered by loose co-operation.   

Further than the EU

The Nordic Region is in no way incompatible with the EU. In fact, the Region can strengthen the Union. The United Nordic Federation would be one of the Union’s four or five biggest members. For some Euro-sceptics, this may cast a whole new light on the question of membership.

I understand those who hesitate when faced with a union in which the French–German directorate can steamroll Sweden, Finland or Denmark – but Spain or Poland do not get treated like that. And the United Nordic Federation would be on a par with Spain.

Nordic co-operation could also go significantly further than European co-operation. Joint Nordic values have already laid the foundations for co-operation on legislation, social security and taxation, which it would take generations to achieve within the EU.

Nordic co-operation can function as an example and a model for the wider European community.   

The great opportunity

Sometimes, politics does make a difference – it determines the institutional frameworks for our actions. Geographical borders are the most important institutional framework. The markets can do nothing about them – on the contrary, borders interfere in both trade and business.  

In 2008, Paul Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research into economics and geography. His conclusions are striking. He shows that your neighbours and allies play a vital role, that it is important for industries, companies and skilled people to be gathered in one place.  

Geography is economics, and it is in the hands of politics.  

From the founding of Switzerland, to the liberation of the Netherlands, to Italian unity, German reunification and the fall of the Soviet Union, political geography has, time and again, been redrawn and left its marks on the passage of history.  

Now, the Nordic Region has just such an opportunity to shape the future of its people, companies and culture.    

This opportunity is the most important issue facing the countries’ politicians. If they decide to grasp it, then the United Nordic Federation will have every chance of transforming the Region into an entity capable of offering its citizens far more than the individual countries ever could.  

It is this opportunity that the Nordic Yearbook 2010 addresses.

The views expressed are those of the author.

Anonymous says:
Nov 01, 2010 01:47 PM

saataisiin kertaheitolla Ruotsin mamu-väkivaltarikollisuus Suomeenkin. Kuoleva Ruotsin yhteiskunta levittäisi tautinsa myös tänne. Itsenäisyys ja oman kulttuurin säilyttäminen on ainoa oikea tapa pysyä kilpailukykyisenä...

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 12:01 AM

Few things in this region are more controversial than thinking as a region. But as an outsider with 10 years direct experience, and a blogger on the subject as well, I think Wetterberg has a point. http://tinyurl.com/37veqos

Anonymous says:
Nov 04, 2010 12:31 PM

I think that only somebody who has no knowledge of Finnish history can be in favour of such an undemocratic idea. Finland would be subjected and subordinated in every respect especially by the Swedes. Not even now Finnish is accepted as equivalent language in the Nordic Council.

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 07:10 AM

Mikä olisi sitten tällaisen liittovaltion virallinen kieli? Ei kai ruotsi, sillä tämä näivettäisi Suomen kielen.

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 09:31 PM

Koska se on Sveitsin mallin mukaan ruotsia, islantia, norjaa, tanskaa ja suomea olisi kaikki varmasti virallista kieltä.

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 03:58 PM

Kan förbundsstaten Norden vara med i EU om en stor del av dess land Norge inte är med?

Anonymous says:
Nov 03, 2010 11:15 PM

Norge har vært medlem av Nordisk råd siden opprettelsen og er medlem av EEA/EØS fra 1994. Norge (og Island) har adoptert store deler av EUs lovgivning og deltar i Schengen-samarbeidet. Norge er også medlem av Nato. En forbundsstat som har en del av territoriet utenfor EU høres merkelig ut. Men både Grønland og Færøyene er danske, men samtidig utenfor EU. Så utfordringen kan opplagt løses, hvis det er politisk vilje.

Anonymous says:
Nov 04, 2010 04:39 PM

Jag håller med helt och hållet!!

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 05:15 PM

Nogle kalder samarbejdet i Norden for spindelvævs nordismen. Fx indenfor erhvervslivet er der mange virksomheder, som betragter Norden som sit hjemmemarked. Af nyrer eksempler har vi Nets.eu, Posten Norden (hvor vi mangler alle de nordiske postvæseners tilslutning) etc.. I Norden er vi nok så ens kulturelt og på mange områder. Jo mere samarbejde desto bedre står vi rustet i en globaliseret verden. Nordisk samarbejde bør også lægge vægt på det sproglige fællesskab mellem fx norsk, svensk og dansk - mange orde er ens og har samme betydning. Jo mere vi lærer hinandens sprog jo rigere bliver vi. Lad os få mere af hinandens TV, radio og Internet. I disse sparetider er al nordisk samarbejde en yderligere økonomisk fordel. Vi lærer hele tiden af hinanden og vi sammenligner os ofte med hinanden. Arbejd fx på at formidske bureakratiet i Norden. Udvid yderligere vores samarbjde fx med nordisk deltagelse i nationale valg til Folketinget, Stortinget, Riksdagen, Altinget, Lagtinget etc..

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 09:21 PM

Det er en virkelig god ide med en nordisk union.
Vigtigst er måske, at vi dermed kan tale med én stemme overfor resten af verden. De økonomiske fordele er desuden også store.

Anonymous says:
Nov 03, 2010 11:17 PM

Norden er allerede en union. Vi har hatt felles arbeidsmarked siden 1950-tallet og har reist passløst mellom de nordiske landene så lenge jeg kan huske.

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 09:35 PM

I support the idea!

Anonymous says:
Nov 02, 2010 11:09 PM

I guess the nordic union (Asgard?), could be as much a member of eu as switzerland or norway. Basically having access to the markets in return for a smaller protection fee.

Anonymous says:
Nov 03, 2010 02:55 PM

Suosittelen mitä lämpimimmin tutustumaan myös toisenlaiseen, analyyttisen kriittiseen kirjoitukseen aiheesta. http://networkedblogs.com/9ZRMA kirjoittaja Hannu Visti.

Anonymous says:
Nov 06, 2010 10:36 AM

Why not consider Flanders as a member state :D ? After the kingdom of Belgium has been split, of course. Essentially, I think you are mistaken in choosing a federal Union on a regional level. The only viable realistic utopia in a global world is a European federal state of which Norway, Denmark, etc are all member states, just like Catalonia, Wales, Scotland and Flanders

Anonymous says:
Nov 08, 2010 03:28 AM

I would strongly advice the author to push for further feasibility studies and try to anchor the idea with national politicians.

Anonymous says:
Nov 09, 2010 03:05 PM

Man kan ikke etablere en union i en union, eller en forbundsstat i EU som nå etter Lisboatrakteten juridisk sett er en statsdannelse. Hva slags stat ville dette bli? Et lydrike under Brüssel! Uansett vil det norske folk aldri bli medlem av EU, vi har allerede stemt nei to ganger, og lar oss ikke manipulere inn i denne antidemokratiske, neo-føydale byråkratmastodonten ved urealistisk snikk-snakk av maktkåte politikere. Vi vil nå ut av EØS og kvitte oss med direktiv-diktaturet fra Bryssel.

Forslaget viser en oppsiktsvekkende mangel på politisk realisme. Med mindre Wetterberg foreslår at Finland, Danmark og Sverige skal melde seg ut av EU og deretter som frie og uavhengige nasjoner sammen med de øvrige nordiske land etablere en Nordisk forbundsstat. Da blir det jo noe ganske annet. Og hvis han ønsker en forbundsstat som Sveits, med stor grad av lokalt selvstyre, direktedemokrati og folkeavstemninger om viktige spørsmål, så kan vi diskutere saken. En sveitsisk modell ville helt sikkert få stor oppslutning i de nordiske nasjonene.
Men jeg tror ikke Wetterberg vil ha en slik stat, han vil ha en Nordisk "stat" i EU for å sikre posisjoner og innflytelse for det nye aristokratiet (bestående av politikere, byråkrater, finans- og forretningsmenn og hoff-intellektuelle) som vokser frem i de europeiske nasjonalstatene. Hvorfor skulle nordboere gå inn for et slikt prosjekt? Slik det er nå er det ille nok med én union, som har som mål å oppløse nasjonalstaten, folk i Norden trenger ikke en union til. La oss heller revitalisere Efta, og vende ryggen til Bryssel. Både euroen og EU kommer til å gå i oppløsning.. Man kan ikke gå baklengs særlig langt uten at det går galt, og særlig ikke inn i fremtiden.

Anonymous says:
Nov 15, 2010 01:20 AM

Jeg synes det er en bra ide. Jeg lever utenfor Skandinavien nå, og nordiske verdier er ...nødvendige i EU. De finns ikke her, i Østen, heller ikke i Spanien, heller i England!! Som en EU borger, som har levd i begge Sverige og Norge lenge nok, og kjenner de andre nordiske land også, jeg oppmuntrer og støtter dere: Gjør dette! Men før 2030. Det er mulig om alle vill. Ni måste se det gode som kan komme ut. Hva kommer å skje er at den nordiske synspunkt vil ha større viktighet i europeiske affærer, og den skandinaviske fornuft og grundighet som savnes i SørEuropa skal ha respekt og bli lov! Heja Norden.

Anonymous says:
Nov 16, 2010 05:27 PM

With the experience of democracy, the European continent needs to truly transform itself back into the Europe of the sovereign regions. A typical region in Europe comprises 1-10 million people, with its own parliament, government, supreme court, Flag and often castle. Europe has always comprised these regions which in the last centuries were artificially forced together in language areas called national states to shield against external competition from other Europeans. The current European Union is therefore merely a union of language areas, not a Union for the peoples of the historically sovereign European regions of today 1-10 million people. For example, each of the 16 states in Germany, such as Saxony, Bavaria, North-Rhine Westphalia are regions with 4-5 million inhabitants with their own parliaments and flags, making up a total of 80 million people. Each of the 20 regions in Italy, such as Lombardia, Liguria, Campania are in the same way such regions with their own parliaments and flags, making up a total of 60 million people. Each of the 17 regions in Spain, such as Andalucia, Aragon and Cantabria are in the same way such regions with their own parliaments and flags making up a total of 40 million people. Each of the 22 mainland regions in France, such as Brittany, Lorraine, and upper Normandy are in the same way such regions, with presidents and flags, but not their own parliaments, making up a total of 60 million people. The Republic of Irland is in itself a sovereign region of 6 million people. The UK comprises old Kingdoms, such as Wales with 2 million inhabitants, Scotland with 6 million inhabitants, Northern Ireland with less than 2 million inhabitants, and England with 49 million inhabitants, the latter who itself traces its roots back to the Seven Old Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms such as Northumbria and East Anglia, but today comprising 9 ad hoc English regions for various administrative purposes, each with 5-6 million inhabitants. All over Europe the same regional structures of old cultural kingdoms and regions remain throughout history, or could be restored in a democratic setting. Today, all over Europe, regions of 1-10 million people have their own parliament, president/king, flag and supreme court. Some of these regions are sovereign, as the countries of the Nordic Council. There is no reason for various regions who speak the same language to cluster into a national state since the national state transfers the powers away from the citizens of the regions. The countries of the Nordic Council are still such regions, sovereign regions in their own right, with populations of 1-10 milion people, parliament, government and supreme courts, and should lead their European counterparts, such as Lombardia, North-Rhine Westphalia, Andalucia, Normandy and the Seven Old Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, such as Northumbria and East Anglia, to a fully fledged Europe of sovereign historic cultural regions, a Europe of old castles and new sports cars, comprising a hundred regional republics or democratic Kingdoms, each comprising 1-10 million inhabitants, parliament and flag united in such a federation where military, foreign policy and roads are on the federal European level, and the rest is on the regional level, that is, of such sizes as still are seen in the Nordic countries. This solution safeguards the ultimate subsidiarity, the power to the people of the regions, and yet, as a federation protects each region from foreign threats such as the emerging financial and military powers of China, India, Brazil and Russia as well as from being tossed around by the United States of America. Such proposed federal system works perfectly well in the USA which comprises 50 states with some 6 million people each, making up a total of 300 million people. Those American states are sovereign and independent in anything but a few areas such as military, and foreign policy. The Nordic Council, comprising the sovereign five regions in the North, of those hundred European regions of equal sizes, should therefore take initiatives in providing communication arenas for a) the other sovereign European regions of the same size, such as Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. b) the not yet soverign European regions of the same sizes, such as Lombardia, Andalucia, Normandy, Saxony, Scotland and the cultural, yet to be re-established, old English Kingdoms, such as East-Anglia and Northumbria.

Anonymous says:
Dec 07, 2010 12:54 PM

Dette synes jeg var en meget god idé. Kanskje Norge kunne bli kvitt sine mindreverdighetskomplekser i samme slengen. Økonomisk og militært ville dette kunne bli en sukssess!

Anonymous says:
Dec 10, 2010 05:44 PM

I think this is an excellent idea. The nordic countries have far more in common with each other — religion, thrift, culture, languages, economies — than the south-european countries.

Not that I care much for sports myself, but we would easily dominate the winter olympics, the hockey world cup and would have a better chance at football.

Many corporate cooperations seems to work just fine too, e.g. StoraEnso, Telenor/Bredbandsbolaget and Posten (Danish/Swedish).

Anonymous says:
Dec 20, 2010 10:56 PM

Virallinen kieli jokaisela alueella olisi englanti ja alueellisesti lisäksi suomi, ruotsi, norja, tanska ja islanti. Samantien Baltia mukaan elikkä lisää alueellisia kieliä, viro, latvia, liettua.

Anonymous says:
Jan 14, 2011 01:23 PM

As a Swede I would have no objections against importing the excellent Finnish school system, Denmark's view on clean energy, Norways position as a major oil importer and an OPEC-member, combined with the well developed industrial experience of Swedish businesses.

Anonymous says:
Jan 26, 2011 09:25 PM

... så länge det rör sig om ett samarbete mellan suveräna stater. En Nordisk Union i stället för EU, som anpassas efter de individuella nationalstaternas önskemål om samarbete sinsemellan.

Att försöka konstruera en samnordisk nationalstat tycker jag däremot är en dålig idé, mot bakgrund av djupt inrotade föreställningar hos våra folk, som baseras på tidigare historiska skeenden. Jag tror inte att det senare är folkens vilja. Som svensk har jag ingen önskan att söka inordna Finland eller Norge under Sverige igen, och jag skulle själv aldrig acceptera att Sverige skulle styras av danskar igen. Min förfader Engelbrekt sparkade ut dem på goda grunder. På samma vis sparkade finnar och norrmän ut oss svenskar, eftersom det var folkens vilja att styra sig själva.

Sedan jag växt upp och lärt mig mer om världen så har jag fullständigt ändrat uppfattning om vår Europeiska Union. Det svenska folket manipulerades till att rösta ja i folkomröstningen, och den hölls under en mycket kort tidsperiod då majoriteten tillfälligt var positiv. (Troligtvis som ett resultat av valutaspekulationerna i början av 90-talet.) Desvärre bär jag själv ett mått av skuld till detta, då jag arbetade för Näringslivets EU-fakta och bidrog till att sprida propaganda. Nu står det fullstängigt klart för mig att vi borde lämna denna union omgående och fullständigt.

Alternativet med en Nordisk Union har föreslagits otaliga gånger genom historien, och jag tror att en majoritet av folket har varit för detta. Det tycks dock inte vara önskvärt ur våra styrande politikers synvinkel, och följdaktligen har vi aldrig fått lov att folkomrösta om detta (så vitt jag vet). Våra politiker tycks vilja hålla oss tillbaka, och bibehålla oss som lydstater till USA och "världssamfundet".

Jag kommer till fullo att stå bakom en strävan mot en Nordisk Union om detta blir ett alternativ i framtiden.

Anonymous says:
Apr 17, 2011 04:07 PM

Håller med. Förutom påståendet att finnarna kastade ut svenskarna, eftersom det skedde genom våld utifrån. Enl. historieböcker fanns ingen folkrörelse i Finland för att bli fritt från Sverige.

Anonymous says:
Feb 18, 2011 05:14 PM

En nordisk förbundsstat, vore inte en dum idé. Däremot är de delstater/förbundsländer som här nämnts lämpliga som delstater.
Skulle Sverige, med 9 miljoner inv. ha lika mycket att säga till om som Island, med mindre än en halv?!
Och motsatt, om delstaternas inbördes makt gentemot varandra vore proportionell mot folkmängden; vad är då skillnaden mellan att "de stora EU-länderna kör över de mindre"? D.v.s. Sverige eller Danmark, som ex., skulle kunna köra över Åland, eller Island.

Nej, vad man bör göra är följande:
I Sverige planeras redan för indelning av staten i 8-9 storregioner. Om man ger dessa ungefär lika stor grad av självstyre som de tyska Bundesländerna, och på liknande sätt delar in övriga nordiska stater i "bundesländer" med 0,5-2 milj. invånare vardera, så kan dessa tillsammans utgöra Förbundsstaten Norden. Våra nuvarande självständiga stater kommer då att delas upp, och kvarstå som folkliga/kulturella gränser, såsom Sverige idag består av Götaland, Svealand och Norrland; alltså områden som idag saknar administrativ roll.

Givetvis ska regionuppdelningen ske efter, i första hand, kulturell/historisk identitet, i andra hand efter folkmängd, i tredje hand efter infrastruktur/kollektivtrafik och administrativ indelning.


Ett exempel på "bundesland" kunde vara Skåneländerna: Skåne, Blekinge, Halland (ev. ej den nordligaste delen av Halland, då denna integrerats i Göteborgsregionen) samt ev. Bornholm.
Ett annat exempel: Storstäderna kan vara egna "länder". Ex. Kööpenhamn, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, Göteborg...

Med denna uppdelning får man ett större antal självstyrande enheter; makten flyttas närmare folket - inte längre! Problemet i bl.a. Sverige idag är ju avsaknad av tillräckligt regionalt självstyre, med konsekvens att stora delar av folket känner sig överkörda av "Stockholm".

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