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November, 2017

The most integrated region in the world

Being able to move easily across the Nordic Region’s borders to study, to work, or for business is important for the region’s inhabitants.

The Valuable Co-operation report identified that 53 percent of those aged 16 to 30 consider freedom of movement to be the most important benefit of Nordic co-operation.

Consequently, Nordic solutions that facilitate this freedom of movement are vital. The Nordic prime ministers have declared that the Nordic Region shall be the most integrated in the world. Nordplus is an important building block in achieving this.

Nordplus is the Nordic Council of Ministers’ biggest education programme within lifelong learning. The programme takes the form of well-established and effective co-operation between the Nordic Region and the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The Nordic Council of Ministers and the Baltic countries are now launching a new five-year programme period for Nordplus to run from 2018 to 2022.

Nordplus supports a wide variety of projects, networks, and mobility activities. Every year around 1,500 teachers and 7,000 pupils and students take part in exchanges with another Nordic or a Baltic country. A total of around 2,800 educational institutions and organisations take part in Nordplus activities every year.

The council of ministers has recently drafted the report Trust – the Nordic gold. The report shows that a high level of social trust is one of the most important resources a society can have. It is also a prerequisite for good co-operation across national borders.

Nordplus is one of the council of ministers’ biggest investments in people-to-people co-operation. Civil society, experts, and business can all participate in education networks and projects provided that the objectives of the programme and the rules for state support are met. Nordplus helps to build trust in the Nordic Region and between the region and the Baltic countries.

The most important criterion for the allocation of Nordplus funds is quality. There are no politically motivated priorities for the allocation of funds in the programme.

The Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017 has focused on the Nordic Region in transition. This year alone, Nordplus has granted over DKK 6 million in the fields of climate, the environment, and the green transition, and DKK 2 million to digitalisation and new technologies. In addition, Nordplus has allocated around DKK 9 million to projects in the field of integration and inclusion.

In total in 2017, DKK 17 million has been granted for activities that help to support the council of ministers’ political priorities in just these areas.

While some activities are small with a short time frame, others are more extensive. The Sibelius network involves music conservatoires from all the Nordic and Baltic countries. Other projects bring together teachers and their classes that share a common interest, such as Rysensteen upper secondary school in Copenhagen and Verzlunarskóli Islands in Reykjavik. A common denominator in this interaction between pupils, students, and teachers is that co-operation serves as an eye-opener for everyone involved. It brings new ideas and adds a different dynamic to academic and pedagogical work.

Encounters with cultural expressions and languages different to one’s own increases interest and thus knowledge and understanding. After having watched the television series SKAM, young people and even adults around the Nordic Region suddenly started using Norwegian slang expressions. Former Danish Minister of Culture and Education Bertel Haarder even called SKAM a breakthrough for Nordic language comprehension.

Although we should be honest and admit that SKAM primarily aroused our interest in a very limited part of the Norwegian vocabulary, its success has, hopefully, had the effect of giving many Nordic people a positive impression of their neighbour Norway and the Norwegian language.

Nordplus consists of several sub-programmes. One of these relates to the Nordic languages. The changes that have been introduced in conjunction with the launch of the new programme period were much requested by the programme’s users. The council of ministers hopes that Nordplus is now better equipped to support activities relating to the languages that underpin Nordic society, as well as to language comprehension between the Scandinavian languages.

The exchange of knowledge and experience is central to Nordic co-operation. For those looking for inspiration for a Nordic or Nordic-Baltic co-operation project, or for those who are simply curious about cross-border co-operation, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a look at Nordplus’s many project articles at http://www.nordplusonline.org/nor/Prosjekter/Prosjektartikler

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Dagfinn Høybråten