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Finland's Presidency Programme for the Nordic Council in 2017

Finland will preside over the Nordic Council in 2017. The country holding the Presidency each year draws up a programme laying down priorities for the year. The three main themes of Finland’s Presidency are the educated North, Nordic clean energy, and the networking North.

Photographer
Johannes Jansson/norden.org

”YHDESSÄ – TOGETHER”

The educated North means highlighting Nordic know-how and education as well as public and popular education and culture. Nordic clean energy covers the promotion of the Nordic energy market and bioenergy as well as a joint Nordic follow-up of the Paris Agreement (COP21). The networking North calls attention to Arctic issues as well as the freedom of movement and barriers to mobility in the Nordic countries.The Presidency Programme also has a horizontal theme, which is eliminating barriers to freedom of movement. The theme chosen for the centenary of Finland’s independence, “Yhdessä – Together”, also plays a visible role in the Presidency Programme.

Eliminating barriers to freedom of movement

Freedom of movement across the Nordic countries is important and
closely linked to economic growth and increasing employment. During its Presidency, Finland wants to bring the elimination of barriers to freedom of movement into political focus. How can these barriers be eliminated, how can the creation of new barriers be prevented, and how can awareness of the issue be increased both among national parliaments and ministries? The aim is to make the daily lives of Nordic citizens easier in terms of mobility.

Yhdessä – Tillsammans – Together

Finland and the Nordic countries have existed for more than 200 years without being at war with each other. Finland celebrates the centenary of its independence in 2017, while also holding the Presidency of the Nordic Council. As an independent state, Finland has a natural role in Nordic cooperation. The other Nordic countries will learn about the history of Finland and this important year will be celebrated together with the Nordic family. The Finns will also learn of the importance of being a part of the Nordic family, now and in the past. The Nordic Council is taking more and more of an interest in foreign, security and defence policy issues. As with previous Presidencies, Finland too emphasises the importance of Nordic foreign, security and defence policy. The Nordic Council plays an important role in promoting these issues, and the question lies in how the Nordic countries can increase their cooperation in these sectors. One way is to invite the Nordic Ministers for Development to the Council’s sessions in order to engage them in dialogue about issues relating to the management of globalisation and encourage the Nordic Ministers for Development to work more closely together across the Nordic countries.

The educated North

Open access to information and culture is one of the trademarks of all
Nordic societies. Characteristics shared by all the Nordic countries include a diverse and active art and culture scene, strong democracy, non-discrimination and equality.

Nordic cooperation enables thousands of schoolchildren, students, researchers, artists, and other cultural workers to network and move across the Nordic countries every year. Cooperation in the fields of education and culture across the Nordic countries needs to be promoted by eliminating barriers to freedom of movement that hinder mobility and by encouraging young people in particular to engage in Nordic educational and cultural exchange.

The refugee crisis has forced Nordic societies to look for new solutions and operating models to guarantee the well-being of all members of society. Learning and education play a key role as a means of preventing social exclusion and promoting integration. Education is especially important for the future prospects of children and young people who arrive in the Nordic countries alone. Culture, art, and sports can also help to promote integration. Volunteering and taking part in cultural activities are great ways for all
residents, including new arrivals, to feel involved in the Nordic community.

Digitalisation has created many new opportunities for Nordic learning and cultural environments. Technology has increased the openness of culture and art and introduced new ways for everyone to create, experience, and consume culture. Increasing digitalisation in schools, i.e. making use of new pedagogical models and new learning environments, will help keep the Nordic countries on the cutting edge of learning and education in the future as well.

Tangible objectives during the Presidency:

  1. Urging Nordic governments to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement relating to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications and to promote the harmonised implementation of the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive.
  2. Investigating the barriers to freedom of movement affectingNordic cultural workers and deciding on future actions.
  3. Eliminating the barrier to freedom of movement concerning adult education assistance in Finland.
  4. Encouraging Nordic governments to share best practices concerning the forms of education available to vulnerable children and young people.
  5. Encouraging Nordic institutes of higher education to introduce more Nordic programmes.

Background information:
1) Urging Nordic governments to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement relating to the mutual recognition of professional qualifications and to promote the harmonised implementation of the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive.

Many professions in the Nordic countries are subject to sector-specific
laws or official regulations. Different national regulations and requirements create barriers to freedom of movement, which hinder the free movement of labour across the Nordic countries. The revision of the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive 2005/36/EC plays a key role in solving this issue. Dialogue on the implementation of the Directive between the authorities and parliamentarians of the countries is extremely important. It is also paramount that the countries keep each other up to date on anychanges brought by the Directive to national legislation and practices.

Responsibility: The Committee for Growth and Development
in the Nordic Region and the Nordic Council’s Group on Freedom of Movement

2) Investigating the barriers to freedom of movement affecting
Nordic cultural workers and deciding on future actions.

Many Nordic cultural workers do freelance work across national borders. The efforts of the Nordic Council of Ministers to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement for cultural workers in the Nordic countries has focused on problems relating to the taxation of cultural workers between Sweden and Denmark. Otherwise there is very little information available about the barriers to freedom of movement that Nordic cultural workers encounter. During Finland’s Presidency, a report on the extent of the barriers to freedom of movement that cultural workers face will be drawn up, and decisions will be made on future actions.

Responsibility: The Committee for Knowledge and Culture in
the Nordic Region

3) Eliminating the barrier to freedom of movement concerning
adult education assistance in Finland.

One barrier to freedom of movement in Finland affecting the education sector relates to the adult education assistance for cross-border workers, which has been a problem for a long time. Previously, workers wishing to apply for adult education assistance had to have paid pension contributions to Finland for a continuous period of eight years. This rule has now been mitigated, so that work in other countries also counts towards the eightyear criterion. What remains an issue is that the solu-tion is likely to only apply to studies in Finland. As this solution is not yet satisfactory, more political pressure is needed to resolve the issue. The Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council will ask the Finnish minister responsible for this issue to engage in dialogue with the Delegation to find ways to solve the problem for good.

Responsibility: The Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council

4) Encouraging Nordic governments to share best practices
concerning the forms of education available to vulnerable children and young people.

Education and culture are important means of integration. During the Finnish Presidency, the Nordic Council will promote the development of the forms of education available to vulnerable children and young people. One way is to hold a Nordic conference aimed at sharing best Nordic practices concerning the forms of education available to vulnerable children
and young people, e.g. minor asylum seekers, in different Nordic countries. This objective (and the conference, for example) ties in well with the integration cooperation project launched by the Ministers for Nordic Cooperation, and it can also incorporate elements of digitalisation and the use of new kinds of learning environments, as well as the opportunities provided by volunteering and the cultural sector as a means of integration.

Responsibility: The Committee for Knowledge and Culture in the Nordic Region and the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region

5) Encouraging Nordic institutes of higher education to introduce
more Nordic programmes.

Nordic universities already offer joint Nordic programmes at Master’s
level. Approximately 25 of these programmes have been carried out since 2007, and in 2016 a decision has been made to make the Nordic Master Programme permanent. The Nordic Master Programme provides a good starting point for Nordic cooperation between institutes of higher education, but a Nordic undergraduate programme at Bachelor’s level is also needed. During the Finnish Presidency, the Nordic Council will begin discussions on establishing a Nordic undergraduate degree programme.

Responsibility: The Committee for Knowledge and Culture in the Nordic Region and the Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council

Nordic clean energy

The Nordic countries are pioneers in the development of the energy market, environmental friendliness, and the use of renewable sources of energy. Despite strong development, the Nordic countries still have many untapped opportunities to further improve their energy markets and the production of renewable energy. Due to the cold climate and energy-intensive industries, stable energy production is especially important for all Nordic countries. Due to their strong forest industries, Finland and Sweden in particular have established strong links between forestry and bioenergy production.

The objective of Nordic cooperation in the energy sector is to ensure a
stable and reliable energy supply, sustainable growth and well-being as well as to respond to climatic and environmental challenges. Cooperation is also aimed at marketing the strengths and operating models of the Nordic energy industry globally and especially within the EU.

The common Nordic electricity market is a trendsetter in Europe. The
importance of Nordic cooperation is growing especially in terms of the
electricity market and the security of the electricity supply. This is partially due to initiatives relating to both the European Energy Union and the new electricity market model. The regional dimension, which is a horizontal theme of the Energy Union, requires regional coordination of national energy and climate policy programmes. The initiative concerning the new electricity market model is aimed at examining the security of the energy supply on a regional level. The Nordic countries must establish common views to develop the European electricity market.

In addition to strengthening the Nordic electricity market, more transmission lines are needed between and within the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. There are still considerable bottlenecks in the transmission lines between Finland and Sweden and between Sweden and Norway, for example. The planned third alternating current line between Finland and Sweden in the North will be an extremely important addition to the Nordic electricity network. Network investments are vital for maintaining security of supply, for offsetting differences in prices, and for increasing the integration of renewable sources of energy.

Jorma Ollila is in the process of compiling a strategy report on how energy policy cooperation between the Nordic countries can be improved in the next 5–10 years. Ollila is due to complete his report at the beginning of 2017. The Energy Group set up by the Nordic Council in 2015 studied the need for new cooperation initiatives in the field of energy policy. The Energy Group focused on energy efficiency, such as the energy performance of energy-intensive industries and the Nordic maritime sector as well as the electrification of transport. According to the working group’s report, there are several practical areas in which Nordic cooperation can be extremely
beneficial. Examples include the creation of a common electricity market (including the end-user market), efforts to increase energy efficiency, and more extensive use of renewable sources of energy.
The follow-up on the Paris Climate Agreement is an important issue.

Nordic environmental and climate ministers have pledged their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The ministers have launched new initiatives to support the follow-up of COP21 and published a statement on the Nordic countries’ support for strong international environmental management. Nordic Climate Solutions, a Nordic pavilion that proved useful in Paris, would also be valuable to organise during future COP meetings, and the concept could be developed further. The Nordic countries can be even more ambitious with regard to emission targets. The Nordic Council could use international parliamentary arenas to advocate the 1.5-degree target (for global warming).

Tangible objectives during the Presidency:

  1. Urging Nordic governments to implement NordREG recommendations to establish a Nordic end-user market for electricity and to further strengthen cooperation in the development of a Nordic wholesale market for electricity.
  2. Promoting a shared understanding of the importance of sustainable bioenergy criteria among the Nordic countries and communicating this to EU level.
  3. Working together actively to promote the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Background information:

1) Urging Nordic governments to implement NordREG recommendations to establish a Nordic end-user market for electricity and to further strengthen cooperation in the development of a Nordic wholesale market for electricity.

Ever-deeper Nordic cooperation in the field of energy is built on a long history of positive experiences. They are clear evidence of the significant benefits achievable with Nordic cooperation. Nordic cooperation in harmonising the Nordic electricity market is based on the recommendations of NordREG, an organisation of Nordic energy regulators. Cooperation can, and should, be deepened further. The devel-opment of the Nordic end-user and wholesale market for electricity is an important goal for Nordic consumers and businesses. A common market has been an objective for a long time, but the progress of integration in the creation of an enduser market has not met expectations. Laws and regulations need to be harmonised in order to eliminate barriers affecting businesses that engage in electricity trade on the Nordic market. More attention should be given
to accelerating the process. In addition to strengthening the Nordic electricity market, more transmission lines are needed between and within the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. Network investments are vital for maintaining security of the supply, for offsetting differences in prices, and for increasing the integration of renewable sources of energy.

Responsibility: The Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region
and the Committee for Growth and Development in the Nordic Region

2) Promoting a shared understanding of the importance of
sustainablebioenergy criteria among the Nordic countries and
communicating this to EU level.

The Nordic countries should together promote the adoption of harmonised and binding sustainability criteria that apply to all forms of bioenergy across the EU and that are focused on the origin of bioenergy. This will make forecasting easier and help businesses to target their resources systematically and profitably in the long term.

Responsibility: The Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region

3) Working together actively to promote the objectives of the
Paris Climate Agreement.

It is important to ensure a strong Nordic presence in future climate conferences of the UN, i.e. through the joint Nordic pavilion (Nordic Climate Solutions). The Nordic countries are pioneers in reaching emission targets and can even play a more active role in future climate conferences. The Nordic countries are in a position to profile themselves as trendsetters in clean energy.

Responsibility: The Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region

The networking North

New growth potential can be created, conditions for tourism improved,
and security of supply increased by developing and integrating the transport network and infrastructure of the northernmost areas of the Nordic Region and by increasing cooperation. The Nordic countries should work together actively to promote transport and infrastructure cooperation with various operators in the north. With regard to tourism, attention should be given to how the Nordic countries could operate as a single tourist destination, and investments should be channelled to shared tourism promotion and cooperation without forgetting sustainability and the environment.

Priorities relating to mobility concern transport and the labour market in particular. How can the Nordic countries together improve cross-border transport links or facilitate labour market mobility? Good transport links also promote tourism.

The work done to abolish barriers to freedom of movement between the Nordic countries is one of the most important areas of Nordic cooperation which promotes mobility and employment. The Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers has prioritized questions related to the freedom of movement and will host a ministerial meeting focusing on barriers to freedom of movement in Tornio in December 2016. Nordic labour market organisations and representatives of industry and commerce will also be participating in the meeting. The Nordic Council monitors efforts to abolish barriers to freedom of movement closely, and urges Nordic governments and the Council of Ministers to implement any decisions taken on enhancing freedom of movement across the Nordic countries. The Nordic Council has a separate group on freedom of movement, which coordinates the Council’s efforts to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement.

Efficient Nordic efforts to abolish barriers to freedom of movement require an efficient organisation. In Finland, Nordic efforts to promote
freedom of movement are coordinated by the Pohjola-Norden Advisory Committee, which comprises representatives of different administrative sectors and ministries as well as advisory services. The advisory committee holds national preparatory meetings before the meetings of the Freedom of Movement Council. The positive experiences of the work of the advisory committee can set an example for the organisation of efforts to abolish barriers to freedom of movement in other Nordic countries as well.

The Nordic Council will keep a close eye on the work of Nordic governments and the Council of Ministers throughout 2017 to ensure the implementation of the proposals made in Poul Nielson’s labour market report
concerning Nordic labour market cooperation in the future. During its
Presidency, Finland will particularly promote the implementation of the first proposal of the report, which concerns abolishing barriers to freedom of movement.

The Arctic has begun to attract more and more attention both among the Nordic countries and globally. The rapid changes taking place in the region are challenging local residents and governments to answer new environmental, economic, and political questions, which are also interlinked. The Nordic countries represent an Arctic region different from those of North America and Russia. The Nordic Arctic is a highly developed region with an efficient infrastructure – especially relative to the number of residents – and a high level of economic activity.

The Arctic and cooperation relating to the Arctic are important for the
Nordic countries for several reasons, and several of the countries that have held Presidencies in recent years have highlighted this theme in their Presidency Programmes. Arctic cooperation is coordinated through the Arctic Council, which includes all the Nordic countries as its members. A serious discussion needs to be held on the value that can be added through Nordic cooperation in this matter, such as for example increasing the exchange of information between the parliamentarians of the Nordic Council and Arctic parliamentarians.

The Nordic countries can act as trendsetters in the development of the
Arctic and its management. A common Nordic vision could also provide the Arctic Council with tools for developing the region. Clear, well-defined and tangible objectives shared by all the member countries would also promote the aim of Finland’s national Arctic policy, ensuring peace in the Arctic.

The Nordic countries have an Arctic Strategy (Arctic Cooperation Programme 2015–2017), which is due to be reviewed in 2017. When drawing up the new strategy, the Nordic Council must actively express its views on the contents and implementation of the new strategy. In addition to the Nordic Council, Finland also holds the Presidency of
the Arctic Council in 2017. Finland’s Presidency of the government side of Arctic cooperation covers the following two years (2017–2018), during which the Finnish Arctic Presidency Programme will be implemented. The EU published an Arctic Communication in April 2016, and the Nordic countries can actively influence the EU in this respect.

Tangible objectives during the Presidency:

  1. Promoting the development of infrastructure and transport links to increase growth and security of supply in the North.
  2. Organising a round-table meeting with Nordic ministers responsible for transport and infrastructure.
  3. Accelerating the freedom of movement by monitoring the implementation of decisions taken by Nordic governments and the Nordic Council of Ministers on abolishing barriers to freedom of movement and by sharing experiences of the work of the Finnish advisory committee on freedom of movement.
  4. Encouraging Nordic governments and the Nordic Council of Ministers to implement the first proposal in Poul Nielson’s labour market report, which concerns abolishing barriers to freedom of movement.
  5. Organising an Arctic seminar together with the Arctic delegations of Nordic parliaments on “Nordic cooperation in Arctic matters”.

Background information:
1) Promoting the development of infrastructure and transport links to increase growth and security of supply in the North.

The Arctic study drawn up by Paavo Lipponen (Finland’s Prospects in Arctic Economic Growth, 2015) recommends establishing flight connections, railways, roads, and IT links to the North. The strategy also calls for making these links safe and ensuring that they serve the needs of both businesses and the society as a whole. The Prime Minister’s Office’s report, Growth from the North (1/2015), underlines the significance of the free movement of skilled labour and cross-border business as promoters of the region’s future economic development.

The building of transport infrastructure in the North requires cooperation not just between the Nordic countries but also across the EU as well as cofinancing from both financial institutions and EU Funds. In order to promote the implementation of tangible projects, the Nordic Council could, for example, contribute to the analysis and revision of the Joint Barents Transport Plan. Closer cooperation with the European Parliament and increasing Nordic cooperation within the EU would also add value to networking in the North.

Responsibility: The Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council, the Committee for Growth and Development in the Nordic Region, and the Nordic Council’s Group on Freedom of Movement

2) Organising a round-table meeting with Nordic ministers responsible for transport and infrastructure.

Organising a round-table meeting with the Nordic Council and Nordic
ministers responsible for transport and infrastructure is vital for achieving the aforementioned objectives.

Responsibility: The Committee for Growth and Development in
the Nordic Region

3) Accelerating the freedom of movement by monitoring the
implementation of decisions taken by Nordic governments and
the Nordic Council of Ministers on abolishing barriers to
freedom of movement and by sharing experiences of the work
of the Finnish advisory committee on freedom of movement.

The free movement of people, labour and information, boosting economic growth, and increasing employment are key objectives of Nordic cooperation. However, new challenges are emerging all the time, which is why Finland during its Presidency will continue to invest in efforts to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement and actively promote the free movement of labour. The Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2016 will be hosting a ministerial meeting focusing on barriers to freedom of movement in Tornio in December. Nordic labour market organisations and representatives of industry and commerce will also participate in the meeting. The Nordic Council closely monitors efforts to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement and urges Nordic governments and the Nordic Council of Ministers to implement any decisions taken on enhancing freedom of movement across the Nordic countries.

In Finland, the exchange of information on efforts to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement between different ministries, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Finnish Centre for Pensions, the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO), the Finnish National Board of Education, the Finnish Tax Administration, and the Population Register Centre is coordinated by the Pohjola-Norden Advisory Committee. During its Presidency, Finland aims to share information about the organisation and procedures of the Advisory Committee in order to set an example for the organisation of efforts to eliminate barriers to freedom of movement in other Nordic countries.

Responsibility: The Committee for Growth and Development in the Nordic Region, the Nordic Council’s Group on Freedom of Movement and the Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council

4) Encouraging Nordic governments and the Nordic Council of
Ministers to implement the first proposal in Poul Nielson’s
labour market report, which concerns abolishing barriers to
freedom of movement.

Former Danish minister and European Commissioner Poul Nielson was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers to draw up a strategy
report on Nordic labour market cooperation. The report lists initiatives that could promote Nordic objectives: promoting employment, reducing unemployment, increasing social inclusion in the labour market, and healthy working environments. The analysis also examines Nordic tripartite cooperation. Nielson proposes to complement the work of the Freedom of Movement Council by exploring the possibility of finding tailor-made solutions to clearly defined groups between established systems. The project should be based on a common Nordic assignment with direct support from governments.

Responsibility: The Committee for Growth and Development in the Nordic Region and the Nordic Council’s Group on Freedom of Movement

5) Organising an Arctic seminar together with the Arctic
delegations of Nordic parliaments on “Nordic cooperation in
Arctic matters”.

Finland holds the Presidency of both the Arctic Council and the Nordic
Council in 2017. It would be useful to find out what synergies or overlaps there are between the Nordic Council and Arctic parliamentary cooperation. The issue of “Nordic cooperation in Arctic matters” will be addressed in a joint seminar with the Nordic Arctic delegations and potentially the Nordic foreign affairs committees. The objective of the event is to discuss tangible Nordic cooperation in Arctic matters, for example increasing the exchange of information.

Responsibility: The Finnish Delegation to the Nordic Council and the Presidium of the Nordic Council

Implementation of the Presidency Programme

The Finnish Presidency Programme is a goal-orientated programme,
which sets tangible objectives for the Presidency and lays down the parties responsible for each measure. The President of the Nordic Council 2017 will call a meeting to kick off the implementation of the programme and the programme will be evaluated at the end of the Presidency. The Committees of the Nordic Council, including their chairmen and secretaries, and the Nordic party groups will implement the programme together.

Contact

Mari Herranen