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Programme for the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council 2018

In a world marked by change and unrest, Nordic co-operation is more relevant than ever before. An unpredictable security scenario and a growing need to adapt to the challenges of the future mean that we in the Nordic region stand stronger together than individually. The trust and unity enjoyed by Nordic nations gives us an advantage that we must do our utmost to exploit and invest in. As one of the globe’s most integrated regions, it is our job to protect and nurture Nordic fellowship and the Nordic model.

Photographer
Johannes Jansson

In 2018 the efforts to break down the barriers between our nations and to enhance the benefits of being a Nordic citizen for the 26 million people living in the region will continue apace. Norway’s presidency will place particular emphasis on strengthening collaboration in such fields as health technology, integration, the maritime environment and defence in order to ensure a sustainable, stable and safe Nordic community in the years ahead.

Health technology and patient security

One of the greatest threats to global health today is antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and microbes are currently responsible for the deaths of millions and cost billions. Today’s use is no longer sustainable and must be restricted. Consequently, the fight against antimicrobial resistance will once again be high on the Nordic Council’s agenda in 2018. We must involve all relevant sectors in society in coordinated efforts and determined political measures to combat antimicrobial resistance. The Norwegian presidency will therefore follow up the recommendations in the Nordic Council’s report on antimicrobial resistance.

Welfare technology, eHealth and innovative solutions are important contributors to the renewal and improved efficiency that is necessary in welfare. In 2018 the Norwegian presidency intends to focus on Nordic co-operation within eHealth and welfare technology. The Nordic nations have extensive health and quality registers that should be used as a basis for joint Nordic treatment-directed research. However, the use of these registers must not compromise data security and privacy.

During the Norwegian presidency the Nordic Council will initiate a dialogue with the Nordic ministers on the issues of research collaboration in health, the joint Nordic development of precision medicine, challenges relating to a more uniform health data register, and cross-border data sharing. The presidency will follow up ongoing efforts to establish a joint Nordic register for health professionals who have had their licences revoked. The aim is to arrange a seminar on these topics during the first half of 2018.

Education, inclusion and mobility

Education is the entrance ticket to society. Schools and nursery schools are vital arenas for inclusion, integration and democratic fellow citizenship. Yet there are still many children and young people who fall by the wayside and do not complete their secondary school education. With this in mind, the Norwegian presidency aims to reinforce joint Nordic measures to promote the education and inclusion of children and young people. One way of doing this will be to follow up the “0-24” project.

Language and culture is the key to Nordic fellowship and mobility. Our common language heritage creates a strong Nordic identity and fellowship. Children and young people must be acquainted with Nordic culture, history, society and language. In 2018 the presidency will encourage teachers, head teachers and school administrators to include the Nordic region and Nordic languages in the school timetable.

As far as possible, the Norwegian presidency will also do its best to ensure that the requirements for professional skills and certification are standardized so that skilled workers with certified Nordic qualifications can work throughout the Nordic region.  Models must also be developed for mapping, harmonizing and certifying educational and vocational qualifications gained abroad for the Nordic market. The presidency aims to contribute to this by compiling best practices within the field.

The environment and maritime safety

The ocean is important to all the Nordic countries. The Nordic region has a longstanding tradition in marine research. The Norwegian government has highlighted the need for greater expertise and knowledge sharing in its white paper The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign and development policy. Research-based knowledge and co-operation within the different sectors of the ocean economy are decisive elements in the sustainable management of marine resources.

The demand for such marine resources as food and energy will grow. At the same time, our oceans are being increasingly threatened by pollution and dumping, climate change and overfishing. The presidency will organize a seminar on sustainable and research-based use of ocean resources. Moreover, the Nordic initiative on plastics will be followed up. The presidency will work hard to ensure that the Nordic countries are a driving force in international forums for maritime law and a regulated and sustainable exploitation of ocean resources. The Norwegian presidency will also do its best to make sure that the recommendations in the report Nordic Co-operation and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 are followed up.

Shipping is instrumental for global trade and value creation. The Nordic region is at the forefront of innovation in green maritime technology. The Norwegian presidency intends to reinforce the Nordic region’s competitive edge in this sector. 

The world’s most northerly ocean regions are particularly vulnerable. Maritime accidents can have disastrous consequences. Increased tourism in these areas makes it essential to strengthen Nordic co-operation in search and rescue. The Norwegian presidency aims to place this issue high on the Nordic agenda.

Defence and security

Nordic co-operation in the fields of foreign affairs and defence covers such questions as public security, conflict mediation, contributions to UN operations, global security threats and prevention of extremism. The Nordic countries are leading nations in the field of digitalization, with the level of digital competence in society high. At the same time, cyberattacks and threats pose a challenge that makes our digital defences vulnerable. Cybercrime knows no boundaries; combatting cyberterrorism requires a high level of cross-border collaboration. Accordingly, the Norwegian presidency has put Nordic co-operation on public security and greater digital security on the agenda in 2018.

Tighter financial constraints and a rise in the price of high-tech defence equipment mean that greater defence co-operation is in the interests of all the Nordic countries. For this reason, the Nordic Council will lend its support to Nordic defence co-operation in 2018. One measure will be to organize a Nordic meeting in collaboration with the Norwegian presidency of NORDEFCO.

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Einar Ekern