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1953-1971

Finland joins in and the first Nordic rights are formulated.

The first Session of the Nordic Council was held in the Danish Parliament on 13 February 1953.

Hans Hedtoft, who had previously been the Danish Prime Minister and would serve in that capacity again later in his political career, and who was also the man who first proposed the idea of the Nordic Council, was elected as its first President.

Finland did not join until 1955, when relations with the Soviet Union thawed following Stalin's death.

Although Finland was not a formal member for the first two years, the statutes allowed representatives of Finland's government and parliament to participate if they so wished.

This desire was first stated on 28 October 1955, when the Finnish parliament unanimously passed a proposal concerning Finland's membership.

At the opening of the fourth Session in Copenhagen, on 27 January 1956, the Council President, Professor Bertil Ohlin from Sweden, said:

“It felt as if a chair was empty when Finland was not here [...] Only now has the Nordic circle been completed.”

The joint Nordic labour market came into force on 2 July 1954, a forerunner of the free mobility of labour that would later characterise the EU.

This was probably most significant for Finland, a country that was still badly scarred – first by war and then by the payment of major reparations to the Soviet Union.

In 1952, passport-free travel was introduced between the Nordic countries, followed in 1958 by the more clearly defined Nordic Passport Union – a forerunner of the modern Schengen agreement.

This made it far easier for Nordic citizens to travel to neighbouring countries.

In 1955, the Nordic Convention on Social Security was implemented.

At the same time, negotiations on a customs union or a common market, both at Nordic and European level, were taking place. However, in July 1959 the Nordic governments agreed to strike those plans from the agenda.

Ten days later Denmark, Norway and Sweden joined EFTA. Finland became an associate member in 1961. Denmark and Norway sought membership of the EEC shortly afterwards.

This strengthened the desire for a permanent treaty on Nordic co-operation.

The treaty was finally ratified in Helsinki on 23 March 1962, which is why the Nordic "constitution" is known as the Helsinki Treaty.

It states that the Nordic Council should be able to express opinions on the principles of Nordic co-operation.

In 1962, the Nordic School of Public Health (NHV) in Gothenburg was inaugurated.

An agreement on a Nordic Cultural Fund was signed on 3 October 1966. The fund was set up to support cultural projects involving a minimum of three Nordic countries.

In August 1968, the Nordic House in Reykjavik, designed by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, was inaugurated.

In 1968, the Danish Prime Minister, Hilmar Baunsgaard, proposed negotiations on Nordic economic co-operation. Planning for this was in full swing by 1969.

The Nordek plan, which was supposed to herald the start of economic co-operation, was finally passed at the Session of the Nordic Council in Reykjavik in February 1970.

On 24 March, Finland made it clear that the Finns would not ratify the treaty.

Due to its close relations with the Soviet Union at the time, it was not in Finland's interests to seek Nordic economic co-operation with potential members of the EEC – i.e. Denmark and Norway.

In 1970, it was decided that representatives from the Faroe Islands and Åland could take part in the Nordic Council – as members of the Danish and the Finnish delegations respectively.

In 1984, representatives from Greenland were also invited to join the Danish delegation.

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Heidi Orava
Phone: +45 21 71 71 48