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Why the Nordic Council?

The Nordic Council is the official inter-parliamentary body in the Nordic Region. Political discussions are held with members of the governments of the five Nordic countries and the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland at the two annual Sessions of the Nordic Council; the Ordinary Session and Theme Session. It is a unique form of international co-operation.

The Nordic Council, along with the Council of Ministers, works toward joint Nordic solutions that have tangible, positive effects – known as Nordic synergies – for the citizens of the individual Nordic countries. The Nordic Council does this first and foremost by submitting proposals to the Nordic governments and encouraging them to act upon those proposals.

These unique gatherings of MPs and ministers takes place twice a year and facilitate necessary political dialogue on Nordic issues. The Ordinary Session is held in the autumn and the Theme Session in the spring.

The Nordic Council is the official inter-parliamentary body. It consists of MPs from the five national parliaments and the devolved parliaments in the three autonomous territories.

The Nordic Council was established in 1952 to meet the need for closer Nordic co-operation in the wake of WWII. Among the new partnership’s early achievements were the Passport Union and the right to settle in other Nordic countries.

Decision taken by the Nordic Council are submitted to the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic governments for approval and implementation.

The Council’s members hold the governments responsible if decisions are not implemented, and draw the ministers’ attention to problems within Nordic co-operation. This partly takes place through lively and frank debate at the Ordinary Session in the autumn.

The debate can get quite heated during discussions with various ministers and during question time with the ministers for co-operation. For example, critical questions were raised at the 2007 Session about the decision by Norway, Finland and Sweden to hold meetings of foreign ministers without Denmark and Iceland.

The issues of globalisation, climate and freedom of movement have been highest on the agenda over the last couple of years.

Forcing the pace on globalisation

It is difficult for small nations working alone to cope with ever more fierce global competition. How the Nordic Region will meet the challenges of a global market is therefore the most important issue currently facing Nordic co-operation.

In 2006, the Nordic Council organised a summit on globalisation issues, which served as the starting point for both closer co-operation between the governments and annual globalisation conferences.

Nordic parliamentarians continue to work with governments through debate and initiatives, particularly in the areas of research, development and innovation.

The Nordic Council has set up a parliamentary pressure group for globalisation work and wants a greater presence at the annual globalisation conferences.

The climate is a crucial issue

Nordic MPs have a long-standing commitment to climate issues, such as cutting greenhouse-gas emissions despite increased energy production.

A number of proposals on climate issues have been adopted in recent years – e.g. a Nordic agreement on green cars, a bio-fuels vision, more efficient use of energy in the public sector, more ambitious energy targets, further reductions of emissions and the use of development aid to address climate change in the poorest countries.

A special summit on climate issues was held in conjunction with the Nordic Council’s Session 2007. The Nordic prime ministers and ministers of the environment attended.

Also on the Nordic agenda are the Nordic action plan for climate-friendly transport policy, buying climate quotas for travel to Nordic meetings, and a Nordic observation system for monitoring climate change in the Arctic.

The climate problem is truly global in scale, so the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen 2009 is very much the focus of the Nordic Council's climate co-operation.

In addition to helping to reach necessary decisions on climate agreements, the Nordic Council also encourages discussion on establishing a global forum to deal with future climate conflicts and devise global contingency plans for climate refugees.

In the run-up to and during the UN summit, the Nordic Council proposes running a number of activities with and for the general public, involving schools and energy experts.

Freedom of movement

One of the important outcomes of early co-operation – the right of Nordic citizens to live, work, study and do business freely – continues to be fine-tuned.

The Nordic Council has also encouraged the setting up of a Nordic Freedom of Movement Forum, the aim of which is to help people who have encountered problems with taxation or other red tape when commuting or relocating between Nordic countries.

The Nordic Council has initiated a mapping exercise of the obstacles to cross-border freedom of movement in the food industry.

Discussions are also being held on closer police co-operation and a joint healthcare sector that provides freedom of choice for the seriously ill, harmonised training of specialist doctors and co-operation on lower prices in medical procurement.

East of the Baltic

Co-operation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is done along with the Baltic Assembly but also in forums like the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC).

Projects in this area include closer co-operation on energy in order to achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Protecting the Baltic environment is a joint issue for both Nordic and Baltic states, and several tangible measures have been proposed to reduce eutrophication and the risk of oil spills.

The Nordic Council also encourages co-operation with North-West Russia in order to achieve greater stability and growth in Northern Europe. Parliamentary exchange programmes are one instrument in this proces – since the mid-90s, a couple of hundred Russian parliamentarians have visited the Nordic Region and gained insight into Nordic parliamentary work.

The Nordic Council believes that a Nordic office in Minsk would facilitate the implementation of co-operation projects with Belarus.


Heidi Orava
Phone: +45 21 71 71 48