Parliamentarianism, democracy, a high proportion of women in the national parliaments and a well developed welfare model are all characteristic of politics in the Nordic Region.
All the countries in the Nordic Region are parliamentary democracies, with power held by the majority in parliament.
Each Nordic parliament is known by a different name, and there is wide variation between them in terms of numbers of MPs.
The Danish Folketing has 179 MPs, including two representatives from the Faroe Islands and two from Greenland.
The Finnish Riksdag has 200 members, including a representative from Åland.
The Icelandic Allting has 63 members, the Norwegian Storting 169 and the Swedish Riksdag 349.
The Faroese Lagting has 32 members, the Greenland Landsting 31 and the Lagting in Åland 30.
The voting age in the Nordic countries is 18.
Compared with other countries, great progress has been made towards gender equality in the Nordic Region. Politics is an example of this; the proportion of women MPs is at the top of the international scale.
In Sweden, almost half (47%) of MPs are women, while in Finland the proportion is 42%.
In Denmark and in Norway, 38% of MPs are women. The figure for Iceland is 32%.
The exception is the Faroese parliament where, after the 2004 general election, only 9.4% of MPs were women. Progress is being made here as well, however, and the proportion of women rose to 23.5% after the 2008 general election.
Turnout varies between the Nordic countries. The Faroe Islands, where 92.3% of the electorate voted at the last election, and Iceland (83.6%) have the highest figures.
The lowest voting rates are in Finland and Åland, where approximately 65-68% turned out at the last elections.
If we discount those countries elsewhere in Europe where voting is compulsory, the Nordic countries are well above the European average.
Only citizens are entitled to vote in general elections in the Nordic Region.
However, Nordic citizens who live in other Nordic countries are entitled to vote in municipal elections in their country of residence. Other foreign citizens must wait until they have lived in the country for three or four years, depending on which country they live in.
A government in a Nordic country can remain in power as long as a majority in parliament accepts it. A majority of the parliament is not required to actively support the government, merely not to actively oppose it.
This is technically known as "negative parliamentarianism".
Denmark, Norway and Sweden are monarchies, where the head of state is a king or (as is currently the case in Denmark) a queen. Finland and Iceland are republics, where the head of state is a president.
With the exception of Finland, the heads of state in the Nordic countries have no real political power, their duties being merely representative.
The Finnish President is directly elected by the people and holds real power in terms of foreign policy, European Union policy, major military decisions and the appointment of top civil servants.
Led by Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the Nordic countries have developed into societies based on what is known throughout the world as the "Nordic welfare model".
Most of the benefits of this social model are universal and equal.
Social security benefits are high, and there are many free - or subsidised - public-sector services.
There is also a high degree of social redistribution via taxation and public sector spending, with welfare schemes funded by taxes rather than insurance schemes. All these advantages mean that tax levels are very high.
This social model ought, perhaps, to be better known as the "Scandinavian welfare model", as it is most characterstic of the three Scandinavian countries. In Finland and Iceland, public-sector spending and taxation are also markedly higher than the Western European average, but still lower than in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Alternatives to the Scandinavian or Nordic social model include the "central European model" (also known as the "insurance model") and the "liberal welfare model" (also known as the "Anglo-Saxon model").
Another feature common to Denmark, Sweden and Norway is that the amount of money earmarked for development aid is at the top of the international scale when calculated as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).
There are differences between the Nordic countries in terms of some critical aspects of foreign policy. Denmark has been a member of the EEC/EU since 1973, while Finland and Sweden did not join until 1995.
In 2002, Finland became the first (and so far only) Nordic EU member to introduce the European common currency, the euro. The Danes and Swedes rejected the euro in favour of retaining their own currencies, the kroner, at referendums in 2000 and 2003.
The Nordic countries also have different policies on currency. Where Finland has introduced the euro, Denmark has elected to keep an (almost) fixed banding rate with the euro, while the Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian kroner fluctuate freely in relation to the euro and other currencies.
Iceland and Norway are not members of the EU but, in 1994, both became part of the EU's internal market, known as the EEA ( European Economic Area). Denmark, Iceland and Norway have been members of NATO since it was set up in 1949, while the Finns and Swedes have remained neutral and outside the Alliance.
All the Nordic countries are members of the UN, WTO and OECD.
The five Nordic countries and three autonomous territories enjoy close, trusting political partnerships with each other.
Interparliamentary co-operation is the domain of the Nordic Council; intergovernmental co-operation the domain of the Council of Ministers.
Almost as important is the significant informal co-operation between the Nordic countries in almost every aspect of policy, including culture, sport, business, energy and education.
Nordic co-operation enjoys widespread popular support; it is difficult to find associations or organisations in any of the Nordic countries that do not co-operate with corresponding organisations in the other countries. In this respect, the Nordic Association has been both a major source of inspiration and a driving force.