Two years of the pandemic have underlined the importance of working together at the international and regional levels when faced with a serious health crisis. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also serves as a reminder that war in our part of the world is no mere theoretical possibility. In the face of crises of various kinds, we see how important it is to work together with our closest partners to cope with challenges, within and along with the EU and NATO and in our close Nordic family.
Nordic co-operation has demonstrated its importance and strength in these situations. However, the pandemic also presented our societies with a number of new challenges, many of which also affected relations between our countries, in particular restrictions on freedom of movement, which is one of the cornerstones of Nordic co-operation. We agree on the need to learn from all of these experiences, both positive and negative. Living, working, studying and running businesses across Nordic borders should be easy.
In their declaration of November 2021, the prime ministers stressed the need to work even more closely together on contingency planning and crisis management. Responsibility for this lies with the relevant national agencies, and work to enhance co-operation is now underway in the various sectors within the Nordic Council of Ministers, especially in the health sector, but also under the auspices of other structures, for example, the Haga co-operation on societal security and the Nordic Defence Co-operation (NORDEFCO). When a crisis arises, national agencies will work closely with their Nordic partners.
We, the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation
- have been tasked by the prime ministers with leading and coordinating the work of realising the vision of the Nordic Region as the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. This work does not stop in times of crisis, and we closely follow what is being done to improve co-operation on contingency planning.
- have an important responsibility to highlight the Nordic perspective in discussions between our countries and at the cabinet level within each country in order to point out the challenges faced and opportunities offered, especially in crisis situations.
- took the initiative during the pandemic for closer dialogue about the various challenges that arose and have seen first-hand the importance of sharing information in advance of national decisions that affect free movement across our borders or in some way affect the other Nordic countries.
- will continue this dialogue and build on what has been learnt during the pandemic. In the event of a new crisis, this will help ensure, as far as possible, that measures are agreed upon to avoid or limit the negative consequences on freedom of movement of the crisis-management decisions that need to be made. In this context, we have a common interest and special responsibility for the situation in our border regions.
- agree, therefore, that in the event of any new crisis, the chair of the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation, on her or his own initiative or at the request of another Nordic country, will convene a meeting so that we can communicate rapidly and smoothly and ensure that the Nordic perspective is considered as far as possible.
- also have a particular responsibility for cross-border freedom of movement. We have, therefore, renewed and strengthened the mandate of the Freedom of Movement Council to remove obstacles to freedom of movement and stop new ones from arising. We have also taken the initiative for closer dialogue with the Freedom of Movement Council, both under normal circumstances and in crisis situations.
Our vision of the Nordic Region as the most sustainable and integrated region in the world commits us to ensuring that the Nordic dimension is included in all our decisions and that in the event of any future crisis, we will work together to the greatest possible extent to make sure that our close Nordic sense of community is maintained. As ministers for Nordic co-operation, we consider this a collective responsibility.