The Nordic Prime Ministers have the overall responsibility for Nordic co-operation. In practice responsibility for the co-operation is delegated to the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation (MR-SAM) and to the Nordic Committee for Co-operation (NSK), which co-ordinates the day-to-day work of Nordic inter-governmental co-operation.
The Nordic Council of Ministers was set up in 1971 and, despite its name, actually consists of several individual councils of ministers. There are currently 11 ministerial councils as well as the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation. All decisions in the Nordic Council of Ministers must be unanimous.
The Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, which is held for a period of one year, rotates between the five Nordic countries. The country holding the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers draws up a programme to guide Nordic co-operation during the year and chairs meetings of the Council of Ministers.
Committees of senior officials, made up of civil servants from the Nordic countries, prepare and follow up on the issues addressed by the ministerial councils.
The Nordic Prime Ministers hold annual meetings and also meet in other contexts, e.g. at EU summits. The foreign affairs and defence ministers also meet regularly, but not under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Member countries and areas
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have been members of the Nordic Council of Ministers since 1971. Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland have established greater representation and stronger positions in the Nordic Council of Ministers and now enjoy practically the same representation as the other members.
Each country has one vote on the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Nordic Council of Ministers consists of one or more members of each country’s government. As such, the Nordic Council of Ministers can comprise the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation, the ministers for specific policy areas, or a combination of both. Representatives of the devolved governments of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland also take part in the Council of Ministers' work.
The Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland can choose to endorse the decisions taken in the Nordic Council of Ministers to the extent allowed by their respective agreements on self-government.
The Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland have been granted greater influence on Nordic co-operation since the Åland Document was adopted by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation in Mariehamn, Åland, on 5 September 2007. The Åland Document lays out initiatives to enhance the participation of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland in Nordic co-operation.
Rules of procedure and other documents regulating the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers
The rules of procedure and other documents are based on the Helsinki Treaty, which was signed in 1962. The treaty forms the basis for Nordic co-operation. Sometimes it is referred to in the plural as the Helsinki treaties because of later revisions and amendments, the latest of which came into force in 1996.
A number of other important documents also govern the work of the Nordic Council of Ministers.