Rules of Procedure for the Nordic Council

1. Organisation and Sessions

§ 1 Council bodies

According to the Helsinki Treaty, the Council bodies consist of the Plenary, Presidium and committees. The Plenary also elects a Control Committee and an Election Committee.

§ 2 Sessions

At least one regular Session is held per annum, during which the time and venue of the following regular Session are fixed. The Presidium is empowered to change this decision should circumstances require.

Other sessions or theme sessions are held at the behest of the Presidium or when two governments or 25 elected members submit a request for one. The time and venue are determined by the Presidium.

§ 3 The Plenary

The Plenary is the Council’s supreme decision-making body. Its composition is prescribed by the Helsinki Treaty, which also states that the Plenary can adopt recommendations, make other representations and present statements of opinion to one or more governments or to the Council of Ministers.

§ 4 The Presidium

The Presidium is the Council’s supreme decision-making body when the Plenary is not sitting and has the same powers as the Plenary. It is responsible for the Council's activities and co-ordinates them with national parliaments and international organisations.

§ 5 Committees

The Council has four committees: the Committee for Knowledge and Culture in the Nordic Region, the Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region, the Committee for Growth and Development in the Nordic Region and the Committee for Welfare in the Nordic Region. The committees prepare business within their areas of competence prior to final consideration by the Council.

§ 6 The Control Committee

The Control Committee exercises parliamentary oversight over activities funded from Nordic budgets and conducts any audits determined by the Plenary.

§ 7 The Election Committee

The Election Committee draws up lists of nominations and organises any elections held during the Plenary.

§ 8 Delegations

The Helsinki Treaty stipulates the delegations and their composition.

§ 9 Party groups

The elected members are entitled to form party groups. A group must have a minimum of four members, from a minimum of two different countries.

2. The Plenary

§ 10 Members

At the opening of a session, the Plenary approves a list of members and alternates. Changes to the list must be determined by the Plenary and cannot be made during a debate or other deliberation.

§ 11 Seating

Elected members and government representatives are seated separately in the chamber in places determined by the Presidium.

§ 12 President and Vice-president

The President and Vice-president for the following calendar year are elected in ordinary session from among the elected members for the country in which the next ordinary session is to be held.

§13 Observers

The Sámi parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden have observer status via the Sámi Parliamentary Council, with speaking rights during general debates and as otherwise determined by the Presidium.

§ 14 Guests

The Nordic Youth Council is invited to sessions of the Nordic Council and has the right to speak in the general debate and otherwise as per the Presidium’s decision.

The Presidium may invite representatives of democratically elected bodies and other individuals to a session and grant them speaking rights.

§ 15 Chairing

Meetings are chaired by the President or by another member of the Presidium. Any member who has taken part in a debate on an item of business cannot chair the deliberations on that same issue.

§ 16 The Public

Meetings are open to the public unless the Plenary decides otherwise due to particular circumstances.

§ 17 Agenda

At the opening of a session, the Plenary must approve the agenda proposed by the Presidium, which includes all matters to be considered and a timetable for the whole session. Amendments can be made later by a two-thirds majority.

§ 18 Quorum

The plenary is quorate when a minimum of 44 elected members or alternates are present. For business on which only certain countries are entitled to vote under the terms of the Helsinki Treaty, at least half of the representatives from these countries must be present.

§ 19 Mandatory preparation of business

Every item of business must be prepared either by the Presidium, by one of the committees or by the Control Committee before the final deliberation at the Plenary. Elections are organised by the Election Committee.

§ 20 Minutes

Minutes must be taken at every session. They must include a record of every item of business, statements and decisions taken as well as information about proposals, motions, divisions, results of divisions and the names of speakers. Complete written minutes must be taken of all interventions made in the course of regular sessions and, if the Presidium determines, in the course of other types of sessions.

During other sessions, the minutes may be in written, audio or video format.

§ 21 Supplementary rules

At the opening of a session, if the Presidium submits an appropriate resolution, the Plenary is empowered to enact supplementary rules for the conduct of the session. Subject to consultation with the Presidium, these supplementary rules can be amended at a later point by a two-thirds majority.

3. The Presidium

§ 22 Composition

The Presidium consists of the President, Vice-president and a maximum of 13 elected members. All countries and party groups must be represented.

§ 23 The Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland

In meetings where matters affecting the Faroe Islands, Greenland or Åland are discussed, an elected member of the appropriate parliament has the right to be present, speak and submit proposals.

§ 24 Right to participate

The Nordic Youth Council has the right to participate in meetings of the Presidium. The representative may participate in the Presidium’s debates, but not in its decisions.

§ 25 Convening sessions and the agenda

The Presidium sends out notice of a session not less than one month before the scheduled date. The notice must also state which business will be discussed. At the beginning of each session, the Presidium must present a proposed agenda that takes particular account of topical issues. Every member has the right to propose agenda items to the Presidium.

§ 26 Allocation of duties and planning of meetings

The Presidium decides which bodies prepare matters for deliberation by the Plenary and is generally responsible for the planning.

The Presidium draws up an annual schedule of meetings for Council bodies.

§ 27 Special responsibilities

In addition to that which is laid down in Article 4, the Presidium is also responsible for dealing with overarching political and administrative matters, including the budgets of the Council and of the Nordic Council of Ministers, as well as with foreign affairs and defence and security policy.

§ 28 Quorum

The Presidium is quorate when at least half of its members are present. For business on which only certain countries are entitled to vote under the terms of the Helsinki Treaty, at least half of the representatives from these countries must be present.

In a tied vote, the chairperson has the casting vote.

Decisions can be made by written procedure if the decision-making members agree. Written responses must be presented.

§ 29 Minutes of decisions

The Presidium and committees minute decisions made at their meetings. Any action points are approved at the meeting. The minutes are distributed no later than 14 days after the meeting is held, and must be approved by the chair and adopted or amended at the next meeting.

The minutes are published on the Nordic Council website.

§ 30 Meetings

Unless the Presidium decides otherwise, its meetings are not public. Representatives of the delegations and the party groups’ secretariats have the right to be present unless there are particular reasons why this should not be the case. The Presidium can also invite other individuals to attend and speak at its meetings.

§ 31 Delegating

The Presidium can delegate its right to take decisions on individual items of business, or groups thereof, to other Council bodies, to one or more members of the Presidium or to the Council Director.

§ 32 Working groups and other preparatory bodies

The Presidium can set up working groups for particular tasks, determine their composition and set out their mandate, remit and timeframe. Such arrangements do not affect the ordinary preparation of cases as per Article 19.

§ 33 Report

Each year, the Presidium submits a report to the Plenary on all of the Council’s activities.

4. Committees

§ 34 Appointment and composition

Each committee must consist of 16-18 members. Each committee appoints a chairperson and vice-chairperson. The Plenary appoints the members, chairperson and vice-chairperson. In the absence of both the chairperson and vice-chairperson, the committee appoints a chairperson for the day.

§ 35 Right to participate

Members of national governments, including the governments of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland, may participate in committee deliberations but not in their decision making.

In committees that lack representatives from the Faroe Islands, Greenland or Åland, an elected member from them may take part. If so agreed with the Danish or Finnish members of the committee, this member may participate in the decision-making instead of a Danish or Finnish representative.

The Nordic Youth Council has the right to attend committee meetings. The representatives may attend the committee debates, but not participate in the decisions.

§ 36 Extended observer status

The Sámi parliaments in Finland, Norway and Sweden have extended observer status via the Sámi Parliamentary Council, with the right to attend committee meetings when there are issues on the agenda that affect the Sámi people. The committees determine the meetings and proceedings to which the invitation applies. The right to participate does not include the right to vote.

§ 37 Decisions

The regulations in Article 28 and Article 29 apply.

§ 38 Meetings and public access

The committees decide the time and place of their meetings, as per Article 26 (2). Extraordinary meetings can be called by the committee chairperson and must be called if one quarter of the committee’s ordinary members so request.

Meetings are not public unless a committee so decides in a particular case. Otherwise, the regulations in Article 30 apply.

§ 39 Meeting papers

Notice of a meeting must be issued one month in advance. The agenda and accompanying material must be available to all involved two weeks before the meeting.

§ 40 Deputations

Subject to guidelines to be set by the Presidium, deputations may attend and present their points of view.

§ 41 Duties

In addition to matters referred by the Presidium, committees must monitor developments within their areas.

Every committee must have a current plan of activities.

§ 42 Cooperation with national and international committees

Committees must seek co-operation with corresponding bodies in national parliaments and international organisations.

§ 43 Further rules

The Presidium is entitled to set overarching regulations for the work of the committees.

5. The Control Committee

§ 44 Appointment and composition

The Plenary appoints the chairperson, vice-chairperson plus five other members and their personal alternates. All countries and party groups must be represented. No sex should have less than 40% representation.

None of the elected members or their personal alternates may be a member or alternate in the current Presidium or the Board of the Nordic Culture Fund or have been a member or alternate in the previous calendar year. When the Control Committee processes items relating to a party group, the member who belongs to that group is not allowed to take part.

The regulations in Article 23 and Article 30 also apply. Extraordinary meetings can be called by the chairperson and must be called if three members so request.
In the absence of both the chairperson and vice-chairperson, the committee appoints a chairperson for the day.

§ 45 Decisions

The Control Committee is quorate when four members are present. The regulations in Article 28 (2) and (3) and Article 29 apply.

§ 46 Special responsibilities

The Control Committee can submit its opinion to the Presidium on the interpretation of the Helsinki Treaty, other agreements on Nordic co-operation, these Rules of Procedure and other internal regulations.

6. Processing business prior to final decisions

§ 47 Submitting proposals

All items of business must be submitted in writing and contain a proposal for a decision. A proposal may be withdrawn by the body or member responsible for submitting it.

An alternate who has not taken over the place of a member has the right to sign a member’s proposal but not to submit one.

§ 48 Consultation and statements

If several bodies are affected by the same item of business they must be consulted. The Presidium, the committees and the Control Committee are entitled to request statements from other Council bodies on the item of business currently being processed.

§ 49 White papers

The body responsible for the preparation of an item of business must present a white paper containing a justification and a proposal for final consideration by the body responsible for the item of business concerned.

A member has the right to state reservations about a white paper or a statement under Article 48. If the white paper contains a proposal for a decision, the reservation must follow the same procedure as the recommendation or statement.

§ 50 Time for final consideration

A white paper cannot be processed by the Plenary prior to the day following the one on which it was available to members, unless the Plenary agrees otherwise by a two-thirds majority.

§ 51 Opportunity for debate

Members must be given the opportunity for debate before the Plenary makes the final decision on an item of business.

§ 52 Referral back of proposals

The Plenary is entitled to refer a proposal back to the body which presented it. If this course of action is proposed during a debate, the debate must be suspended and members given the right to speak and decide on the proposal. If it is approved, consideration of the item of business is suspended. If not, the debate is resumed. A new vote to refer the proposal back may be taken once the debate is concluded.

§ 53 Deferring items of business

The Plenary is entitled to defer deliberation of an item of business to a later date during the session or to a later session. The latter requires a two-thirds majority and involves the item of business being prepared again. Otherwise, the same regulations apply as in Article 52.

§ 54 New motions

If an elected member wishes to submit a motion other than that contained in the white paper, this must be done in writing and distributed to the members unless it is obvious what is being proposed. During the debate, the member can be given the floor immediately in order to propose the motion without having to submit a justification. The item of business may be postponed to a time later in the session if one-third of elected members present so agree.

7. Plenary debates and decisions

§ 55 Order of speakers

The Presidium can set rules for the order of speakers. In the absence of such rules, speakers take the floor in the order they are entered on the list of speakers.

§ 56 Right of reply

Irrespective of the speaking order, a member who is directly affected by a remark must be given the floor for a maximum of two replies. Unless otherwise determined in Article 21, the chairperson may also give the floor to another member for a maximum of two replies.

A reply may only contain information, correction or refutation and may not last longer than two minutes, unless otherwise determined under Article 21.

§ 57 Speaking time

On the proposal of the Presidium or chairperson, the Plenary can limit the length of contributions for a particular debate or for part of the session. Such a decision can be made in the course of a debate.

§ 58 Closure of debate

On the proposal of the chairperson or five elected members, the Plenary can decide by a two-thirds majority to close the debate on an item of business. Such a proposal may not be subjected to debate.

§ 59 Decisions

When the debate on an item of business has concluded, the Plenary makes its decision. All items of business are settled by a vote.

§60 Internal decisions

Internal decisions are documented in the Nordic Council’s annual report, as per Article 33.

§ 61 Divisions

Voting is open and is done by roll call or by means of the electronic voting system. It is possible to vote Yes, No or Abstain. In the event of a tied vote, lots will be drawn to decide the outcome.

Incompatible proposals will be voted on first so that only one alternative proposal remains. Members will then be asked to vote either for the main proposal or the remaining alternative proposal.

§ 62 Questions

Elected members may pose questions to the national governments, including those of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland, as well as to the Nordic Council of Ministers. Oral questions must be posed and answered during a special question time to be held at a time proposed by the Presidium in accordance with Article 17. Written questions must be answered within six weeks of receipt.

8. Elections

§ 63 The Election Committee

The Election Committee consists of seven members elected by the Plenary. The Committee elects a chairperson and vice-chairperson from among its own number.

§ 64 Decisions

The Election Committee is quorate when four members are present. The regulations in Article 28 (2) and (3) and Article 29 apply.

§ 65 Nominations

The party groups and members who do not belong to any party group may, within a period specified by the Election Committee, nominate candidates for elections held by the Plenary.

However, the delegations nominate the President and Vice-president of the Nordic Council, the members of the Nordic Investment Bank’s Control Committee and the Board of the Nordic Cultural Fund.

When submitting nominations, every effort must be made to strike a balance between the Nordic countries and between women and men. Where possible, membership of national committees should also be taken into account.

§ 66 Mandate periods

Unless otherwise stipulated, all mandates are for the following calendar year.

§ 67 Proposals by the Election Committee

The Election Committee draws up a proposal for names and, if required, the number of members. It must take into account Article 65 (2).

The Plenary can reject a proposal but cannot amend it. If it is not accepted, an election by secret ballot must be conducted as per Article 68 or Article 69.

§ 68 Election of a single person

If only one person needs to be elected, this will be done by secret ballot if an elected member so requests.

§ 69 Proportional elections

If two or more persons are to be elected, this must be done by a proportional secret ballot, if requested by a number of members corresponding to the number of members present divided by the number to be elected plus one.

§ 70 Lists of candidates

If proportional elections are held, the deliberations may be suspended if necessary to allow sufficient time for lists of candidates to be drawn up. Such a list should contain a maximum of as many names as there are posts to be elected and should list the candidates in order of preference. A list must be signed by at least two members and submitted to the Secretariat no later than the time specified by the chairperson. Lists are numbered in the order in which they are received. Those voting must state the number of a candidate list on the ballot paper.

§ 71 Method of election

Proportional elections are decided according to the D’Hondt method. In each round of voting, the person with the highest divisor is elected. The divisor for a list is equal to the votes cast for the list as long as none from the list concerned has been elected yet. Once a person has been elected, the figure is divided by two, and when two are elected by three, and so on. Where there is a tie in the number of votes or the divisors, the outcome is decided by drawing lots. Candidates are elected in the order they appear on the list.

§ 72 By-elections

If the need for by-elections arises between sessions, they are conducted by the Presidium following nominations in accordance with Article 65, within a time period specified by the Presidium and following a proposal from the Election Committee.

§ 73 Alternates

In the absence of a member of a body other than the Plenary or Control Committee, the appropriate party group appoints an alternate who must be a member or alternate member of the Council. For members who do not belong to a party group, the member's party nominates the alternate. Delegations from the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland appoint alternates in the absence of ordinary members. Alternates on all bodies are subject to the same regulations as members.

9. Miscellaneous regulations

§74 Languages

The languages of the Nordic countries are treated equally at meetings of the Nordic Council. The official languages of the Council are Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish.

Interpreting into and from Finnish and Icelandic from and into Danish, Norwegian or Swedish is provided when necessary. Interpreting is not provided between Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Important documents should be translated to and from Finnish and Icelandic from and to Danish, Norwegian or Swedish. Translation is not provided between Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.

The Presidium sets guidelines for interpreting and translation.

The Secretariat uses Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. The Secretariat staff must include people with in-depth knowledge of each of the Nordic countries’ languages at any given time.

§ 75 Work for Council bodies

Except in exceptional circumstances, elected members must be members of either the Presidium, a committee or the Control Committee.

§ 76 Conflicts of interest

Members are not allowed to take part in the processing of any item of business that directly affects them or anyone close to them.

§ 77 Rules of conduct

Inappropriate comments about other participants, the use of offensive language or otherwise breaching normal meeting decorum will not be tolerated. Spectators who cause a disturbance can be expelled. In the event of disorder, the chairperson may expel all spectators.

§ 78 The Council Secretariat

The Council Secretariat is responsible for conducting meetings in collaboration with the delegation secretariat in the country where the meeting is to be held.

The Presidium appoints the personnel and sets the guidelines for the work of the Council Secretariat, which prepares the business to be processed by Council bodies. During this preparation process, the Secretariat must collaborate with the secretariats of the delegations and the party groups.

§ 79 The Delegations

The delegations elect their chairperson and vice-chairperson from within their own number.

Each delegation is responsible for ensuring that decisions are implemented in their own country.

§ 80 Registration of party groups

The Presidium sets the rules for the registration of party groups and their representatives.

§ 81 Funding for party groups

A party group is entitled to funding for its Council activities provided it demonstrates to the Secretariat that it fulfilled the requirements stipulated in Article 9 in the year prior to the year in question. If a party group changes in such a way that it no longer fulfils these requirements, it will only receive an allowance for the remaining individual members in the following year.

Funding consists of a basic allowance which is the same for all groups plus an allowance per member. The Presidium determines the allowances when drawing up the budget for the year in question.

The Presidium determines any additional rules for party funding.

§ 82 Funding for individual members

A member who does not belong to a party group receives the same individual allowance, unless one of the groups has already received the allowance for the individual concerned as per Article 81.

§ 83 Accounts

Those who receive funding under Article 81 or Article 82 must submit accounts for the previous year no later than 15 May. The Control Committee reviews the accounts at its first meeting after 15 May. The Plenary may set additional rules for the accounts.

§ 84 Suspension of the Rules of Procedure

In special cases, the Plenary may suspend these Rules of Procedure if so proposed by the Presidium and supported by a two-thirds majority vote.

Current rules of procedure. These rules of procedure took effect on 1 January 2017 and have subsequently been amended as below.


Sections 22 and 39 were amended as a result of a decision at the 70th Session of the Nordic Council in Oslo on 1 November 2018. The changes took effect on 1 January 2019.

Section 74 was amended as a result of a decision at the 70th Session of the Nordic Council in Oslo on 31 October 2018. The change took effect on 1 January 2020.

Sections 44, 65 and 83 were amended as a result of a decision at the 71st Session of the Nordic Council in Stockholm on 31 October 2019. The changes took effect on 1 January 2020.

Following a proposal by the Presidium, the Nordic Council adopted amendments to Article 44 and Article 65 on 7 September 2021. The changes took effect on 1 January 2022.