The Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council 2019

Jessica Polfjärd & Gunilla Carlsson som nyvalgt pæsident og vicepræsident, Nordisk Råds Session 2018

Jessica Polfjärd & Gunilla Carlsson som nyvalgt pæsident og vicepræsident, Nordisk Råds Session 2018

Photographer
Sara Johannessen
Everyday life in the Nordic region - democracy and popular support

Nordic cooperation enjoys strong popular support and takes place every day, at all levels. Our cooperation is based on our common history, culture and values. The Swedish Parliament is commemorating the advent of democracy in Sweden with a democracy centenary between the years 2018 and 2022. In this connection, the Swedish Delegation would like, during its Presidency of the Nordic Council, to draw attention to the importance of democracy for our common well-being. In 2019, the Norden Association is also celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the Delegation would also like to highlight the Nordic countries’ unique cooperation and the broad popular support upon which this cooperation is based. The Nordic community has its origins in a network of personal contacts across the Nordic borders. Nordic integration and cooperation are broadly established in our societies. For example, the business sector, trade unions, political parties and non-governmental organisations have all established Nordic cooperation and Nordic integration.

The Swedish Delegation’s Presidency Programme for 2019 highlights the importance of democracy in the Nordic region and our broad popular cooperation by focusing on topical issues where cooperation between our countries adds greater value than if we were to act individually, and generates Nordic synergies. It is about facilitating our citizens’ everyday lives, exchanging experience ahead of reforms in various areas of society, and gaining support for shared Nordic values in international contexts.

The Nordic communities need to ensure that the public have broad access to information and arenas for debate on shared issues. This is in order to guarantee democratic support for Nordic cooperation and greater integration.

The social trust that characterises our Nordic countries is an important component in the promotion of political engagement and democratic development in society as a whole. The fundamental principles of democracy, general and equal suffrage, equality between the sexes and the principle of public access to information have partly been achieved thanks to the commitment of citizens and popular support. During 2019, in conjunction with meetings, seminars, theme sessions and the final session in Stockholm, the Swedish Delegation wishes to draw attention to the importance of the advent of democracy, as well as the broad popular support which leads to inclusive, participation-based and representative decision-making at all levels.

In order to ensure continuity and relevance, the Swedish Presidency wishes to build on previous Presidency programmes, and continue to discuss topical issues that fit into the agendas of the Presidium and committees. In this way, the programme will be integrated with current activities and will give continued legitimacy to current Nordic cooperation.

Gender equality - a precondition for democracy

The democracy aspect and the importance of popular support

One of democracy’s fundamental principles and a central element of Nordic cooperation is equality between the sexes. Gender equal societies are a Nordic flagship and one of the keys to the success of the Nordic model. But women still experience discrimination in the Nordic countries. That is why efforts to promote gender equality need to be high on the Nordic agenda for a sustainable democracy characterised by participation and equal influence.

The Nordic countries have enjoyed excellent cooperation in the field of gender equality policy for over 40 years, and gender equality defines our region. However, there are still challenges to work with in this area, such as gender-bound professions, unjustified pay differences and violence against women. Despite many years of work to achieve economic equality, different conditions still exist for women and men, for example as regards entering, remaining and being able to develop in working life. A particular challenge is the situation of women who were born in another country. The Nordic countries all face similar challenges as regards integration and inclusion. Reducing and combating social exclusion in society by working for gender equality requires long-term measures in several areas and by many actors at the national, regional and local levels. Gender equality work also needs to involve boys and men, with the aim of bringing about changes in social norms and stereotypes.

During 2019, the Swedish Delegation wishes to focus on more efficient national gender equality work in the Nordic countries, on learning from each other and taking further measures to deal with, for example, pay differentials, unequal power relations and social exclusion and to provide opportunities for increased inclusion and democratic participation.

▶ How do we achieve equal distribution of power and influence (representation in terms of numbers does not always mean equal distribution)?

▶ What do the Nordic countries need to do to eliminate pay differentials between the sexes?

▶ How do we get more women who were born in another country into the labour market? How do we reduce social exclusion and create conditions for increased democratic participation?

▶ What can we do to learn from each other? How does interaction between politicians and civil society take place? What needs to be done to ensure an equal and democratic society?

Digitisation and digital skills - new preconditions for democracy

The democracy aspect and the importance of popular support

Digitisation is the most revolutionary change in society since industrialisation. The developments that have taken place mean a whole new set of preconditions, needs and conditions for individuals and society, for the private and public sector, for working life and education and for civil society. They affect economic growth and sustainability, welfare and equality, security and democracy. Digital developments have changed the way in which people receive information, communicate and relate to each other which, in the long run, affects the preconditions for participation in society. In a representative democracy, the parties should represent the citizens. The Nordic communities will continue to need broad public access to information, with arenas for debate between Nordic citizens on common issues. Digitisation opens the way for popular support and strengthens ties between politicians and voters if it is used to consult and include citizens in order to solve shared problems in society.

The Nordic countries are at the forefront when it comes to public sector digital systems. In parallel, the health and social care system is being developed with new digital solutions such as e-health. Digitisation is highly topical and a priority area for several of the Council’s committees, and in both the Nordic Council’s and Nordic Council of Ministers’ Presidency Programmes for 2018. New digital preconditions in the labour market place new skills provision demands. In order to meet the needs of working life in the future, the citizens need education in digital skills, and a digital leadership is needed, as well as opportunities for lifelong learning.

During 2019, the Swedish Delegation would like the Nordic Council to continue to work to ensure that increased digitisation occurs in a user-friendly way, with a focus on the citizens, and where consideration is taken of the parts of population that cannot deal with various digital systems. All people, women and men, girls and boys, regardless of social background, functional ability and age, are to be given the preconditions to receive digital information and services from the public sector, and to participate on an equal basis in society.

▶ What needs to be done to ensure that the citizens are able to contribute to and participate in the digital society?

▶ How do we increase the incentives to continuously develop the digital skills and abilities that are needed for participation in working life and in the digital society?

▶ What can we do to learn from each other? How does interaction between politicians and civil society take place? What needs to be done to ensure an equal and democratic society?

Freedom of movement

The democracy aspect and the importance of popular support

By combatting and removing obstacles to freedom of movement, the Nordic Council can help to facilitate people’s everyday lives. Border controls involve practical and everyday problems. In order to promote a more integrated Nordic region, the obstacles and the lack of information that in various ways make it more difficult to move, commute, study or conduct business activities across the Nordic borders need to be reduced. Recurring themes relating to freedom of movement include e-prescriptions, care at a distance, commuting opportunities, studying and working in border areas, improved conditions in the construction industry, mutual recognition of professional qualifications, equal education programmes and professional requirements and removing obstacles for cultural workers.

During 2019, the Swedish Delegation wishes to continue to prioritise freedom of movement and combat the emergence of new obstacles to freedom of movement in conjunction with new national legislation and implementation of EU directives. This will be achieved by means of preventive legislative cooperation in the Nordic region, and coordination when implementing EU legislation. In September 2016, the Nordic Ministers for Cooperation decided to order a report that shows the opportunities for future Nordic legislative cooperation with the purpose of strengthening Nordic integration. The final report highlights, among other things, the importance of politically supporting and prioritising legislative work in this field. Here, the Nordic Council could play a role in prioritising areas for Nordic cooperation.

▶ The Nordic Council follows up the Council of Ministers’ examination of legislative work in the Nordic region.

▶ How can we prevent the emergence of of new obstacles to freedom of movement in conjunction with new national legislation and implementation of EU directives?

▶ What can we do to learn from each other? How does interaction between politicians and civil society take place? What needs to be done to ensure an equal and democratic society?

Climate - cross border and precondition for democracy and sustainable development

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our day, and environmental issues are cross-border by their very nature. The climate affects food security, access to clean water, sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems, human security, equality, health and economic growth. The Nordic Council has long been committed to climate and environmental issues. It attaches great importance to the UN sustainability targets and aims to make these targets visible in the Nordic Council’s agenda.

In 2017/18, the Nordic Council of Ministers conducted a strategic analysis of the environmental sector in the Nordic region in order to find new ways of influencing joint environmental and climate efforts between our countries. According to the report, there is huge untapped potential for reusing and recycling plastics. It has been proposed that the Nordic countries should establish a forum for ensuring the sustainability of plastics and promoting the circular economy. Plastics have been high on the political agenda of Nordic cooperation for many years. Use of plastics is an issue that concerns the everyday lives of all citizens. Plastic use can serve as the Nordic cooperation’s point of departure in order to explain the circular economy and reduce use of natural resources.

A large share of the increased emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere comes from the way we extract, transform and use fossil fuels. The Nordic countries all need to adapt our transport sectors in order to become fossil-free. In the worst case, climate change can lead to a negative development in other environmental issues. Climate, transport, air quality and health are all interlinked.

During 2019, the Swedish Delegation would like to draw attention to follow-up of the Council of Ministers’ analysis and to support the Nordic implementation of Agenda 2013 and the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, the Delegation would like the Nordic Council to continue its work with issues that are related to everyday life, but that are also national, Nordic, regional and global.

▶ The Nordic Council follows up the Council of Ministers’ report on new ways of influencing environmental and climate work.

▶ How can the Nordic region contribute with knowledge and good examples for a more sustainable world, and how should we in the Nordic countries collaborate to implement the new climate targets and Agenda 2030?

▶ Climate, transport, air quality and health are all interlinked. What can the Council do to achieve a fossil-free transport sector in the Nordic countries?

▶ What can we do to learn from each other? How does interaction between politicians and civil society take place? What needs to be done to ensure a democratic society?