Bertel Haarder: Time to renew “basic charter” of the Nordic Council

03.11.22 | News
Bertel Haarder på Nordiska rådets session i Helsingfors 2022.
Johannes Jansson
A review of the Helsinki Treaty, the “basic charter” for the Nordic Council, is needed. That’s what Bertel Haarder, a long-standing member of the council, believes. The current treaty lacks, among other things, foreign and security policies, which is one of the most important issues for the Nordic Council today. 

“It’s truly paradoxical that the work of the Nordic Council, as it is organised now, doesn’t take into account the fact that foreign and defence policies have become central to co-operation. A formalisation of the political work on these issues is needed and this is yet another argument for why we need a review of the Helsinki Treaty,” says Haarder, who has been President of the Nordic Council twice.

Haarder spoke in a debate with the Nordic ministers for defence at the Session of the Nordic Council in Helsinki. He spoke on behalf of the Presidium in the debate and mentioned that the Helsinki Treaty has been amended eight times.

“If now’s not the time for us to change it in light of what’s happened with the foreign and defence policies, I don’t know when is. This Session has a historic significance. This year has a historic significance. We have to use the momentum that’s clearly felt here at the Session of the Nordic Council in Helsinki,” said Haarder.

“The idea of a revision of the Helsinki Treaty has also been put forwards in other contexts. The issue was discussed, among other things, at the meeting between the Presidium of the Nordic Council and the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation during the Session in Helsinki.”

Vice-President wants to discuss updates

Helge Orten, who has been elected Vice-President of the Nordic Council at the Session, also developed this idea in an update of his speech.

Orten referred to the Nordic Council’s strategy for public safety from 2019, in which the Nordic Council calls on the Nordic governments to evaluate how the Nordic Council of Ministers can best be involved in and support Nordic co-operation on foreign and security policy.

“Many of us in the Nordic Council have now started to discuss whether there’s a need to update the Helsinki Treaty to cater for the new reality in terms of foreign and security policy,” Orten said.

At this year’s Session, foreign and security policy has been a consistent theme due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Security issues were debated at the summit between the Nordic Council and the prime ministers, and they were also the focus of the debates with the ministers for foreign affairs and the ministers for defence.

Even Finland’s President, Sauli Niinistö, who was a guest speaker at the Session this year, made the security situation the theme of his speech.

Previously, foreign affairs, defence and security issues were a taboo in the Nordic Council. In recent years, these issues have turned out to be among the most important.

The Helsinki Treaty was signed in Helsinki on 23 March 1962, 60 years ago this year. The treaty defines the framework for Nordic co-operation within the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers.