The analysis looks at the challenges and opportunities for co-operation in the legal sphere and puts forward a number of proposals for working more closely together in order to enhance integration and promote the Nordic model to the rest of the world.Revitalising co-operation on legislative affairs will promote freedom of movement for individuals and businesses and enhance Nordic integration
“This report is an important contribution to the ongoing reform of Nordic co-operation. Revitalising co-operation on legislative affairs will promote freedom of movement for individuals and businesses and enhance Nordic integration,” says Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The Nordic countries have been working together on legislation since the late 19th century, resulting in, among other things, Nordic rules for contract law and copyright. However, the nature of the work has changed over the last two–three decades. At present, it consists mainly of discussing and exchanging information about experiences in the different countries.
In his analysis, Professor Backer ascertains that greater knowledge of the 1962 Helsinki Treaty – in which the countries agreed to work more closely together on civil and criminal law, as well as other relevant areas – would help enhance Nordic co-operation. He also notes the variation in the extent to which the different countries draw on information and experience from their neighbours or consider the effects on mobility between the Nordic countries when drafting new legislation. In addition, he identifies the potential for working together on the drafting and implementation of EU/EEA legislation, which is not always taken into account in Nordic co-operation.However, doing so would require both political will on the part of the various countries and well-resourced civil services.
“I have drafted 13 prioritised proposals that would enhance co-operation on legislation and help make the Nordic Region the most integrated region in the world. However, doing so would require political will on the part of the various countries, and their civil services would need sufficient resources,” the professor said.
Inge Lorange Backer has many years’ experience of Nordic co-operation on legislative affairs, both as Director General of the Legislation Department in the Ministry of Justice in Norway and as Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oslo.
Working together on legislation is a key element in Nordic co-operation, and was formalised in the co-operation treaty of 1962, also known as the Helsinki Treaty. However, the countries have been actively pursuing legislative co-operation since the late 19th century.
One of the fundamental principles of this co-operation is that the countries retain full sovereignty as legislators, and have different levels of ambition for their co-operation on matters of common interest and where they have shared objectives.
According to the Helsinki Treaty, the level of ambition for co-operation on legislation is highest in civil and criminal law, but the work can also include other areas of co-operation. The countries are obliged to inform each other of any amendments to legislation that has emerged form Nordic co-operation.
Until the late 20th century, the co-operation was characterised by major joint projects that resulted in Nordic legislation in several areas, e.g. contract law and copyright. However, over the last 25–30 years, the nature of the co-operation has changed. It now consists mainly of exchanges of information and experiences between civil servants.
As part of the second phase of the ongoing reforms of Nordic co-operation – known as New Nordic Region 2.0 – the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation decided that there was good reason to study the potential in revitalising Nordic co-operation on legislation, in order to enhance integration in the Region. Professor Emeritus Inge Lorange Backer was commissioned to conduct the analysis.
His analysis describes the historical background to Nordic co-operation on legislation, its inherent potential and the challenges it faces, taking into account both the inroads made by EU legislation into Nordic co-operation and the ever-changing political landscape. He ascertains that close Nordic co-operation on legislation could help to make the Nordic Region the most integrated region in the world, as per the prime ministers’ declaration in 2016. It can help to improve the quality of national legislation, promote freedom of movement and showcase the Nordic model to the rest of the world. However, there are important preconditions for close Nordic co-operation on legislation – primarily, that the political will exists and that the national civil services have sufficient resources at their disposal.
In his analysis, Backer describes a number of general measures that would improve co-operation on legislation, as well as a number of areas of life and law in which working together could be relevant. Based on these, he prioritises 13 proposals that, taken together, would reinforce Nordic integration. These proposals aim, e.g. to increase support for the Nordic Council’s proposals for co-operation on legislation; to improve the opportunities for working together on national and EU/EEA legislative initiatives; and to prevent new obstacles to freedom of movement arising from new laws or amendments to existing legislation. The proposals also include close co-operation on digitalisation, health, companies, cohabitation, legislation on aliens, criminal law and international conventions.
Download the report here (in Norwegian):