On 1 January 2022, the Freedom of Movement Council was given a stronger mandate to act in times of crisis. It obliged the Council to alert governments to problems with freedom of movement that arise in times of crisis and ensure they are addressed.
The new mandate was a response to the many problems with freedom of movement that arose during the pandemic. According to the annual report, 121 COVID-related disruptions to freedom of movement had been reported by January 2022, some of the side effects of which persist.
Letter to the Swedish Government
The report shows that the Council made use of the new mandate as early as March when the Swedish government proposed the reintroduction of carrier liability for ID checks in the Öresund Region. The government’s justification was that this was an attempt to safeguard internal security in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, new ID checks would have been a major blow to commuting between Sweden and Denmark, and the Freedom of Movement Council sent a letter to the government urging it to scrap its plans. Although the plans were dropped, they were later revived by the new government following the general election in September. In response, the Freedom of Movement Council has written to the government again to reiterate its position.
“As we have seen during both the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, more and more interests collide when the Nordic countries seek to protect their people and safeguard internal security. With this in mind, the Freedom of Movement Council focused strongly in 2022 on protecting the fundamental freedom of movement between our countries and on ensuring that rights were not eroded by the introduction of ID checks and controls in border regions,” says Vibeke Hammer Madsen, chair of the Council in 2022.
Focus on major themes
In 2022, the Freedom of Movement Council prioritised four themes, all of which are extremely important for freedom of movement in the Nordic Region but also pose major challenges to integration: tax-related barriers, the recognition of professional qualifications, digitalisation and co-operation on civil registration.
“If we find Nordic solutions to these issues, we will have solved many of the problems that prevent free movement between our countries. We will therefore put a lot of effort into these issues in the years to come,” says Siv Friðleifsdóttir, chair of the Council in 2023.
The annual report shows that the Council worked on 33 “ordinary” barriers to freedom of movement that have a major impact on individuals and businesses working and operating across borders. In addition, five specific obstacles to freedom of movement were also processed, four of which were resolved and one written off as intractable.
- The Freedom of Movement Council is an independent political body tasked by the Nordic governments with promoting freedom of movement in the Nordic Region for the benefit of both individuals and businesses. It started its activities in 2014.
- The Freedom of Movement Council works in co-operation with the Nordic Council of Ministers’ information service, Info Norden, and the three cross-border information services – the North Calotte Cross-Border Advice Service, The Cross-Border Advice Service Norway-Sweden and Øresunddirekt.
- The Council aims to solve between five and eight specific obstacles to freedom of movement each year.
- Members of the Freedom of Movement Council in 2023: Siv Friðleifsdóttir, Iceland; Annette Lind, Denmark; Vibeke Hammer Madsen, Norway; Kimmo Sasi, Finland; Sven-Erik Bucht, Sweden; Jens Heinrich, Greenland; John Johannessen, Faroe Islands; Max Andersson, Åland; Karen Ellemann, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers; Kjell-Arne Ottosson, representative of the Nordic Council.