Siv Friðleifsdóttir, chair of the Freedom of Movement Council, pointed out at the meeting that obstacles to freedom of movement are now more complex than before. “That’s why they’re also more difficult to deal with. And if they’re to be dealt with, what’s required is a greater focus on Nordic co-operation in the national decision-making process,” stated Friðleifsdóttir.
“That’s where we need help. You have a strong political position to ensure that obstacles to freedom of movement and mobility challenges are prioritised at the national level, and that you work with us and other relevant stakeholders. In the end, in most cases it’s the governments that can solve the issues,” she explained to the ministers.
Iceland’s Minister for Nordic Co-operation Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, who is chairing the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation in 2023, emphasised that freedom of movement is a top priority.
“It’s vital that we succeed in removing the obstacles that stand in the way of our goal to become the most integrated region in the world. We have to work hard to make it as easy as possible for people to work, study and move between our countries. That’s how we’ll achieve our goals. I think we can achieve more by focusing on the theme areas that we discussed at the meeting,” said Guðbrandsson.
Six theme areas in 2023
At the meeting, the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation were briefed on the priorities of the Freedom of Movement Council in 2023. This year, the council has six theme areas linked to mobility and integration, namely: industry-regulated professional qualifications; digitalisation; co-operation in population registers; tax-related obstacles to freedom of movement; pension matters; and border-region statistics.
At the meeting, although special emphasis was placed on co-operation in population registers and tax-related obstacles to freedom of movement, efforts are underway in all those areas. Over the course of the year, the council will prioritise 30 specific obstacles to freedom of movement.
Obstacles to freedom of movement to be put on the political agenda
In recent years, the Nordic Council of Ministers has worked actively on Vision 2030, the goal of which is for the Nordic Region to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. Also, in the coming years, the vision will steer the activities of the Nordic Council of Ministers and new working plans will be drawn up to support efforts relating to the vision.
In her discussions with the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation, Siv Friðleifsdóttir underlined the importance of giving the Freedom of Movement Council a clear mandate in the upcoming working plans.
“The action plan which now governs the efforts relating to the vision hasn’t been a complete success in embracing the importance of intra-Nordic integration and mobility between the countries. The Freedom of Movement Council got a new, stronger mandate in 2021 – which perhaps somewhat compensates for this fact. But we aren’t quite there yet. That’s why we’re very focused on putting obstacles to freedom of movement and mobility higher up on the agenda through the co-operation programme of the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation and in the associated working plans,” said Friðleifsdóttir.
The current mandate of the Freedom of Movement Council runs until 2024, and a new mandate will begin in 2025 at the same time as the new co-operation programmes and working plans come into effect.
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 both residents and businesses.