Asphjell has been involved in the Nordic Council since 2009 and belongs to the Social Democrat Group. He’s also a member of the Nordic Council’s Presidium. His journey in the Nordic Council began as a substitute in 2009 and he’s been a member since 2012.
Asphjell says that he would like to strengthen Nordic co-operation in times of crisis.
“We’re living in troubled times. We’ve gone from a pandemic that affected all parts of society to a war in Europe. The Norwegian programme for the Presidency will put Nordic crisis co-operation high on the agenda. Our experiences from handling the pandemic must be used to step up co-operation on preparedness in the Nordic countries. With Finland and Sweden in NATO, Nordic defence co-operation will also become closer,” says Asphjell.
A safe Nordic Region
Helge Orten is chair of the Conservative Group and member of the Committee for Knowledge and Culture in the Nordic Region. He points out the potential of a Nordic Region in which all the countries are members of NATO.
“Soon, hopefully, all the Nordic countries will join NATO. This is an incredible opportunity on many levels. In the Nordic Council, we’ve been saying for a long time that we must have more Nordic co-operation on foreign and security policies. Now we have that opportunity,” says Orten.
Asphjell and Orten were unanimously elected on 3 November at the Session of the Nordic Council in Helsinki. They will assume their roles at the start of the new year.
The Norwegian Presidency programme for 2023 is influenced by the new security policy situation, with a focus on the increased need for Nordic defence co-operation. A secure Nordic Region is a top priority for the Norwegian Presidency.
Green transition in the time of energy crisis
The Norwegian Presidency also highlights the energy crisis as an important theme, as well as the ongoing climate crisis. According to the Presidency, the Nordic Region should lead development by building new energy sources with a focus on sustainability.
“We’re facing a climate crisis. We must reduce emissions. Green solutions for energy and transport are crucial. The latest energy crisis has further strengthened the fact that it’s essential we get new energy sources in place! The Nordic Region can be a pioneering region”, says Orten.
Learning from the pandemic
Norway wants those living in the Nordic Region to feel safe and that requires a green Nordic Region. Crisis management during the pandemic is, according to the Presidency programme, something that the Nordic Council can learn from in order to manage the climate crisis.
The Presidency emphasises that a green Nordic Region isn’t only crucial for a safe Nordic Region, but also an obligation to future generations.
Young people in the Nordic Region
In addition to a safe and green Nordic Region, the Norwegian Presidency wants to prioritise young people’s participation in society and politics. Norway wants to stop the trend of young people finding themselves outside the labour market, and sees educational opportunities across national borders in the Nordic Region as important. However, Norway points out that education should meet the needs of the future.
The Norwegian Presidency sees young people as partners and believes that they have the knowledge and resources that Nordic co-operation needs.
“Young people of today are the future. We must work together to safeguard their education, work, and participation in society. A safe and green Nordic Region is a prerequisite for the future of young people. Young people have vast knowledge and resources. The Nordic tradition of involving children and young people is important, as they play a crucial role in our societies and democracies,” says Asphjell.
Norway also points out that young people’s future is affected by the climate choices we make today. The pandemic affected young people’s mental health. Norway’s Presidency wants to learn from how the pandemic was managed in order to improve the management of young people’s health in times of crisis.
The Nordic Council is the official body for Nordic inter-parliamentary co-operation. It has 87 members from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland.