New security situation on agenda when Nordic Council meets

20.01.23 | News
Foto: Melker Dahlstrand/Sveriges riksdag.
Does the Nordic Council need to change in response to the new security situation? Do the Nordic countries need joint guidelines for foreign and security policy? How do we guarantee food supplies in times of crisis? These are some of the topics the Nordic Council will discuss in Stockholm this week.

The whole of the Nordic Council –including all five party groups, the four committees and the Presidium – will gather in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, 23-24 January. The committees will discuss members’ proposals, i.e. proposals for closer co-operation submitted by members of the Council.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that all the Nordic countries will soon be members of NATO recur in several proposals on the agenda.

Potential revision of the Helsinki Treaty

The Presidium will discuss whether it is time to update the Helsinki Treaty, the basic charter for Nordic co-operation, to better reflect the current security situation with a war in Europe and the Nordic countries all part of NATO. As things stand, the treaty does not mention foreign and security policy, which is now one of the most important issues facing the Nordic Council.

The Helsinki Treaty was signed in 1962 and last amended in 1995, since when there have been major changes in the Nordic Region, Europe and the world.

Whether and how to update the Helsinki Treaty is also the subject of the Nordic Council’s joint seminar on Tuesday, which will conduct preliminary discussions about the matter.

What is the role of Nordic co-operation?

The Presidium will also consider a proposal to review the role of the Nordic Council and the Council of Ministers in relation to Nordic defence and security co-operation and commission a “Stoltenberg II” report. The proposal calls for the Nordic countries to map the current security situation and the potential for closer co-operation in the Nordic Region.

The Icelandic Minister for Nordic Co-operation, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, will also attend the meeting of the Presidium, at which preliminary discussions will be held about the Nordic Council of Ministers’ budget for 2024. The aim is to agree on a budget compromise by June 2023.

Co-operation to guarantee food during crises

The agenda for the meeting of the Committee for Knowledge and Culture includes how to encourage closer co-operation between ‘folk high schools’ in the Nordic countries and a proposal to approve student discounts on travel throughout the Nordic Region.

The agenda for the Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region includes a proposal for Nordic co-operation on food safety. According to the proposal, the crises of recent years show the need for better food safety and greater self-sufficiency. If the Nordic countries are to cope with climate change, they will need to work more closely together.