Traditionally, week 44 has always been devoted to the annual autumn Session of the Nordic Council – the major Nordic political gathering at which MPs and ministers get together for talks and debates.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to Session no. 72a, which would have taken place in Reykjavík, Iceland, 27–29 October. Although there will be no plenary debates involving the 87 members of the Nordic Council, the level of political activity will remain high all week.
The Nordic Council Presidium, four committees and the five party groups will all meet as planned, and a number of other meetings will be held between various committees and ministers, as well as between the Presidium and ministers.
Pandemic debate with ministers
The Nordic prime ministers have been invited to a joint meeting with the members of the Nordic Council on 27 October. The idea is to give them all an opportunity to debate the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Nordic Region and Nordic co-operation. The debate will be streamed live online.
“I think this debate, given the topical subject, will be of particular interest. The Nordic countries have, of course, adopted different strategies in the fight against the virus, and it will be fascinating to hear the reasoning behind them. I hope that we will be able to learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future. It is clear that we need to get better at working together in times of crisis,” says Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, President of the Nordic Council.
During the pandemic, the Nordic Council has discussed the need for closer co-operation between the Nordic countries. In April, the Presidium wrote a letter to the prime ministers, calling for better co-operation in times of crisis. It stressed the need for Nordic risk analyses and contingency planning and proposed setting up an independent Nordic contingency commission.
Presidium to meet prime ministers
On the same day as the COVID-19 debate, a separate meeting of the Presidium and the prime ministers will discuss the strategy for societal security, which was approved at the 2019 Session. The strategy sets out a series of recommendations for closer co-operation.
At the behest of the Council, the prime ministers have now responded to the strategy. However, the Presidium was not completely satisfied with what they had to say.
“We’re both disappointed and surprised by the responses we have received. In the situation in which we now find ourselves, it is more necessary than ever that the recommendations in the strategy are fully implemented. The meeting with the prime ministers provides an opportunity to elicit direct responses regarding their intentions,” Gunnarsdóttir points out.
This theme will also continue the following day when the Presidium will discuss societal security with the ministers responsible for contingency planning.
According to the preliminary plan for the Session week, the Presidium will also hold meetings with several other ministers, including the ministers for Nordic co-operation, on 27 and 28 October.
Presidium as plenary
Since there will not be a regular Session this year, there will be no plenary sessions with the whole Nordic Council. This means that a number of issues that, according to the statutes, should be dealt with in plenary during a Session will now have to be addressed in other ways. The Presidium will act as the plenary for issues that cannot be postponed, e.g. the election of the President and Vice-President for 2021.
Youth Council starts the week
The political week actually starts on Saturday 24 October, when the Nordic Youth Council holds its own Session. The week closes with a Presidium meeting on 29 October.
This is the first time since 1953 in Copenhagen that the Nordic Council has cancelled its Session.
Watch the award ceremony on TV or via live stream
The Nordic Council will also award its five annual prizes during the Session week. This year, there will be no award ceremony in Iceland. Rather, everything will take place online and socially distanced.
The winners of prizes for literature, children and young people’s literature, film, music and the environment will be revealed in a TV broadcast produced in collaboration with the Icelandic public service broadcaster, RUV, on Tuesday 27 October. Viewers from across the Nordic Region will be able to follow the ceremony from their living rooms.
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.