A revision of the Helsinki Treaty has been discussed at the meetings of the council several times, most recently at the Session of the Nordic Council in Helsinki in November last year, when the Danish member Bertel Haarder raised the issue. At its meeting in Stockholm on 24 January, the Nordic Council presidium considered a proposal that, together with the Nordic Council, the Nordic countries appoint a commission to explore the need for updating the Helsinki Treaty and put forward proposals for any amendments. The presidium chose to continue looking at the issue by first exploring what the more concrete objectives of any updates should be. A working group must now come up with more concrete proposals that can be considered at the meeting of the presidium later this year.
The 1962 Helsinki Treaty is the basis for official Nordic parliamentary co-operation. The treaty has been updated eight times, most recently in 1995. Opinions have been voiced regarding the renewal of the treaty to enable it to better respond to the changing global situation, especially with regard to environmental and climate policies, as well as sustainable development and security policies.
The meeting of the Nordic Council in Stockholm was also attended by Johan Strang, Associate Professor at the Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki, who gave a speech on the Helsinki Treaty.
“When official Nordic co-operation began, power politics and the Cold War’s balance of power meant that co-operation on defence and security policy wasn’t possible – today there are no such political obstacles,” says Strang.
Heléne Björklund, Swedish social democratic member of the Nordic Council, says that the presidium’s decision to wait to give the governments a recommendation means that they want to be well prepared. She believes there needs to be a little more detail before proposals can be tabled for the way forwards. Ultimately, it’s the Nordic governments that will decide on any expansion of the treaty, and Björklund believes that more concrete proposals need to be put on the table for them to show interest in the issue.