This is one way of summarising one of the Nordic Day debates at the summer political meeting in Almedalen on the Swedish island of Gotland. The Minister for Nordic Co-operation of the Provincial Government of Åland, Veronica Thörnroos, invited her colleagues the Minister for Co-operation from the Faroe Islands, Annika Olsen, and the NSK Chairman, Jørgen S. Søndergaard, representing Greenland, to discuss the Nordic Region’s relationship with the EU.
It was an enlightening session for the predominantly Swedish audience. Not only did they learn that only a few of the Nordic countries are full members of the EU (Denmark, Finland, and Sweden), but also that the Faroe Islands and Greenland, despite being part of the Danish realm, have a different relationship with the European Union. By way of summary, the Faroe Islands are outside of but related to what goes on in the European market, while Greenland has some agreements with the EU, and Åland, like Finland, is a member.
Consequently, all have to take their own autonomous regions, their governing countries, and the EU into consideration.
“It can be a balancing act that is not only difficult and time-consuming but also worthwhile,” the panellists agreed. Having several parties around the table often means that discussions can go further.
Part of the EU
One conclusion was that Nordic co-operation had been a result of what was going on in Europe long before the EU came about, and that it will always relate to what is going on in the EU and the rest of the world. Swedish State Secretary Maja Fjaestad joined the discussion a little later and stressed the importance of international involvement in Nordic co-operation.
“We have a historical and cultural heritage in the Nordic Region that binds us together and makes it easy for us to work together, but we have a hugely important role to play internationally,” she said.
Several of the Nordic Day debates in Almedalen addressed various aspects of sustainability, including fashion, urban planning, and plastic pollution in the Baltic Sea. H&M;’s director for sustainability, Anna Gedda, and Annika Engblom (Swedish Moderate party), Chair of the Nordic Council’s Citizens and Consumer Rights Committee, took part in the fashion debate. The debate on the Baltic Sea was preceded by the première of the film Microplastics are destroying our Baltic Sea, by television journalist Folke Rydén.
The Minister for Co-operation from Åland, Veronica Thörnroos, summed up the problem in the following comment:
“The Baltic Sea means everything to us. Not having sustainability on the political agenda would mean the end for us on Åland.”