“People elsewhere talk of the Nordic Region as a positive ‘experimentarium’ when it comes to social issues, an attractive place. The way in which our labour market works is something we have long taken for granted. Had we lacked ambition, the Region wouldn’t be what it is today. But the time is now ripe for a critical review and to formulate new ambitions for the future,” he says.
Dagfinn Høybråten, Secretary General of Nordic Council of Ministers, explains that Nielson was chosen because his background at the European Commission and the key posts he has held in Denmark mean that he lends a certain gravitas to the task.
“The review will cast light on an area in which the Nordic countries have traditionally worked very closely together, but in which Nordic co-operation has been overshadowed by developments in Europe in recent years,” Høybråten points out.
The ministers of labour envisage that the review will lead to closer and more binding co-operation in the Region. Specifically, it will make recommendations regarding the potential for the Nordic countries to work together on EU/EEA matters, but also in relation to other international questions – especially when the work touches on OECD and ILO activities.
Nielson will also take initiatives that support the Nordic Council of Ministers’ objectives of increasing employment, reducing unemployment, improving the working environment and making the labour market more inclusive. In addition, he will look at the Nordic system of tripartite industrial relations.
“I look forward to the task and to working with the Council of Ministers and all of the other stakeholders around the Region,” he says.
In early summer and autumn 2015, the former Commissioner will visit all of the Nordic countries, as well as the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland, to meet with the ministers responsible for working life, employers and trade unions. He also plans to meet with heads of official agencies, researchers, social commentators, NGO representatives and other stakeholders who exert influence on Nordic co-operation in this sector.
This will be the third in a series of Nordic reviews. The first culminated in the 2009 Stoltenberg Report – “Nordic Co-operation on Foreign and Security Policy” – by Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Norwegian minister of defence and foreign affairs. This was followed in 2014 by the Könberg Report – “The Future Nordic Co-operation on Health” – by Bo Könberg, former Swedish minister of social affairs.