Table of Contents

  • Although commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nordic Council in 2012, this is no run-of-the-mill commemorative publication. Rather than taking a retrospective approach, it looks to the future of Nordic co-operation, following up on the debate rekindled by the Swedish historian Gunnar Wetterberg’s book United Nordic Federation (2010) and the Stoltenberg report (2009) on working more closely together on foreign and security policy. In spring 2011, the Nordic Council commissioned the Centre for Nordic Studies (CENS) at the University of Helsinki to conduct a study and to present proposals for strengthening Nordic co-operation.

  • At present, there is a widespread desire, among both politicians and the general public, for the Nordic countries to work more closely together. The crisis within the EU, the strength of the Nordic welfare model and general international interest in the Arctic are just three of the factors behind this. Official co-operation is already rooted in strong traditions, but the current situation is different, and in many ways more favourable, than when the Nordic Council was formed in 1952, the Helsinki Treaty signed in 1962 and the Nordic Council of Ministers set up in 1971.

  • Nordic co-operation is very much back on the political agenda. The prime ministers have prioritised the Nordic perspective by meeting more frequently and by discussing tangible initiatives such as air surveillance over Iceland and research collaboration in the health sector. The foreign ministers are highly active, and their solidarity declaration of April 2011 was an important manifestation of rapidly growing co-operation on peacekeeping, security policy and foreign affairs. In addition, since 2009, the defence ministers have formalised co-operation on procurement, exercises and other activities under the new NORDEFCO (Nordic Defence Co-operation).

  • Our vision for closer co-operation is based on the principle that circumstances vary between policy areas. At present, Nordic co-operation has no need of a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we should identify and prioritise areas in which significant progress can be achieved, and initiate stronger, result-oriented inter-governmental co-operation in them, combined with serious efforts to encourage parliamentary and civic debate and widen the scope for presenting issues and launching initiatives (via Nordic Council committees, think tanks and other forums). All of these activities would come together in what we call a Nordic Community.

  • It is both easy and common to criticise the Nordic Council and Council of Ministers. They are accused of being lumbering, bureaucratic and sloth-like organisations that generate little in the way of tangible results. Often, but not always, the criticism is based on unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings of the organisations’ roles. Many people see them almost as a Nordic parliament and government, although in reality they are simply organs that facilitate co-operation between parliaments and governments. This form of criticism bears witness to a desire for a closer working relationship and greater impact.

  • There has been a great deal of talk about branding and new public diplomacy in recent years. A key message in both the Finnish Institute of Foreign Affairs’ report, Norden – making a difference and The Nordic Region as a Global Winner Region by the think-tank Monday Morning (2005) was that “Norden” (the Nordic Region) and “the Nordic model” are strong brands that ought to be more effectively exploited by the countries of the Region. The question of branding the Region is important but delicate. Every entrepreneur knows that it takes decades to build up a good brand, but only a moment to destroy it.

  • The people on this list have in one way or another contributed to the work of the study. Some have attended a seminar, others have been part of a team, a few have participated in a panel discussion or been interviewed. All deserve our gratitude. They cannot, of course, be held responsible for the ideas expressed in the book.