The Presidium of the Nordic Council: The Helsinki Treaty should be updated and a Nordic defence and security commission is needed

The Presidium of the Nordic Council decided to continue their work with a recommendation to the Nordic governments to update the Helsinki Treaty. The Nordic Council’s parliamentarians are expected to vote on the proposal at the Session of the Nordic Council in Reykjavík in October. The working group proposes that the Nordic Council recommends the Nordic governments to appoint a Nordic commission to develop a concrete proposal for updating the Helsinki Treaty. 

New challenges and opportunities

The working group suggests that a potential update of the Helsinki Treaty should include several new articles on Nordic co-operation. For example, the current agreement doesn’t mention climate policy, even though it’s an important area of Nordic co-operation today. The group would also like the treaty to highlight efforts relating to obstacles to freedom of movement. 

Other topics that the working group recommends the potential update to cover are children’s and young people’s rights and inclusion, including the role of the Nordic Youth Council, civil security, preparedness and societal security, and defence and security policy. The group notes that it’s important that the Helsinki Treaty reflects the challenges and opportunities facing the Nordic Region. 

“We need to update the Helsinki Treaty to make it more of its time. Otherwise, there’s a risk that Nordic co-operation will lose some of its significance and relevance,” says Oddný G. Harðardóttir, Vice-President of the Nordic Council. 

The Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland wish to become equal parties to the Helsinki Treaty and thereby in Nordic co-operation. To accommodate the wishes of the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland to become equal parties to the Helsinki Treaty, the working group suggests that the governments of the Nordic countries are encouraged to facilitate their strengthened participation within Nordic co-operation. 

Nordic defence and security commission

During the Icelandic presidency, the Nordic Council has proposed that a Nordic defence and security commission be established that includes parliamentarians from all the Nordic countries. The background of the initiative is that although there are various national defence and security commissions, reports, and investigations in the Nordic Region, there is none in this field that has a Nordic mandate.  

“The entire Nordic Region is now in NATO, and a new NORDEFCO vision has been adopted. Everything should therefore be in place for a Nordic defence and security commission. We should develop joint security policy analyses on central issues such as developments in the Arctic, North Atlantic, and Baltic Sea, and the development of total defence with a focus on cyber security and hybrid threats,” says Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, President of the Nordic Council. 

It is noted that the principal should be the Nordic governments through the ministers for defence. To ensure a holistic Nordic perspective and parliamentary anchoring, it’s crucial that the Nordic parliaments are also represented in the commission. 

Under the proposal, the defence and security commission should have a broad mandate and a comprehensive expert and political composition. Key elements of the work can include a joint security policy analysis of developments in the Arctic, North Atlantic, and Baltic Sea, and the development of total defence with a focus on cyber security and hybrid threats. Overall security, a joint situational picture, and better co-ordination of national defence decision-making processes should be central to the work. 

“It’s gratifying that the Presidium of the Nordic Council has decided to continue their work with recommendations to the Nordic governments with regard to the strengthening of Nordic defence and security policy co-operation, and on updating the Helsinki Treaty,” says Kristina Háfoss, Secretary General of the Nordic Council.