The Nordic Council of Ministers in an increasingly globalised world
18th of January 2016
Blog post 12/2015 – Dagfinn Høybråten
Ours is an increasingly global existence. This is true in a growing number of contexts, including Nordic co-operation. For better or worse, these words sum up 2015 for the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The year started with some negative news regarding Nordic co-operation with Russia after the Russian authorities classified the Nordic Council of Ministers as a foreign agent on the basis of a decision originating in local NGO legislation. It was clear from the outset that having agent status would make it practically impossible for us to continue our successful efforts in creating contacts and building networks between administrations, business and civil society, primarily in relation to culture and education in the Nordic countries and Northwest Russia.
The Nordic Council of Ministers did its utmost to demonstrate that the Russian interpretation of its activities was inaccurate. Nevertheless the decision stood, and in the spring operations were curtailed at our offices in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, as well as at our hubs in Murmansk, Petrozavodsk and Arkhangelsk. Co-operation agreements between the council of ministers and Russia remain in place, and work may resume as and when conditions change.
Nordic co-operation with Northwest Russia has not come to an end despite the cessation of activities at the two offices. Many of the projects are continuing via other administrative bodies, and activities at the offices in the Baltic countries now have a slightly greater focus on co-operation with Russia than they did before.
World events reared an ugly head in February when Copenhagen was hit by two terrorist attacks. The Ministers for Nordic Co-operation, who met shortly after the attacks, stated that there was a need for a more active joint commitment to democracy, inclusion and security in the Nordic Region. The Secretariat to the Nordic Council of Ministers rapidly developed a cross-sectoral programme with a focus on countering extremism and making life in the Nordic countries safer for everyone. A conference in February 2016 will mark the official start of the programme for co-operation on democracy, integration and security.
Global challenges relate not just to security, but also to climate and environmental threats and finding solutions to these. During the year, the Nordic countries and the Nordic Council of Ministers positioned themselves strategically in this area, focusing specifically on solution models. At the international Arctic Circle conference in Reykjavik, the Nordic Council of Ministers drew attention to creative innovations that utilise natural materials to boost sustainability in the fashion industry. The Arctic is a key focus area in Nordic and global climate policy.
Climate policy in 2015 reached its peak in December, at the UN’s climate conference in Paris. This was the first test of strength of Nordic branding and positioning, with results that were nothing short of outstanding. The Nordic pavilion’s programme at COP21 provided great visibility not only for the top Nordic political messages in the areas of climate and energy, but also for the Nordic Council of Ministers as an organisation and the Nordic Region as a whole. The pavilion was also a natural, effective hub for Nordic delegates, and so can justifiably be said to have greatly benefited the overall objectives for Nordic political co-operation.
The beginning of 2016 also marks the handover of the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers from Denmark to Finland. The primary themes of the Finnish presidency will be water, nature and people. The Nordic Council of Ministers will continue to work for creativity, new ideas and innovation.
The opportunities are endless, but world events have presented even our Region with new challenges as the new year approaches. Like the rest of the world, our open and outward-looking Nordic Region is struggling with the consequences of the refugee crisis.
The Nordic Region shares strong values that underpin the Region’s co-operation. Together we are stronger. And we will be able to say the same in 2016.