The Nordic Council of Ministers has been in session in Iceland. The ministers made speeches, handed out prizes and went home.
A union predating the EU
Since 1952 the idea of Nordic co-operation has lived a romantic life. Denmark and Norway joined NATO in 1949, while Sweden stayed neutral in its own right, although in support for a Finland under the thumb of its big eastern neighbor – where the dream of a Nordic defence treaty remained in limbo for many years.
However, the Nordic flame was still burning over a whole region that today, of course, is much more than Scandinavia and Finland, including the Finland Åland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.
Each other’s family
They have a lot in common: historically, linguistically, climatically, culturally and a healthy interest in the Arctic. The populations feel they are each other’s family.
They mostly understand each other but are now also English-speaking!
They created the first Schengen – a passport-free travel treaty that eased movement at a time when not everybody had a passport. Free movement of labour was a fact in the Nordic countries long before the EU got it. Thousands found new jobs – and spouses in the region.
Meanwhile, for many years, the council provided a picnic ground for Nordic politicians who got together, ate, drank, toasted and sang. And when they came home, nobody (including the press corps) could remember any details.
The decorum was that you could go and let your hair down, and it probably did Nordic co-operation a lot of good – not least when they found themselves all together at the EU. They were only 10 percent of the European family, but they could be better heard if they voiced their opinion in unison.
Time to wake up
Now it seems that the council is about to come out of its sleep and face the new challenge of refugees and migrants, especially from Syria, entering without even knocking on the door.
In Denmark the population is more relaxed than the politicians, but in Sweden dark forces are lurking in the shadows and the population is losing its cool in the midst of arson attacks and killings.
It is an unprecedented situation and the Nordic Council is the natural forum to deal with it.
Rising to the challenge
Peter Christensen, the newly-appointed defence minister, is also the minister for the Nordic Council and we hope he will use the opportunity to let the council undertake a co-ordinating role in a matter that involves everybody. The Nordic region will have to take responsibility for as much as it can in a civilized manner.
The essence of all the speeches over the years is that if we feel and act together, we can meet any challenge. So let’s set an example for the rest of Europe.