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Presentation by Kenneth Broman, Chief of Staff in the Nordic Council of Ministers, May 2015
Even if you apply a liberal defintion and include Greenland as a Nordic country, most of the Arctic is not Nordic. Much of the Nordic region (whether you include Greenland or not) on the other hand, is Arctic.
And, for that reason, no celebration of Nordic Day, on March 23, would be complete without a discussion of the role Nordic institutions play in the region. Chief among these is the Nordic Council of Ministers, the official body for inter-governmental co-operation among the five member states and three associate countries.
This year is an especially important year for Arctic issues for the Nordic countries: Firstly, it marks the start of four years of Nordic leadership of the Arctic Council; Finland assumes its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council on May 11. Iceland follows in 2019.
More directly related to the Nordic Council system, the current iteration of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Arctic Co-operation Programme ends in 2017, and the organisation is working to identify the objectives that will be included in the next version, a task that must be complete in time for the new programme to be approved this autumn, during the council’s annual meeting.
Since 1996, the point of successive versions of the Arctic Co-operation Programme has been to supplement the Nordic Council of Ministers’ programmes, strategies and initiatives that deal with region. The overall objective of the 2015-2017 programme has been ‘sustainable development’, and focuses specifically on four areas: the people of the Arctic; sustainable economic development; environment, nature and climate; and education and skills enhancement.
Such human-oriented areas are in keeping with the work of the Nordic Council system towards other issues, and one of the outcomes of the current programme has been to highlight social conditions, youth issues and the economy and regional development in not just the Nordic Arctic, but the entire region.
As part of official celebrations of the day, the Nordic Council is reflecting over how things like Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as America’s president and a straining European refugee system will affect collaboration in the Nordic region in the coming years. These are not easy issues; indeed, refugee pressures have resulted in the temporary suspension of the open border between Denmark and Sweden, something that had otherwise been a fact of Scandinavian living since 1952.
If such topics prove too much too gloomy for a day of celebration, then bringing up a discussion about how the region can continue to affect the collaboration in the Arctic may help brighten things somewhat.