Nordic cooperation

The Nordic countries are Finland’s most natural partners. The Nordic countries share similar values concerning democracy and openness and values concerning the welfare state. The Nordic countries have a long history of cooperation. Both formal and informal organisations are engaged in the cooperation; one example of the latter is cooperation between non-governmental organisations. Intergovernmental Nordic cooperation is coordinated by the Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Kuvassa polkupyöriä ja ihmisiä meren rannalla. Taustalla näkyy tuulivoimala.
Photo: Henrik Trygg/Johnér

All the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – and the three autonomous territories, Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, participate in the Nordic cooperation.  In recent years, cooperation with the Baltic states has also increased.

The Nordic countries share a common history, and they are joined by a similar culture and societal system, and the Nordic languages.  The Nordic model is largely built on a tradition characterised by strong democracies, the rule of law, equality, freedom of expression, tolerance, active and participatory civil societies, sustainability and long-term climate work.

In August 2019, the Nordic Prime Ministers published a vision according to which the Nordic region will be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The Nordic cooperation focuses on work towards climate-sustainable welfare states, the roadmap to decarbonise and green investments.  To meet the goals of the Nordic vision, three priorities are pursued: a green Nordic region, a competitive Nordic region and a socially sustainable Nordic region.

The Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government includes several mentions of Nordic cooperation.  According to the Government Programme, Finland aims to further facilitate the movement of citizens between the Nordic countries. In practice, this means, among other things, Nordic leadership in the fight against climate change, digitalisation, and cultural and defence matters.

Working to be the most sustainable region in the world

The Nordic Council of Ministers is the official collaborative body of the governments of the Nordic countries. The Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers rotates between the countries with the prime minister of the Presidency chairing the prime ministerial meetings. Practical work is led by Ministers for Nordic Cooperation. Each of the Nordic countries contributes to the budget of the Council of Ministers as agreed based on their respective GDP figures.  The annual budget of the Nordic Council of Ministers is approximately EUR 130 million, of which Finland pays about a sixth.

In its work, the Council of Ministers focuses on eleven policy areas and on digitalisation, which is a temporary policy area. The Secretariat of the Nordic Council of Ministers, based in Copenhagen, is currently headed by Secretary General Paula Lehtomäki from Finland.

Official Nordic cooperation

The main official bodies of Nordic cooperation are the Nordic Council (NC) founded in 1952, and the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) founded in 1971.

The basis of cooperation is the Treaty of Co-operation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, i.e. the Helsinki Treaty (1962), which has been amended several times, most recently in September 1995.

Active Nordic cooperation outside the Nordic Council of Ministers 

The most well-known sectors are cooperation in the foreign and security policy between the five Nordic countries, known as N5; the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO); and the Nordic Haga cooperation between the authorities responsible for rescue and preparedness. Ministers responsible for development cooperation and development policy, for foreign trade, and for transport also collaborate at the Nordic level. In the formats where a rotating chairmanship is not followed, meetings are usually chaired in a similar way as meetings of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Joint Nordic institutions

The joint Nordic institutions – of which there are about 20 in the various Nordic countries – constitute an essential element of Nordic cooperation.

Located in Finland are the Nordic Investment Bank, the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO), the Nordic Development Fund and the Nordic Culture Point, the Nordic Occupational Health and Safety Education Institute (NIVA), and the Finnish branch office of the Nordic Centre for Welfare and Social Issues (NVC).

The Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) was established by the Nordic Council of Ministers; its membership has expanded to cover the Baltic states; Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Through their regional field-specific organisations and information points, the Norden associations carry out Nordic civil society cooperation and provide Info Norden advice on cross-border barriers.