Nordic cooperation nowadays includes almost all policy areas from tax policy and security affairs to cultural issues. Cooperation takes place both through formal organisations and informally, for instance at the level of non-governmental organisations. Intergovernmental Nordic cooperation is coordinated by the Foreign Ministry.
All five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – as well as three autonomous territories – Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland – participate in Nordic cooperation. In recent years, cooperation with the Baltic states has also increased.
The Nordic countries share a joint history, a similar culture and societal system, and Nordic languages. The Nordic model is built largely on a tradition characterised by the strong rule of law, active popular movements and civil society organisations, freedom of expression, equality, solidarity and closeness to nature.
The Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation is located in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Located in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation (SNC) is part of the Department for Europe. It assists the Prime Minister and the Minister for Nordic Cooperation in leading the Finnish Government’s activities in the Nordic Council of Ministers and coordinates Nordic cooperation in the sphere of public administration. The Chief of the Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation represents Finland on the Nordic Cooperation Committee.
In other ministries, the ministers are assisted by public servants responsible for Nordic cooperation.
Cooperation has brought successes
Nordic cooperation can be described as successful. The Nordic countries have been pioneers on many levels and have achieved results that the European Union has yet to reach.
The most important accomplishments of cooperation include the Nordic waiver of passport control, which was introduced in the early 1950s, the common labour market (1954), the language agreement (1981) and the agreement on social security (1982).
The aim is to make the Nordic region a single area where the individual citizen can move about easily. The individual citizen must be able to study and work across Nordic borders freely without losing benefits earned or without double taxation. In addition, the individual citizen must receive services in the mother tongue. This objective is pursued further by dismantling the remaining cross-border barriers.
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 base 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.
There are about sixty other joint Nordic agreements. These include, for example, the Protocol concerning the exemption of nationals of the Nordic countries from the obligation to have a passport (1954), the Agreement concerning cultural co-operation (1971), the Nordic Environmental Protection Convention (1974), the Agreement on municipal cross-border co-operation (1977), the Nordic Language Convention (1987), the Agreement Concerning a Common Nordic Labour Market (1982), the Agreement on social security (1981), the Nordic Convention on Social Assistance and Social Services (1994) and the Agreement on Admission to Higher Education (1997).
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 Project Fund, the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, the Nordic Development Fund and Kulturkontakt Nord, the Nordic Culture Point in Suomenlinna as well as 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.