The Nordic countries are the most natural partners for Finland. They share similar values of democracy and openness and values concerning the welfare state. The Nordic countries have a long history of cooperation. Cooperation takes place both between official organisations and unofficially, through civil society organisations, for example. Intergovernmental Nordic cooperation is coordinated by the Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
All the five Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — and the 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 common history and 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 determined climate action.
Nordic cooperation has already for decades sought to facilitate and promote living, studying, working or doing business across the Nordic region for all Nordic citizens.
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. Nordic cooperation focuses on work towards climate-sustainable welfare states, the roadmap to decarbonise and green investments.
The three priority areas where this aim is pursued are a green Nordic region, a competitive Nordic region and a socially sustainable Nordic region.
According to the Programme of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's Government, Nordic cooperation is particularly important for Finland. During the government term, integration between the Nordic countries will be deepened and free movement will be promoted by removing cross-border barriers to further facilitate mobility, studying and working across the Nordic countries. In addition, Nordic cooperation on preparedness and security of supply will be strengthened, for example through increased energy cooperation.
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.
The annual budget of the Nordic Council of Ministers is approximately EUR 130 million. The Nordic countries finance the Council of Ministers’ budget as agreed based on their respective GDP. Finland's share is approximately one sixth of the budget.
In its work, the Council of Ministers focuses on eleven policy areas and on digitalisation, which is a temporary policy area. The work of the Council of Ministers is supported by a secretariat in Copenhagen. Karen Ellemann from Denmark started as Secretary General in 2023.
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.
Several sectors engage in Nordic cooperation outside the Nordic Council of Ministers. The most well-known 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.
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
An essential part of Nordic cooperation are the approximately 20 joint Nordic institutions based in the various Nordic countries.
Located in Finland are the Nordic Investment Bank, the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO), the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) 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.
The Norden associations carry out Nordic civil society cooperation through their regional field-specific organisations and information points. Info Norden provides advice on cross-border barriers.