Speech/statement | Date: 08/04/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim (Oslo, 8 April)
Briefing for the Diplomatic Corps in Oslo about Nordic Co-operation and the Norwegian Presidency by Minister of Nordic Co-operation (and Minister of International Development), Anne Beathe Tvinnereim.
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It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, just before Easter. And to see you all in person. We are about to return to normal meetings, as far as the pandemic is concerned, which is a very good thing.
But the circumstances are not normal at all. The horrific suffering we are witnessing from Russia’s war in Ukraine is on our minds all the time. However, there are also other issues where our commitment is needed. I have just come back from a three days’ very meaningful visit to South Sudan, and next week I will travel to the Our Ocean Conference in Palau, to speak about climate change, the ocean agenda, the SDGs, on behalf of the Norwegian Prime Minister. Palau and the Pacific are far from the Nordics and the North Atlantic; however, we very much share the deep concerns for the ocean’s health, the planet’s health. The ongoing green shift, the new green economy should also be a blue economy.
As the Chief of Protocol just said, in the government I have two ‘ministerial hats’ – and in Norwegian politics I can add a third one, as the Center Party’s deputy leader, which allows me to travel a lot in Norway. In the Center Party we are, as you know, a bit skeptical to the European Union’s powers, however, we are even more passionate Nordic fans, as a result. As Norway’s Minister for Nordic Cooperation, cross-border collaboration in the Nordic region is a topic of great importance to me and the government. It is close to my political heart and mind.
Norway currently holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. Which is the backdrop for this briefing on Norway’s ongoing work of Nordic cooperation.
I would also recommend you read my address to the Parliament, Stortinget on Nordic co-operation of 31 March, which is being translated into English, and the debate on that address we had in Stortinget yesterday, to be found on the parliament’s webpage. The address is a thorough review of Norway’s policy.
Nordic cooperation has deep roots and traditions, in our shared history, politics, economics, language and culture. Nordic cooperation originates from geography; today it represents our common identity. The Nordic countries are said to have the world’s oldest regional partnership, admittedly some few periods of warfare, which we all have forgotten.
We do not agree on everything, of course not. Some strategies and outlooks are different. Like for instance the strategies or restrictions we had during the peak of the Covid crisis. However, we managed to keep strong cooperation and close communication, which show the robustness of Nordic structures, institutional systems, helped by political and personal bonds.
We have learnt that we are stronger together – also in times of crisis. While the Covid pandemic is somewhat fading now, Europe is facing the most challenging – the most dangerous – security crisis in decades. It is in times such as these that we see the true value of reinforcing our partnership and collaboration. We speak and meet almost every day, in one format or the other.
Internationally, the Nordic countries continue to be each other’s closest friends and partners. This is also reflected in the strong and unified Nordic voice we present – and want to present – to the world. We have even invented or coined some internationally renowned policies, like for instance the Nordic welfare state.
Now, we are witnessing a war in our European neighbourhood, causing one of the largest humanitarian crises since World War II. The Nordic countries have different institutional affiliations in NATO and the EU, but our security assessments and response have been very similar. In my daily work, I am extremely worried about the soaring food prices, the global rise in food insecurity, because of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Last autumn, in the government’s political platform (Hurdal), food security was made top priority in Norway’s development policy – and closely linked to our climate policy.
The Nordic cooperation has been strong for decades, and to the benefit of the daily life of our citizens. I guess the Nordic ambassadors in the room can attest to that.
Personally, I grew up close to the Swedish border and was therefore able to experience the benefits of our close collaboration first-hand. It is, in fact, almost hard to notice the border some places. For 70 years, citizens of the Nordic countries have been able to travel throughout the region without passport checks, and to settle where they wish, without the need to apply for a residence permit.
Furthermore, we have had a common Nordic labor market for nearly as long. We can live, work, study and move freely across the Nordic borders. This builds trust, people-to-people, and it shapes a common identity.
Now, a few words about the Nordic ‘building’, the main institutions. – Because this solid structure is the backbone of Nordic cooperation.
And, interestingly enough: We see that these Nordic institutions have served and still serve as an inspiration for regional cooperation in other parts of the world, where neighbors reach out across borders to coordinate their policies. Regionalization is a trend in today’s multipolar world.
The Nordic Council was founded – as some other important European and transatlantic organizations – a few years after the Second World War, in 1952, 70 years ago, in the spirit of true Nordic brotherhood (and sisterhood).
The members of the Nordic Council are members of the national parliaments.
The Nordic Council provides advice and proposes initiatives to the governments of the Nordic countries and to the Nordic Council of Ministers. You may call it Nordic democracy in practice, even if the political party landscape is a bit different from country to country, yet there are parallels.
The Nordic Council of Ministers was founded in 1971 and is the official body for inter-governmental cooperation in the Nordic region. The Council of Ministers consists of 11 ministerial councils in addition to the Ministers for Nordic Cooperation – as I am in Norway. There is institutional collaboration on matters like environment and climate, health and social affairs, education and research, culture, finance, and labor, and more. As a parallel to the EU system, one might say.
Excellencies, let me turn to some of the focus areas of the Nordic Council of Ministers and the priorities of our Presidency.
In 2019 the Nordic prime ministers adopted a new vision for the cooperation. It states that the Nordic region should become the most sustainable, the most integrated region in the world by 2030. Nothing less.
The objective of our roadmap, which is called Vision 2030, is to cultivate green growth, carbon neutrality, circular economies, and social sustainability. Core priorities are to promote knowledge, innovation, cross-border mobility, and digital interoperability.
Moreover, the Nordic countries will continue to be frontrunners in promoting inclusion and equality through shared values and cultural exchange.
The key objectives of Norway’s Presidency are to intensify the efforts to translate the vision into action. – Because that’s what counts.
We will increase the pace of the Nordic green transition, which is more important than ever. We put particular emphasis on the links between climate and nature. We stress the importance of reducing loss of biodiversity. And we highlight the ways in which nature-based solutions contribute to the green transition.
The Nordic countries are in several areas at the forefront of green technologies, as a parallel to the unfortunate fact that we have front row seats to the rapid climate change going on in the High North.
Together, the Nordic countries have complementary advantages. Areas of cooperation are green shipping, renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable fisheries, and marine management, to mention a few.
Another focus area is social sustainability. The Nordic welfare model is – as I said – one of the most defining features of our region.
High rates of employment make the welfare model more sustainable. We will increase our knowledge on effective measures for the inclusion of more people in working life and in society in general. With a particular emphasis on vulnerable young people.
Moreover, we want to share information and lessons learned on how the pandemic has affected the Nordic labor market.
The Nordic collaboration on crisis management and security of supplies became very evident during the Covid pandemic. In November last year, the Nordic prime ministers adopted a joint declaration on strengthened co-operation in security of supplies and emergency preparedness. The declaration points at the need to prepare for the full range of possible crises. With the present security situation this is no less important.
Let me conclude: One of the most important features of Nordic collaboration is dynamism. It develops and changes, reflecting what is happening in the Nordic region and around us. New challenges require new approaches. We are good at celebrating important anniversaries, as the recent Nordic Council 70 years, the Helsingfors Treaty 60 years, and the Nordic Council of Ministers 50 years, however, Nordic cooperation cannot be taken for granted; we must also look ahead, the cooperation must be renewed and deepened as a continuous process.
Keeping well in mind the overall objective for the years to come: We will build a green, competitive, and socially sustainable Nordic region. Together.