Nordic Cooperation at a Crossroads

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online

Cooperation among the Nordic countries has been a modest affair since Finland and Sweden joined the EU in 1995. In particular, one can cite the decline in what previously was robust collaboration in law-making. Moreover, no new important conventions have been concluded among the countries in the 2000s.

The article argues that Nordic cooperation is at a crossroads. Many external and internal threats urge increased cooperation, such as the crisis in the EU following Brexit, the influx of asylum seekers, increased tension in the Baltic Sea, and the erosion of the Nordic welfare state. The particular threats and opportunities in the Nordic countries’ Arctic regions also signal a need for more intense cooperation. This is easier said than done, however, because the western Nordic states (Denmark, Iceland and Norway) differ in terms of legal system and security policy from the eastern ones (Finland and Sweden). An additional consideration is that Iceland and Norway do not belong to the EU; instead of membership they take part in economic integration as members of the Economic European Area.

After an introduction, the article provides a succinct account of the development of Nordic cooperation from before the Second World War to the present day. The third section then goes on to discuss Nordic cooperation in different areas of law and government. This is followed by an analysis of the conventions concluded among the Nordic countries and how well they have functioned. Continuing with a salient and illustrative example, the article goes on to examine and assess the attempts to draft a Nordic Saami Convention, an instrument that would apply to Saami living in Finland, Norway and Sweden.

In closing, the article evaluates the future prospects for Nordic cooperation in the form of collaborative law-making and conventions. Both seem to be rather difficult ways forward at the moment. One means for enhancing cooperation would be to improve the exchange of information. Encouraging examples in this regard are the Nordic Lawyers’ Conference, held in August 2017 in Helsinki, and the centenary meeting of the Nordic Federation of Public Administration, organised in 2018 in Iceland. An additional area that may have some potential for furthering cooperation is soft law.

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