Finland at the helm of Nordic cooperation in 2011
Finland has taken up the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2011. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will be posting information about activities of interest in the field of Nordic cooperation on a dedicated website set up for the Presidency, at schools in partnership with the Europe Information network, as well as on Facebook.
“I’m hoping that we will gain greater exposure across the country, for instance in connection with Nordic Council of Minister meetings so that more young people in particular will take an interest in Nordic cooperation,” says Mr. Bo Lindroos, Chief of the Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Through the Nordic Climate Day that will be organized at all Finnish schools in November 2011, another aim is to increase young people’s knowledge of the Nordic languages. In September, Aalto University in Helsinki will be hosting a climate event for Nordic students. The aim here will be to move beyond the usual rhetoric and develop concrete solutions to combat climate change.
The Secretariat for Nordic Cooperation, working under Minister for Nordic Cooperation, Mr. Jan Vapaavuori, is charged with the coordination of Nordic cooperation. Each of the five Nordic countries holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers for one year at a time. The Council promotes and enhances practical cooperation in various sectors, most notably in the fields of culture, education and the environment.
Focus on climate, globalization projects and grassroots cooperation
The programme for the Finnish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2011 has three main areas of focus. The first is to cope with and counteract climate change. The second priority is to continue with and develop concrete globalization projects and to invest in Nordic research excellence. Thirdly, Finland will aim to encourage greater grassroots participation among all citizens and young people in particular. Furthermore, efforts will be continued to remove obstacles to cross-border mobility.
“We want to see the Nordic countries take on a more prominent role in climate change mitigation. For instance, the Council of Ministers has previously funded the preparation of Nordic contributions to the Copenhagen and Cancun climate conferences,” Mr. Lindroos explains.
“Our aim is to identify all existing obstacles that hamper the free movement of people and businesses in the Nordic countries,” Mr. Lindroos continues. “The Freedom of Movement Forum has proved to be an effective format for tackling problems such as tax and pension issues.”
Nordic cooperation is pragmatic and necessary
For Finland the most important aspect of Nordic cooperation is its pragmatic focus and continuity, Mr. Lindroos says.
“We don’t want to invent new issues just for the sake of it, but to continue to pursue those areas where we’ve had good experiences. To me, continuity provides an excellent basis for Nordic cooperation. The Nordic welfare state model is often held as an international benchmark, especially in the current context of economic crisis – a clear indication that this model really works.”
Despite Finland’s EU membership, Mr. Lindroos continues, Nordic cooperation is of great importance to the country. The Nordic Gene Bank is just one example of the many synergy benefits from this cooperation.
“First of all we need to remember that only three Nordic countries are EU members. And the issue of carbon dioxide emissions from air traffic, for instance, was raised in the Nordic countries years before it appeared on the EU agenda. Indeed the background papers produced in the Nordic countries have been of great use to the European community. Nordic debates and discussions on the economic crisis and climate targets have also contributed to international cooperation.”