Short for NC by AbbreviationFinder, the Nordic Council is behind the now widespread green swan label on environmentally audited products. The council also awards a nature and environmental prize of DKK 350,000 every year. It is given to a Nordic organization, a company or a person who has exemplarily integrated respect for nature and the environment in their operations or in some other way made an extraordinary contribution to nature and the environment.
Foreign and security policy
Foreign and security policy were long taboo areas for the Nordic Council. The caution was dictated mainly by Finland’s sensitive relationship with the Soviet Union. Over the years, individual parliamentarians have tried to discuss the charged issues but have consistently been dismissed as irresponsible. An early rebel in that area was the Finn Erkki Tuomioja (s), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and in 2008 President of the Nordic Council. As early as the 1980’s, he caused a stir in the Council by demanding that the sensitive issues be discussed.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Nordic Council began to discuss the issues with some caution. The countries strongly disagreed on how quickly one should dare to move forward. However, the Helsinki Agreement could be revised in Oslo in 1992 so that parliamentarians had an explicit right to debate foreign and security policy.
The willingness to debate security policy has increased rapidly as the now independent Baltic Sea neighbors and the former Warsaw Pact countries Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland become members of NATO. The most recent enlargement took place in 2009 when Albania and Croatia joined the Defense Community.
The fact that Russia concluded a special agreement with NATO in 1997 facilitated the dialogue. At the Helsinki Session in 1997, a recommendation was even made that security policy must be a priority area for co-operation between the Nordic governments.
Denmark and Norway are members of the defense alliance, while Finland and Sweden noted in 2012 that NATO membership is not relevant despite ever closer cooperation.
As early as 1989, during the Baltic States’ struggle for independence and liberation from the disintegrating Soviet Union, the Nordic Council and the Council of Ministers began their first co-operation with the Baltics. The following year, Nordic parliamentarians were present in the Baltic capitals when the Baltic Assembly (BSPC) was constituted. The Nordic governments went out of step in the process. In 1991, the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were invited as observers to the Nordic Council’s session in Copenhagen. Denmark pushed the issue hard, despite loud Russian protests.
Baltic politicians still see the Nordic Council as a model for co-operation and have also wanted to become members of the Council. Proposals in that direction have been rejected several times, but the Baltics have the right to attend the sessions as observers and otherwise cooperate closely with the Nordic countries, usually bilaterally. The co-operation between the Nordic Council and the Baltic Assembly is based on an agreement from 1992. It was renewed in 1997. Parliament’s committees also co-operate directly with each other.
Following the accession of the Baltic States to EU membership in 2004, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have met regularly to discuss a common line of action ahead of EU summits.
Nordic-Baltic co-operation has its roots in the fact that the Nordic countries early on became a kind of mentor for the three Baltic states in their preparations for EU and NATO membership. Council meetings have also been held according to the Nordic model with, among others, the Ministers of Justice to discuss human trafficking, so-called trafficking, and drug smuggling.
The collaboration is now structured and goes under the name NB8 with meeting activities at expert, official and ministerial level. In 2007, it was decided that the presidency would circulate between the participating countries, as in the Nordic Council. Estonia became the first presidency country.
The Nordic Council of Ministers planned early opening of Nordic information offices in the three Baltic states. Turbulence also prevailed in this process. The Nordic offices were not to be perceived as the official representation of governments before the states were formally recognized. The Baltic leaders could be invited to Nordic meetings before they had even received international recognition, despite great Russian dissatisfaction. The Russian wrath was handled with great ingenuity. At the Nordic session in Copenhagen in 1991, the President chose to adjourn the Council meeting when the invited Baltic politicians spoke.
The information offices were established in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius as Nordic disseminators of culture in 1991. They organize seminars, language teaching and form a popular link to Nordic institutions. An office has also been opened in St. Petersburg, and after tough negotiations also in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which now also receives EU support.
Nordic funds have also been used in democracy work, such as training Latvian police. To make it easier for small businesses to establish themselves, business centers have been established in the Baltics.
Efforts for the Baltic states have intensified on several levels. This is how young diplomats from the eight countries have gathered for a training seminar in Stockholm. Funds have been allocated to upgrade teaching at the Baltic universities and in Kaliningrad. The Euro-Faculty project is a three-year based in Russian Pskov with Sweden as leader. The Council of Ministers’ Information Office in Vilnius has been responsible for coordinating the BEN – Baltic Euroregional Network project.
Since 2006, the Council of Ministers has been actively supporting democratic development in Belarus. Support in cooperation with the EU is channeled into higher education programs and participation in regional cross-border cooperation. It is distributed to several hundred Belarusian students at European Humanties University in Vilnius and students at various universities in Ukraine.