[By Nicolai Stampe Qvistgaard, Senior Adviser, Nordic Council]

Nordic cooperation is currently undergoing a comprehensive restructuring through reform work, which aims to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the Nordic Council. A new President is elected for the Nordic Council each year, and in 2015 Höskuldur Þórhallsson from Iceland was chosen for the position.

“Nordic cooperation must be made even more visible than it is today. Most importantly, the political work must come first and made relevant to the Nordic and Arctic citizens so that everyone is included. Whether you come from a Scandinavian metropolis or a tiny island or a remote Arctic region, the cooperation is also related to you and your family. We work to make living conditions better and to make mobility easier across borders if, for example, you want to work or get an education in another country or start a family there,” says Höskuldur Þórhallsson.

Ever since 1952, when the Nordic Council was established, the members of the Council have worked to improve the living conditions for the Nordic and Arctic citizens. The five member states, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the three autonomous areas of the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland all have members in the Council – members who are also part of each national parliament. The 87 Council members gather several times a year to discuss and share knowledge and experiences, and to make recommendations to the Nordic Council of Ministers.

New strategies and solutions are being developed in the fields of culture, education, welfare, civil rights, environment, nature and trade. At the annual Session, these recommendations and suggestions will be discussed and hopefully approved in order to be implemented in further political work in the individual countries. It is no secret that Nordic cooperation is respected; many countries and regions in the world have their eyes on the Nordic countries and the Arctic and consider the cooperation to be something very admirable. Nordic cooperation is unique, and it shows that in spite of different political views and national diversity, we have a common cultural heritage and will work to strengthen democracy, freedom and equality for all. However, we can be even more effective and stronger.

“I will do my best to see that the reform work is going in the right direction. It is extremely important. People don’t fully realize what Nordic cooperation is all about, but at the same time, more and more people want even stronger cooperation so that the living conditions in the Nordic countries and in the Arctic become even better. And that is exactly what the Nordic Council and its members are working towards – as we have always done,” says Höskuldur Þórhallsson.

“Even now you can see that Nordic cooperation has become more dynamic with strong opinions. We are not afraid to look beyond our own backyard and try to have an effect when there are international conflicts and negotiations going on. The fact is that we have influence and we use it, and this is the path we must continue on: maintaining our international cooperation, and keeping Nordic cooperation as a role model for the rest of the world.”

[Read the article in the Shared Voices magazine here.]