The Nordic Countries consists of five countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) as well as their autonomous regions (the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland), and make up a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe. The Nordic countries has historically been closely tied to one another and share deep historical, liguistical and cultural roots, many of them still very apparent in the modern times.
The Baltic countries, and particulary Estonia has shared many ties with the Nordic countries since the viking age, both as enemies and trading partners. Especially in recent developments and modern history the northernmost Baltic country, Estonia, has grown closer and more similar to it’s Nordic neighbours. In the thought project of a Nordic Union it is the authors opinion that Estonia also will be included for political, economical, cultural
and historical reasons. I will to outline the reasoning behind an Nordic Union, particulary what benefits it can provide for the involved countries.
Denmark, Finland, Iceland Norway, Sweden and Estonia togehter with their autonomous regions will be refered to as the “Nordic Countries” and are here shown as a the Nordic Union in purple with the rest of Europe in light blue:
What makes the Nordic Union a viable thought project is the considerable similarities in population size, economic power, geographic location, history and culture. Some of the countries also share strong linguistical ties and historical ties. What the countries also have in common is a need of further integration in order to be a better and more significant geopolitical player. Even though the countries display almost unprecedented economical power for their population size, the total amount of economic power is too small to be able to set the agenda in important political forums like the EU, the G20, NATO and the UN.
At 3,425,804 square kilometers, the Nordic countries form the 7th-largest area in the world, though 51.7% of this area is uninhabitable and formed by icecaps and glaciers (mostly in Greenland). The Nordic countries has a combined population of around 27 million people. The Nordic countries are top performers in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development.
Table containing basic statistics of the Nordic Countries:
|Union||3 640 217||27 605 691||1683.615|
The Nordic countries first came into more permanent contact with the rest of Europe during the Viking age. Southern Finland and northern parts of Sweden and Norway were areas where the Vikings mostly only traded and had raids, whilst the permanent settlements of Vikings in the Nordic Region were in southern Norway and Sweden, Denmark and Faroes as well as parts of Iceland and Greenland. After conversion to Christianity in the 11th century, three northern kingdoms emerged in the region: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Iceland first became a commonwealth before it came under Norwegian rule in the early 13th century. Swedish rule was established in Finland through the Second Swedish Crusade around 1249.
By the Late Middle Ages, the whole of the Nordic Region was politically united in the Kalmar Union. Diverging interests and especially Sweden’s dissatisfaction over the Danish dominance gave rise to a conflict that hampered the union from the 1430s onward until its final dissolution in 1523. After the dissolution Denmark and Norway, including Iceland, formed a personal union of the two kingdoms called Denmark–Norway whilst the successful period of Vasa Kings began in Sweden and Finland.
In the 17th, the Nordic Region played a major role in European politics, as the struggle for dominion over the Baltic Sea and its trading opportunities raged between Denmark–Norway and Sweden. Sweden prevailed in the long term and became a major European power as it extended its reach into coastal tracts in modern-day Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Pomerania and other North German areas. Sweden also conquered vast areas from Denmark–Norway during the Northern Wars in the middle of the 17th century.
In 1809, eastern Sweden was conquered by Russia in the Finnish War, after which Finland became the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. In turn, Sweden captured Norway from Denmark in 1814 in the Swedish–Norwegian War and started the Union between Sweden and Norway. Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which had been re-colonised in the 18th century, remained Danish. International politics and nationalism created the preconditions for the later independence of Norway in 1905, Finland in 1917 and Iceland in 1944.
The independent Nordic states had been neutral during World War I, but was heavily involved during World War II. Compared with large parts of Europe, the Nordic Region got off lightly during the WW2, which partially explains its strong post-war economic development. The labour movement was an important political presence throughout the Nordic countries in the 20th century. The big social democratic parties became dominant and after WW2 the Nordic countries began to serve as a model for the welfare state. Economically, the five Nordic countries were strongly dependent on foreign trade, and so they positioned themselves alongside the big trading blocks. Denmark was the first to join EEC in 1972 and after it became European Union in 1993 Finland and Sweden also joined in 1995. Norway and Iceland have remained part of EFTA.
Table of historical ties between the Nordic Countries
|Century||Nordic Federation historical political entities|
|12th||Denmark||Icelandic Commonwealth||Hereditary kingdom of Norway||Sweden||Ancient Estonia|
|19th||Denmark||Union between Sweden and Norway||Grand Duchy of Finland|
|21st||Denmark (EU)||Sweden (EU)||Åland (EU)||Finland (EU)||Estonia (EU)|
For more historical information please see the Nordic Council’s offical internet page.
Politics and Economics
Most Nordic countries co-operate in the Nordic Council, established after World War II. The introduction of a Nordic Passport Union in 1952 resulted in a common labour market and free movement across borders for the countries’ citizens. In 1971, the Nordic Council of Ministers, an intergovernmental forum, was established to complement the Council.
The Nordic Council consists of 87 representatives, elected from its members’ parliaments and reflecting the relative representation of the political parties in those parliaments. Each of the national delegations has its own secretariat in the national parliament. The autonomous territories – Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland – also have Nordic secretariats. The Council does not have any formal power on its own, but each government has to implement any decisions through its country’s legislative assembly. With Denmark, Iceland and Norway being members of NATO and Finland and Sweden being neutral, the Nordic Council has not been involved in any military cooperation. However the Nordic foreign and security policy cooperation has become closer and, over the past few years, expanded its scope.
The Nordic Council of Ministers is responsible for inter-governmental cooperation. Prime Ministers have ultimate responsibility but this is usually delegated to the Minister for Nordic Cooperation and the Nordic Committee for Co-operation, which co-ordinates the day-to-day work. The autonomous territories have the same representation as states.
The Nordic economies are small and open and thus the countries are export-depending. Foreign trade constitutes an important part of the economic activity. Nordic foreign trade in goods, measured as the average of imports and exports, amounts to more than one fourth of GDP in the Nordic countries.
The trade between the Nordic countries is especially considerable as about one fifth of the countries’ foreign trade is trade with other Nordic countries. Swedish exports to the other Nordic countries account for a considerably higher share than combined Swedish exports to Germany and France – despite the fact that the total population of Germany and France is 147 million people, while Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway only have a total population of 16 million. In 2012, around 23 per cent of the total exports from both Denmark and Sweden went to other Nordic countries. Other Nordic countries account for 16 per cent of Finnish exports, 13 per cent of Norwegian exports and 10 per cent of the total exports in Iceland.
In addition to the other Nordic countries, The European Union is the largest trading partner for the Nordic countries. Especially important is trade with Germany and the Netherlands. Outside of Europe the United States is also a major trading partner. A common characteristic in the exports of the Nordic countries is a concentration on a few products. The exports of Greenland and the Faroe Islands are entirely dominated by fish and fish products, to a lesser extent in Iceland where aluminium exports also contribute significantly. Oil and gas are the predominant products exported by Norway, and Finnish exports are dominated by wood, paper and paper products and telecommunication equipment. Danish and Swedish exports are more equally distributed on different products, with processed food, pharmaceuticals and chemical products as the major Danish export products and cars, wood, paper products and telecommunication equipment as predominant in Swedish exports. Germany is completely dominant when it comes to Nordic imports. However, the Nordic countries also have considerable imports from the Netherlands, China and Russia.