EU membership erodes Nordic unity

European integration has put an end to Nordic unity. Examining this paradox, an article in Helsingin Sanomat (26 October 2000) notes that Nordic countries are drifting further and further apart in their policies in the European Union. Finland, Sweden and Denmark hold opposite views on how to promote "Nordic values" in the EU. Nordic co-operation, so highly valued for decades, has become a joke, the article concludes.

"Finland wants to be in the EU core, Denmark and Sweden prefer staying outside. Finland wants a strong Commission, Denmark and Sweden would prefer to strengthen the Council of Ministers of the member countries. Denmark wants to put breaks on common social policy, Finland and Sweden see it as a priority."

The article in Helsingin Sanomat notes than in disputes about the size of the Commission or increasing the number of majority decisions, Finland is closer to Italy than Sweden or Denmark.

"'The Nordic bloc' is not going to be a challenge to large countries when they push through their demands in the forthcoming summit in Nice."

The paper also notes that in the European Parliament Nordic MEPs seldom form an alliance. Co-operation is more common inside political groups. This unwillingness to take common initiatives contrasts with the tradition among Benelux countries -- Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg -- of producing common discussion papers for EU reforms. Benelux countries have indeed been able to create a status of authority for themselves. Their positions are monitored with the same interest as those of France, Germany and Britain.

Helsingin Sanomat quotes a Finnish diplomat who says that the Nordic group has no credibility in the EU. According to this source, it is not worth creating an alliance with Denmark and Sweden because both countries are known for their euroscepticism. As a matter of fact, the Benelux group is a more important peer group for Finland than the other Nordic countries.

In an earlier editorial, Helsingin Sanomat (13 October 2000) says that a discussion about ambitious Nordic co-operation seems like holding on to a by-gone world.

"It is possible to claim that Nordic co-operation was and is in many respect unique even when compared with EU achievements. Individual citizens have always been its starting point. This is why Nordic citizens have been able to value this co-operation, which is more than can be said of EU co-operation.

"The achievements of Nordic co-operation must not, however, be exaggerated. Lately they have remained insignificant. In particular, big common projects have regularly run aground, unlike in the EU where the achievements belong to quite another category. In political relevance and legislation, the EU has made serious inroads all over the Nordic world. Although Norway and Iceland are not EU members, within the European Economic Area and because of the pressure of practicalities, they conform to EU regulations."

Helsingin Sanomat notes that the reforms of Nordic institutions of co-operation, aimed at conforming to EU-centred environment, have proved to be irrelevant. Pious hopes to co-ordinate Nordic activities in international contexts have remained just that. The paper writes that granting Nordic Council membership to the Baltic countries might have given a new content to Nordic co-operation, but this option has been turned down.

See also:

From our archive:

"EU needs new philosophy to help enlargement"

11 August 2000

Schröder: No exclusive clubs within EU

17 July 2000

"EU hard core membership important for security"

31 May 2000

Citizens' rights emphasised as part of EU reform

26 October 1999

Changing EU voting rules would be undemocratic by Hannu Reime

October 1999

Power of big EU countries raises questions

October 1999

Nordic co-operation explained to British and Irish MPs

March 1998

Nordic-style institutions recommended for Irish-British islands

January 1998

Nordic Co-operation: A Possible Model for British-Irish Relations

February 1997


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