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When do we get a Council of Ministers for Transport?

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

If the prime ministers really want the Nordics to become the world’s most integrated region, there should be a designated Nordic Council of Ministers for transport and infrastructure.

Swedish MP Kjell-Arne Ottosson’s message is crystal clear – and he has the full support of the Nordic Council, which unanimously agreed in 2018 to establish such a council of ministers.  

It is really somewhat of an anomaly that it does not already exist. When the Nordic Council of Ministers was founded in 1971, there was already a communication committee in the Nordic Council and traffic issues were intensively debated. 

Today there are 11 councils of ministers, and each country also appoints a Nordic cooperation minister. Since all the Nordic countries now look set to become Nato members, this should be reflected in the Helsinki Agreement. Why not make sure a council of ministers for transport and infrastructure is established a the same time?

Ottosson points out that right now many major plans are being assessed for the improvement of transport links within the Nordic region. He himself has just presented a motion in the Swedish parliament for a new, more direct and faster railway link between Oslo and Stockholm. 

The most intensive work is being done in relation to links between Denmark and Sweden, however. No fewer than three tunnel projects under Öresund have been announced, partly in competition with each other. Fayme Alm takes us through the different projects and lets their proponents present their best arguments.

Marie Preisler caught the ferry from Karslhamn in Sweden to Klaipeda in Lithuania. The ferries are the workhorses ploughing through the Baltic Sea. They are also examples of how Nordic transport routes are increasingly run with foreign labour. If you fly south with Norwegian, the cabin crew are as likely to be Spanish as Scandinavian. The no-frills airline has contributed to an aviation model which is nearly exclusively constructed like hubs with spokes, with capital cities being the hubs. 

Could new traffic patterns emerge from the introduction of electric planes? Nordregio has mapped which air links will save the most time and be able to compete with other transport alternatives.

Public transport makes up only 4 per cent of Reykjavik’s total traffic. Borgarlína is the name of a new Rapid Transfer-system, with busses running along designated lanes with frequent departures. The system will mean a considerable upgrade to the city’s public transport system.

A new council of ministers would also mean more cooperation on other types of infrastructure. In Finland, the third reactor at the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant has finally been put into commercial operation after a lot of problems, making the country self-reliant on electricity once again. But for how long? 

Electricity consumption will increase rapidly. Data storage is a new, big consumer of electricity. But the enthusiasm has cooled among Nordic municipalities, which used to be keen to attract that kind of industry with hopes of creating thousands of jobs. The question now is whether a huge amount of electricity consumed in smaller municipalities should be used to store TikTok videos. Facebook’s Luleå data centre only employed some 90 people in the end.

Not all occupations are threatened by digitalisation. Take security guards. Researchers at the Oslo Work Research Institute have published a report that shows there were 2,500 security guards and 5,000 police officers in the 1980s. Security guards surpassed the number of police in 2015. That year, there were 11,000 security guards and 9,600 police. 

There are still more police if you count full-time jobs, but security guards have taken over many of the less serious public order and control jobs that police have traditionally been responsible for. Read more about the challenges facing security guards. 

Finally, we have interviewed Stefano Scarpetta who for the past ten years has been in charge of labour, employment and welfare at the OECD. He tells us the history of how his organisation, which used to value high growth measured in GDP the highest, has become a keen proponent of inclusive growth. He presents an argument that might even convince finance ministers: 

“Inequality is not only detrimental to social cohesion. It might also undermine economic growth, which has always been the OECD's main objective,” he says.


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