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The Nordics look to the Baltics

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

The war in Ukraine has brought the Nordics and the Baltics closer together. This will become very clear during the Nato summit in Vilnius on 11 and 12 July, when Finland and perhaps even Sweden will participate as members of the defence alliance for the first time. We take a closer look at the cooperation with the Baltic countries which has grown to become more equal.

It is said that Estonia’s first President Lennart Meri used to pop into the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Tallinn office, which was opened in 1991, to borrow the telephone. It was presumed the telephone line in the President’s office was not safe. Today, Estonia is a world leader in cyber security and helped Ukraine secure its digital communication channels.

In Vilnius in Lithuania, Ukrainian refugee Kira Lebedenko carries on running her cyber security company in Ukraine with eight employees. In order to learn the language and integrate, she also works in a Lithuanian call centre. 

While borders grow more visible and trenches are dug on both sides, we also live in a world where the amount of available information keeps growing without being confined by hardly any borders. But what do we believe out of all this information?

“I would like to offer my apology for the fact that the Nordic countries did not listen more to the Baltic countries earlier, when you warned about the threat that Putin’s Russia represented,” said Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, the leader of the Icelandic delegation, when she and other members from the Nordic Council participated at the Eastern Partnership Conference of the Baltic Assembly in Tallinn on 18 and 19 May.

Thanks to that foresight, Lithuania was the first country in Europe to become independent from Russian natural gas. 

It is not clear how many people have died after Russia invaded Ukraine, but some say around 200 000 in total from both countries.

I have to compare that to the number of people who die from work-related illnesses every year in the EU. According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, EU-OSHA, this is also 200 000 people.

However, most work-related deaths happen in slow motion, as one of the participants at the EU work environment summit in Stockholm 15 and 16 may put it. Asbestos still kills the most people, several decades after they were exposed to it. Asbestos is still responsible for 88 000 deaths every year despite being banned in the EU since 1991. 

Similarly, psycho-social consequences – from the war in Ukraine and from bad work environments – will lead to illness and continue to ruin lives in the future.  

“When you have a workplace accident because of a bad work environment, you can trace it back in order to see what caused it. The same does not go for the effects people suffer from a bad psycho-social work environment. If that fails, it grinds a person down over time and it can take years before the effects on the individual become apparent. That is why these things need to be taken more seriously,” Paulina Brandberg tells the Nordic Labour Journal.

The work environment is a common thread through several of the other stories in this newsletter: Swedish schools working against threats and violence, the row over working hours between the EU and Sweden, Finland and Denmark, the Metoo allegations that brought down the President of the Danish FH, and the long-running conflicts within Iceland’s trade unions. 

It also concerns the issue of hired labour – which often means construction workers from the Baltics – where Norway has gone further than any other Nordic country in tightening the rules and in some instances banning it altogether. Has the country gone too far?

Even before the new rules came into force, Norway voted to fight the rules in the EEA agreement.  


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