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Where does the border between the EU and the Nordic region run?

| By Björn Lindahl, Editor-in-chief

Right now is a fascinating time in Nordic and European politics. Rarely have so many things that affect the Nordics and their relationship with Europe been happening simultaneously. Some forces link the Nordic countries closer to each other and the EU, while at the same time, the boundaries for cooperation have become clearer.

The Nordic Labour Journal have a unique network of journalists to describe this. We have colleagues in all the Nordic countries and two of the three autonomous regions. We also have journalists who specialise in EU labour market and labour law. 

In this edition, we write about the very local – like the debate about independence for the Faroe Islands. It has reignited after Jessika Roswall, Sweden’s EU minister who is responsible for Nordic issues, told Faroese TV there was no way the Faroe Islands could become fully-fledged members of the Nordic Council.

We also write about international issues – the European parliamentary elections on 6 – 9 June, when 370 million Europeans can go to the ballot box and elect a new EU Parliament. There is great concern that the EU’s ambitious environmental policy might suffer a setback and that populist parties make progress. 

More than two years of all-out war between Russia and Ukraine have led to a spike in energy prices across nearly all of Europe. Many countries have tried to compensate citizens who have been hardest hit. But how do you define “energy poverty” and which measures are the most accurate? A Nordic report looks at this issue. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also led to Nato membership for Finland and Sweden. When our colleague in Finland met Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, she expressed satisfaction that her country, after 20 years as a Nato member, can be of help and a kind of big brother to Finland and Sweden.

The border between Norway and Sweden is one of the most peaceful in the world, write the authors of a new book, published by the Svinesund Committee, about what happened in the border areas between Norway and Sweden during the pandemic. The border was closed overnight. 

"At some stages, the border crossing with Sweden was guarded by soldiers and it is actually a bit embarrassing to look back on this," writes Preben Aavitsland from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health

For Norway, one of the founding members of Nato, security policy has never been an issue in the country’s relationship with Europe. As the only nation to reject EU membership twice, it has, however, been a paradox that Norway through the EEA agreement has had to accept thousands of pieces of EU legislation without having a say in how they were made. 

30 years after the EEA agreement was signed, a new report has examined whether there are alternatives – and full EU membership is not one of them.

The Labour Party and Centre Party agreed to commission the report during their coalition government negotiations in 2021. The Centre Party wants to terminate the EEA agreement and therefore demanded that a looser form of agreement should be examined, like what Switzerland, the UK and Canada have. The report concludes that these agreements do not provide the same access to the internal market as the EEA agreement does.

Iceland too has a coalition government, including the far left and the conservatives. As Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir has managed to keep the parties together since 2017, but on 5 April, she announced her resignation in order to run for president in June. Will the new Prime Minister Bjarne Benediktsson announce fresh elections when the presidential election is over?

There are also cross-party coalitions in the EU Parliament. Big, groundbreaking climate decisions have been reached thanks to the fact that the two major groups EPP and S&D could agree on them. 

EPP is made up of conservative and Christian democratic parties, while S&D comprises social democratic parties. But now, for the first time ever, EPP has begun opening up for cooperation with the populist group, according to Swedish MEP Alice Bah Kuhnke.

“This is a major change. There used to be a red line for EPP against opening up to the extreme right,” she says. 

For Denmark and Sweden, the EU’s ambitions to legislate in the labour market area have always been the most problematic part of EU membership. The Nordic model is based on negotiations on pay and working conditions between the social partners and not through legislation. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights was, however, launched during a summit in Gothenburg in 2017, led by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

When a new declaration on the future of employment policies for 2024 until 2029 was signed in Belgian La Hulpe by the Belgian Presidency on behalf of 25 countries, Sweden and Austria were not among the signatories. The Swedish centre-right government did not even send a representative to the summit.

“What new labour legislation we can expect from the EU in the next five years? This depends as much on who becomes Commission President as on what the Parliament has on its wish list,” writes our labour law expert Kerstin Ahlberg.


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