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Danish Presidency: The Nordic cooperation passed the Corona test
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Danish Presidency: The Nordic cooperation passed the Corona test

| Text: Marie Preisler, photo: Bax Lindhardt

Closed borders, economic confusion in Nordic cooperation forums and hundreds of millions of kroner for environment and climate work. These are some of the issues on the agenda for Nordic Ministers for Cooperation when they meet face-to-face for the first time since before the pandemic.

Closed borders will be debated but no blame proportioned when Nordic ministers for Nordic cooperation gather around the same table on 10 September for the first time since the Covid-19 crisis began, expects the Danish Minister for Nordic Cooperation Mogens Jensen. He will be hosting the meeting as Denmark holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. 

“Nordic citizens’ right to travel, live, study and work in other Nordic countries is at the core of the Nordic cooperation. That’s why it is sad that Denmark had to close its borders during Covid-19. Yet it was not the only country in the world that had to do that.”

He does not think Denmark will face criticism during the cooperation ministers’ meeting for stopping Swedes at the border during lockdown, while Danes were free to travel to and from Sweden.

“None of the Nordic countries will face a bollocking because of Covid-19, a situation that was new to everyone and which the different Nordic countries naturally approached in different ways.”

Mogens Jensen

He points out that countries had different levels of infection risk and organised their responses to the virus in different ways. But now, as everyone knows much more about Covid-19, it makes sense to work towards increased Nordic coordination and cooperation in order to tackle the pandemic and similar crises, believes Denmark’s Minister for Cooperation.

New cooperation and cancellations

He believes the Nordic cooperation has worked well during the pandemic and that it has made a real difference across a range of issues. 

“The Nordic cooperation has prevailed. We have shown that cooperation allows us to continue to create good solutions. 

Nordic countries for instance cooperated on social support for citizens who became victims of closed borders, and there was also a common effort to find the best ways of repatriating Nordic citizens who were stranded abroad during the pandemic, the minister points out.

During the pandemic, meetings have also been held to deal with both health and economic consequences, with Nordic ministers initiating a joint survey of the pandemic’s effect on Nordic labour markets. This includes mapping which groups have been the hardest hit.

Most of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ face-to-face meetings during the Danish Presidency have been cancelled, including ministers’ meetings in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Mogens Jensen deeply regrets this, since both Greenland and the Faroes form part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and as such are part of the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. In both places, many people had been involved in organising the Nordic ministers’ visits.  

Virtual meetings

Covid-19 has been disruptive, but it has also helped identify new frameworks that can strengthen the Nordic cooperation, believes Mogens Jensen. One example, he says, is the need for Nordic Ministers of Cooperation to meet virtually. 

“The Nordic cooperation’s success is to a large extent built on the fact that ministers and parliamentarians from the Nordic countries meet face-to-face and get to learn about each other’s cultures and societies. Virtual meetings do not offer this, but they have other advantages. People who might normally be prevented from being there for practical reasons can now participate, and we can meet at short notice when needed. These are good experiences that we will take with us going forward.” 

Green millions and gender equality

The Ministers for Cooperation are also expected to adopt an action plan during their September meeting which will execute the Nordic Prime Ministers’ vision of making the Nordic region the world’s most integrated and sustainable.  

Mogens Jensen says the plan includes several hundred million kroner earmarked for green change, including greener transport. The plan also stipulates that climate and environment issues should be central to the Nordic region’s economic recovery. Covid-19 does not change the fact that being as sustainable and integrated as possible is at the core of both the Danish Presidency and the Nordic cooperation. 

Mogens Jensen expects the Nordic region to become a global leader too in gender equality, even though the pandemic has led to the cancellation of several important international conferences where joint Nordic participation on government minister-level had been planned. 

LGBTI-beacon

Mogens Jensen is also Denmark’s Minister for Gender Equality, and in 2019 he entered into political cooperation with his Nordic colleagues aimed at strengthening the protection and improving the lives of LGBTI people across the region. He has high hopes for this cooperation.

“I am incredibly happy for and proud of this common Nordic platform to secure the opportunities and rights of LGBTI people, since there are still places in the world where they face persecution. This cooperation is here to stay, also beyond the Danish Presidency, and I believe that we in the Nordic region can inspire and be a beacon to the rest of the world.” 

Economic confusion

The Ministers for Cooperation meeting will also address the economic management of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ administration. The introduction of a new finance system has led to economic confusion which, according to Mogens Jensen, Denmark finds so unacceptable that the country withheld some of its contribution to the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019. Now, Mogens Jensen has invited a Danish public auditor to attend the upcoming ministers’ meeting.

“It is very concerning that there seems to be challenges connected to accountancy and financial management, which we should be able to have full confidence in. This must be sorted out, and that is why we will use this meeting to present our strongest political recommendation to fix this issue.” 

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