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The Nordics come together to prepare for future crises

The Nordics come together to prepare for future crises

| Text Marie Preisler, photo: Magnus Fröderberg/

When new crises shake the Nordic region, the countries will cooperate on crisis preparedness and keep a close dialogue before introducing closed borders and other restrictions which impact on Nordic neighbours. There is broad agreement for this between the Nordic governments and parliamentarians.

The Corona pandemic, natural catastrophes, climate chance, cyber threats and refugees. The Nordic countries have faced a string of crises and new ones are sure to follow. That is why there is a need for strengthened cooperation on preparedness. 

That was the conclusion from both Nordic governments and parliamentarians during the Nordic Council Session in Copenhagen from 1 to 4 November 2021, where the lessons from the Corona pandemic were high on the agenda.

The Nordic prime ministers agreed to intensify Nordic cooperation on supply readiness and other emergency preparedness, to make the Nordic region ready for future emergencies and crises. The prime ministers also confirmed their ambition to make the Nordics the world’s most sustainable region by 2030. There was also broad agreement that the Nordics need to improve their cooperation post-pandemic.

New, unknown crises

The Corona pandemic became a nightmare for Nordic cooperation, as each country closed their borders and introduced their own restrictions without consulting each other. The result was big economic, practical and human consequences for people studying or working in another country, and for those with family across the border. 

This must not happen again when new crises hit – and new crises will come, concluded one Nordic prime minister after another as they addressed the Nordic Council, assembled in the Danish parliament. 

Nordic prime ministers

Nordic prime ministers meeting with the Nordic Council. Photo: Magnus Frödenberg/

One of the main events during the session was a “summit” between the Nordic prime ministers, the ministers for Nordic cooperation and the MPs who sit on the Nordic Council, in the Nordic cooperation’s parliamentarian assembly.

"We will learn a lot from Covid-19. The most important lesson is probably the fact that there will be new crises and we don’t know what these will be. But we do know that we will be better prepared, individually and as a group,” Denmark’s Social Democrat prime minister Mette Fredriksen told the summit.

Fredriksen is in no doubt that the future geopolitical security situation is more sombre and complicated, and that it will present many challenges to the Nordic region too. It will be valuable to “have each other’s back”, in light of the countries’ shared heritage, history and other common traits.

Get on the phone

The Danish prime minister agreed with her Icelandic counterpart Katrín Jakobsdóttir from the Left-Green Movement, who has said that one of the best things about the Nordic cooperation is the fact that the prime ministers can just get on the phone and call each other. We will continue to do that, said Mette Fredriksen. 

Yet communication between the countries was one of the first things that went overboard as the Corona pandemic hit the Nordics. Parliamentarians from many of the Nordic border regions told the session about the impact that a lack of communication and coordination between the countries  had had on their citizens.

“When the pandemic hit, we were sat in our separate chambers and prepared our own tools for handling the crisis while constructing something resembling a Berlin wall in an area that has enjoyed a passport union since the end of WWII. Prudence and national sovereignty is good. A lack of communication is not,” said Aron Emilsson, an MP from the Swedish Democrats and head of the Nordic Freedom group at the Nordic Council. 

Praise to cooperation ministers

Linda Modig, a Swedish MP from the Centre Party and chair of the Centre Group at the Nordic Council, spoke of Nordic citizens being left with a “bitter taste” as a result of the countries’ lack of cooperation during the Corona pandemic. This was particularly true for people like herself, she said, who live and work in a Nordic border region.

Lisa Modig

Linda Modig, chair of the Centre Group at the Nordic Council. Photo: Johannes Jansson/

Modig also praised the Nordic cooperation ministers for having played a crucial role during the pandemic by being “present” and “attentive” to the opinions of citizens and Nordic parliamentarians.

“They have been active, proactive and result-oriented, always trying to solve any problems that arose,” said Linda Modig. 

This supports the argument for granting Nordic citizens what they want – a deeper Nordic cooperation which includes giving the cooperation ministers considerable responsibility for political governance as well as creating a joint Nordic crisis readiness ability, she argued.

Norwegian-Swedish reconciliation

Both the Danish and the Nordic prime ministers rejected the claim that governments had failed the Nordic cooperation by taking unilateral action without first talking to the other Nordic countries when the pandemic broke out.

“This was a global crisis that had to be addressed, and there was no time to talk to Nordic neighbours first,” pointed out Mette Fredriksen.

Norway’s new prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre agreed. He defended his predecessor who had been criticised by many for Norway’s Corona restrictions which were changed 48 times in one year. They hit Swedish workers in Norwegian companies so hard that Norway has now paid compensation to many Swedish border commuters.

“This will not happen on my government’s watch, but any government facing a crisis must prioritise protecting its citizens.”

Gahr Støre did promise that as prime minister he would prioritise getting Nordic workers back into Norwegian companies, as this is a priority for parts of the country’s economy. Citizens in Nordic border regions will also be able to travel freely for holidays and to visit family members across the border, he pointed out and thanked the Swedish government for stepping up and giving vaccines to Norway during the pandemic.

“There are many examples of Nordic countries helping each other during the pandemic,” he said and announced his first foreign trip would be to Sweden with the aim of getting Norwegian-Swedish relations back to a “good, normal state”.

New threats to solidarity

The Nordic region must be prepared for new crises, however. Perhaps another pandemic, perhaps cyber attacks, perhaps something else. It will in any case again challenge the Nordic cooperation, and that is why it is important to work even closer together going forward, argued the Norwegian prime minister.

“We can cooperate even better in the Nordic region by preparing for the next crisis and challenge to solidarity, whose shape we cannot predict,” said Jonas Gahr Støre. 

Jens Stoltenberg

Jens Stolteberg, NATO Secretary-General: Photo: Nato

He wants the Nordics to discuss how Nordic solidarity can help prepare the region to face the international security threats outlined by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in a speech during the Nordic Council session.  

“Modern security threats are of a completely new character. Cyber. Hybrid conflicts that are hard to define. When is a conflict an attack and a security challenge, and how do we assess it? No other countries are better at assessing this than the Nordics,” said the Norwegian prime minister. 

Sweden’s cooperation minister Anna Hallberg from the Social Democrats addressed the Nordic summit on behalf of Stefan Löfven, the Swedish prime minister from the same party. She admitted that the Nordic Council’s vision of becoming the world’s most integrated region has felt very remote during the past two years, especially for citizens who have chosen cross-border living and work. 

The Nordic cooperation has been put “dramatically to the test in many ways that we have not experienced for a very, very long time,” she said. Faster and better coordinated public information about the Nordic countries’ national decisions should be something the Nordics could and should cooperate on in coming crises, Hallberg pointed out.

Cooperating on preparedness

She agreed with the prime ministers that communication on top government levels had worked well and even got better during the pandemic.

“The crisis highlighted the close relationships between our countries. This was evident through the regular and close conversations between our governments during the crisis,” said Anna Hallberg. 

Annette Lind

Annette Lind, the Nordic Council Vice President. Photo: Magnus Frödenberg/

During the session, the Nordic Council recommended that the Nordic governments commit to warning each other in good time, and as far as possible negotiate and give reasons for border restrictions before they are being put in place.

The Nordic Council also recommended the Nordic governments to explore the possibilities for further cooperation on preparedness, including on PPE, medicines and medical equipment, vaccines, antibiotic resistance and hospital capacity. This preparedness cooperation should include events like natural catastrophes like floods and forest fires as well as cyber threats to crucial social functions. 

The Vice President of the Nordic Council, Annette Lind, a Danish Social Democrat MP, interpreted the political signals during the session as signs of a broad agreement that the Nordic governments should and will improve their cooperation going forward.

“I really think the Nordic prime ministers more than ever want a broader cooperation. We are well under way to get even closer cooperation in the Nordic region,” said Annette Lind.

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A historic image

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses the Nordic Council Session in Copenhagen for the first time ever.


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