Finland’s centenary brings the Nordics together
The Nordic countries have a lot in common. They share a similar history, culture, society model, and language. The Nordic cooperation is sustained by different organisations, such as the Nordic Council and the Norden Association. Finland’s role in the Nordic community is highly valued and regarded as a given.
This year Finland celebrates its centenary of independence and more than 100 years of uninterrupted democracy. The centenary celebrations will also bring the Nordic heads of state in Helsinki, on 1 June.
Nordic heads of state meet in Helsinki
President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio will welcome Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway and President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson and his spouse, Eliza Jean Reid, of Iceland in ceremonies beginning in the forecourt of the Presidential Palace at 10.30 am. The general public can watch the guests arrive at the Market Square (Kauppatori in Finnish) and North Esplanade.
The Nordic heads of state have gathered in Finland once before during Finland’s independence.
In 2002 Finland held the presidency of the Nordic Council, which celebrated its 50-year anniversary. The Council’s jubilee session was historic in nature, since it was attended by all the Nordic heads of state: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway, and Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.
In addition, on 7 September in 1986 representatives from all of the Nordic royal families and Iceland’s head of state were present at the state funeral of president Urho Kekkonen. The funeral was attended by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, King Olav V of Norway, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, and Iceland’s President Vigdís Finnbogadottir.
Nordic cooperation is a success story
The Nordic model is built on a tradition characterised by a strong rule of law, active popular movements and civil society organisations, freedom of expression, equality, solidarity and strong relationship with nature.
One of the basic pillars of the Nordic welfare model is its social security system: publicly funded healthcare, family allowance, and unemployment benefit are a part of the societies’ safety net.
The main official bodies of Nordic cooperation are the Nordic Council, founded in 1952, and the Nordic Council of Ministers, founded in 1971. The primary objective of the Nordic Council is to make the Nordic region one that people want to live and work in.
The foundation of Nordic cooperation is the Helsinki Treaty, which was signed on 23 March 1962 and entered into force on 1 July 1962. The cooperation’s main achievements are the Protocol concerning the exemption of nationals of the Nordic countries from the obligation to have a passport (1954), the common labour market (1954), the language agreement (1981) and the agreement on social security (1982).
There are about sixty other joint Nordic agreements. They have to do with culture, environmental protection, municipal cooperation, social security, and higher education, among other things. The Nordic countries also cooperate in the Arctic Council, which has Finland as its chairman from 2017 to 2019.
Movement across borders
Freedom of movement and common labour market have created the foundation for migration between the Nordic countries.
Migration from Finland to Sweden was particularly active in the 60s and 70s – that’s why Sweden still holds the largest Finnish minority. According to Statistics Sweden, every fourteenth Swede has Finnish genes, which is 7,2 per cent of Sweden’s population. Due to active migration, Sweden also has a lot of second and third generation Finnish Swedes.
When did Finland become a Nordic state?
The idea of Norden (Nordic countries) was born in the 1800s along the Scandinavism movement. Great powers and regions disintegrated, and smaller states were born. Finland gained its independence later, in 1917.
One can ask: when did Finland become a Nordic state? According to one perspective, Finland has always been one, thanks to Sweden. According to another perspective, Finland became a Nordic country only after its independence, when the Norden Association was founded in the 1920s or when Finland became a member of the Nordic Council in 1955.
According to Johan Strang, University Lecturer at the Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland has always been a part of the Nordic cooperation, which was created at the end of the 19th century. The cooperation was advanced by organisations and different occupational groups. Nordic lawyer meetings, arranged since 1872, were particularly important.
Today Finland’s role in the Nordic community is a given, says Strang.
“Earlier one might have questioned Finland’s Nordic identity, but today we are as Nordic as any other country inside the community,” Strang states. “One could even argue that the Nordic countries play a larger role in the Finnish society and politics, compared to other Nordic countries’ daily politics. Being Nordic is a valuable identity and a strong trademark.”
According to Strang, Finland has identified itself as a part of Europe through the Nordic countries. Also, Finnish-Swedish companies see the Nordic countries as a gateway to access European and global markets.
The Nordic cooperation and community hold a lot of good things, but Strang says that we could do even more.
“In Finland we should get to know other Nordic countries better – and likewise, other Nordic countries should get to know Finland better,” Strang says. “There is a lot of migration across borders, and many people work in companies whose markets or headquarters are situated in the neighbouring countries. Also, more and more Nordics work in Nordic companies all over the world. That’s why the Nordic countries should know more about each other’s culture, history, and society – and not just focus on the general Nordic trademark.”
Finland’s centenary is celebrated on all continents and in over one hundred countries. Read how the Nordic countries take part in the celebrations: http://suomifinland100.fi/the-nordics-join-finlands-centenary-celebrations/?lang=en