Nordic Council

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The Nordic Council is an inter-parliamentary forum for co-operation between the Nordic countries. It was established following World War II and its first concrete result was the introduction in 1952 of a common labour market and free movement across borders without passports for the countries' citizens.

In 1971 the Nordic Council of Ministers was established to compliment the Nordic Council - providing an intergovernmental forum.

Contents

History

During the Second World War Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany, Finland fought a costly war with the USSR, and Sweden, though neutral, still felt the war's effects. Following the war, the Nordic countries pursued the idea of a Scandinavian defence union to ensure their mutual defence. However Finland, due to its closeness to the USSR, could not participate. They would unify their foreign policy and defence and remain neutral in the event of a conflict and not ally with NATO, which was being planned at the time. The United States, keen on getting access to bases in Scandinavia and believing the Nordic countries incapable of defending themselves, stated it would not ensure military support for Scandinavia if they did not join NATO. The project collapsed as a result with Denmark, Norway and Iceland joining NATO.[1]

Further Nordic co-operation, such as an economic customs union, also failed. This led then-Danish Prime Minister Hans Hedtoft to propose in 1951 a consultative inter-parliamentary body. This proposal was agreed by Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in 1952.[2] The Council's first session was held in the Danish Parliament on 13 February 1953 and it elected Hans Hedtoft as its president. When Finnish-Soviet relations thawed following the death of Joseph Stalin Finland joined the council in 1955.[3]

On 2 July 1954 the Nordic labour market was created and in 1958, building upon a 1952 passport-free travel area, the Nordic Passport Union was created. These two measures helped ensure Nordic citizens' free movement around Scandinavia. A Nordic Convention on Social Security was implemented in 1955. There were also plans for a single market but they were abandoned in 1959 shortly before Denmark, Norway and Sweden joined the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). Finland became an associated member of EFTA in 1961 and Denmark and Norway applied to join the European Economic Community (EEC).[3]

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