Text: Heather Storgaard
Have you ever visited one of the other Nordic countries and felt very at home there? Or maybe you noticed similarities to Denmark that you had initially thought were unique to your new home? The Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe and Åland all have a shared history of cultural, linguistic, and geographical links going back centuries that continue in various forms to the present day. Many commuters cross from Malmø to Copenhagen for work daily, but did you know that until the 18th century, the Ørsund was only a physical border, not a national one? Skåne became a part of Sweden just over 300 years ago. In Iceland, Danish has long been a common second language, reaching back to when the island was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark and maintained today by Danish state-funded teachers in Icelandic schools. Such tangled stories are typical of the region.
The Nordic Council founding
The Nordic Council was founded in the early 1950s, at a time when the region, now known for peace and stability, was reeling from varied experiences during the Second World War: Finland had been invaded by the Soviet Union, Denmark and Norway occupied by the Nazis and Iceland and the Faroe Islands occupied by British and US forces. Long-running ties were increasingly loosened as territories gained independence or increased self-governance from the former great powers, Denmark and Sweden. With the threat of the Soviet Union sitting just across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen, the new Nordic Council brought the region together to look at shared solutions and partnerships in areas such as security and culture.
This has become a subtle but essential part of life in Nordic states. For example, while living in Denmark, regardless of your citizenship status, it may be possible to participate in Nordic Council projects focusing on areas such as the environment, culture or performance.
"As a citizen of one of the Nordic nations, you have a right to live, study and work in any other member state."
What does it do?
As a citizen of one of the Nordic nations, you have a right to live, study and work in any other member state. This reflects the many historical links between the region's countries and ensures that moving around is easy. Key issues such as security, the green economy and more are often worked on at a Nordic-wide level to ensure they are most effective.
One of the principles underpinning a sense of pan-Nordic identity is language, with everyone in the Nordic region speaking a Scandinavian language or learning one in school, as is the case with Danish in Greenland, Faroe and Iceland or Swedish in Finland. However, English is increasingly used as a lingua franca in the region. The Nordic Council offers initiatives to learn or engage with other Nordic languages at literature or theatre events throughout the region, often through cultural centres in Iceland, Faroe, Åland and Greenland.
Of course, the Nordic nations also have links far beyond one another. A recent Nordic Council-funded project for young journalists focused on Canada, while long-term bilateral projects. Long-term projects are also carried out with the Baltic States, which share the sea, after which they are named with Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Åland.
What can you do?
Suppose you want to learn more about Denmark and Northern Europe. In that case, it is very easy to visit neighbouring countries and experience the similarities and differences that make the region so unique. If you're in Reykjavik, see how much of the local language you can understand from Danish (sometimes nothing, sometimes whole sentences!) at the beautiful Nordic House, where there is also one of the city's finest restaurants. Funding can also be applied to create projects, such as cultural exchanges within and beyond the region, or to work on Nordic cooperation on various themes, such as LGBT+ rights.