The Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Council are two organisations responsible for official Nordic co-operation. These Councils unite five Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as three autonomous territories - the Faeroe Islands, Greenland and Åland (see below).
Nordic co-operation is designed to promote Nordic points of view on issues, where joint Nordic efforts have a more positive effect than the countries could achieve individually.
The Nordic Council of Ministers
The Nordic Council of Ministers, founded in 1971, is the Nordic forum for inter-governmental co-operation.
The task of the Nordic Council of Ministers is to improve Nordic co-operation, promote Nordic identity and work in favour of Nordic interests.
The five Nordic countries take turns at chairing the Council for a year at a time. The Prime Ministers have supreme responsibility for Nordic co-operation, and the co-operation ministers together with Nordic Committee for Co-operation co-ordinate the work. A number of Nordic ministries combine to deal with matters concerning the labour market, equality, culture, education/training, research, energy, agriculture/forestry, environment and transport.
The ministers for Nordic co-operation have set overall objectives for the next few years with the focus on innovations and education, welfare and culture, environment/sustainable development and co-operation with neighbouring countries and regions.
The Nordic Council of Ministers engages in extensive international activity – especially in the so-called Adjacent Areas. The Adjacent Areas are Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, north-west Russia and the Arctic region. Activities in this area account for 20% of the Nordic budget.
In 1991 the Nordic Council of Ministers established offices in Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia). A similar office was opened in Saint Petersburg (north-west Russia) in 1995.
The Nordic Council
The Nordic Council, founded in 1952, is the Nordic forum for inter-parliamentary co-operation.
The Council aims to maintain and develop Nordic co-operation on legislation, culture, public transportation and environmental protection as well as on the issues related to the socio-economic area. In recent years, the scope of co-operation has been extended to encompass foreign affairs and security.
The Nordic Council has 87 members, representing the five countries and three autonomous territories. The members of the Council are members of national parliaments. They constitute a national delegation, the composition of which reflects the representation of the parties in the national parliaments. There is thus no procedure for direct election to the Nordic Council.
The Nordic Council, which is led by a presidium, has been holding annual ordinary sessions since 1996. It also arranges so-called theme sessions for comprehensive treatment of selected issues. Continuous work on policy issues in the Nordic Council is conducted via five committees and four political party groups: Social Democratic, Conservative, Centre and Left-wing Socialist/Green group.