TL: A Nordic Twist [Redux]

Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 1: Introduction

    baunsgaard.jpg

    Hilmar Baunsgaard; the original architect of Nordek.

    The Nordic Confederation traces it's history back to the post World War 2 era. Denmark and Norway were recovering from German occupation, whilst Finland recovered from two wars with the Soviet Union (and in view of the Baltics, for the very existence of the Finnish nation). Sweden, whilst neutral, very much felt the effects of the War, whilst Iceland, despite being a long way away from the mainland, was a glorified military base for the United Kingdom and United States. The Nordic Council came about as a consultative inter-parliamentary body, with members put forward by the national parliaments of Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden; Finland later joining in 1955 after the death of Stalin and improving relations. Freedom of movement in the form of a joint labout market was instigated in 1952 with a passport free area, later reformed in to the "Nordic Passport Union" in 1958. Further action in "Nordic Social Security Convention" which allowed migrants greater access to unemployment benefits was implemented in 1955. 1967 saw Sweden embrace the switch from left-hand traffic (as in the UK) to right-hand traffic (similar to the rest of the Nordics, and Europe); many of the vehicles there were European imports anyway which corresponded with the new side of road driving.

    Efforts towards a wider Nordic economic treaty floundered in the late 1950s however due to differing economic priorities and geopolitical priorities. As such, Denmark and Norway had followed the United Kingdom in applying for membership of the European Communities in 1963 due to the strength of trade between the two Nordic states and the UK. This 1963 application, as well as a subsequent attempt in 1967 were both declined with a French veto due to the perceived transatlantic relationship between the UK and USA. In light of this, the Danish Prime Minister (Hilmar Baunsgaard) in 1968 proposed a Nordic version of the EC; full Nordic economic co-operation. Both Sweden and Denmark especially were interested in a full customs union - that is the cessation of internal barriers and a common external tariff), whilst Norway needed capital to continue developing it's infrastructure - as well as providing an opportunity to create a common fisheries policy to "level up" it's coastal communities. Significant numbers of politicians in both Denmark and Norway favoured EC membership over what had become known as "Nordek" (NORD Economic Kommunity"), but the position of du Gaulle as French President proved an insurmountable obstacle; a position entrenched following his success in the 1969 French referendum and with no end likely in the short term it seemed.

    As such, with seemingly few other options, Nordek was presented to the wider Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) for signature; all 4 were existing EFTA members or associates, although the door was left open for Iceland to join later. The Swedish Government heavily backed the proposal (as shown in some of it's commitments). Opinion polls showed Finns had the greatest backing for Nordek at around 50% backing it, and 25% being ambivalent. Questions remained for Finland however, due to the presence of the Soviet Union next door, and Soviet politicians were suspicious. It was in light of this, with continued French vetoing of northern European nations joining the EEC (by then European Economic Community), that additional clauses in the Nordek treaty allowed for the suspension of Nordek if any member country proceeded to later accede to the EEC, whilst the treaty explicitly mentioned that the economic union would have no bearing on member's independent foreign and defence policies. It was explicitly to be a "purely commercial arrangement - not political" as some analysts put it, although some shared commerce rules would inevitably be required. It was an excellent reflection on the shared Nordic mindset that many of these rules could be co-ordinated initially by inter-governmental agreement and implemented by national law, rather than the supra-national political approach taken by the European Community.

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    President of Finland, Urho Kekkonen had a tightrope to talk in balancing Nordek and Soviet relations.

    Either way, the "Treaty establishing a Nordic Economic Community" (later popularly referred to as the "New Kalmar Treaty" in a nod to the historical union between Nordic countries) was signed by the 4 countries in May 1970 (delayed for several months by Finnish-Soviet talks, with their Friendship Treaty extended by 20 years), and later ratified by the national Parliaments. It would establish a full customs union within 10 years between the 4 countries - with a few product/policy areas taking longer, including provisions for agriculture and fishing. Details of Nordek did not preclude any signatory from attempting to migrate to EEC membership, but any such move would likely trigger a swift "guillotine" effect on the Nordek economic links as documented in the treaty itself, in order to protect Finnish interests and allow the begruding acceptance of the Soviet Union next door. Later research during the 20th Century in to declassified material for the time indicated that Soviet acceptance was rooted in a desire to avoid a fully integrated European neighbour; by allowing Nordek to proceed, with safeguards to avoid Finland becoming too entangled, hopefully keeping west/north Europe economically divided at least partly.

    Financial co-operation will see the enactment of three funds; general, agricultural and fisheries, for structural improvements and stabilisation in order to modernise markets and industry. Cooperation in industrial policy would be concentrated on areas in which the Nordic countries have important common needs, for example, pollution, health, oceanic research, space research, atomic energy and automation. Negotiations are taking place on the building of a Nordic atomic energy company - of interest especially to Sweden and Finland - on the successful Scandinavian Airlines model. This would see coordination in research, development and use of reactors, as well as the fuel market. The importance of adopting uniform company laws as soon as possible was emphasised, as is also need for uniform rules on government bankruptcy, the protection of patterns, unfair competition and the like.

    All this would be administered by the Nordic Ministerial Council - with a member from each of the Nordic Governments, with all decisions to be unanimously, and a committee of officials under them to prepare the decisions and matters of the Council; and everything to start on the 1st January, 1971.

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    Hi all, so this is a redux/ rewrite of my "Nordic Twist to Europe" TL I did back in....2014 it seems. Wow. Except I changed the PoD to 1970, and the original Nordek treaty being signed, which is based on du Gaulle winning his French referendum, therefore not stepping down, and therefore there still being no immediate likelihood of UK/Ireland/Denmark/Norway joining the European Communities.
     
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    Chapter 2: The 1970s
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 2: The 1970s

    cdg.jpg

    Charles de Gaulle, even in death, would have profound effects on the Nordic community.

    The early 1970s saw major growing pains in the Nordics. Nordek came in to existence in 1971, and within a year Iceland had also become signatory to the treaty, expanding economic co-operation to the Atlantic island between the ultimately Danish islands. Hilmar Baunsgaard, the former Danish Prime Minister, rapidly became the Nordic Secretary-General overseeing the implementation of Nordek. Nordek was predominately Danish-originated (under Baunsgaard) and thus it seemed only right for the chief architect of Nordek to become it's first secretary-general and lead the charge for it's implementation. It also served as a convenient post to move the former Prime Minister on from national politics in the Danish Parliament so the new Prime Minister (Krag) could continue without Baunsgaard's reputation.

    Trade barriers began to be removed; noticeably the Norwegian tariffs on Swedish cars gradually dropped, and all Nordic countries began to try and switch to Nordic agricultural suppliers (usually in Sweden or especially Denmark) where possible. Work to plan and develop the new Nordic Customs Union continued, although agreement over industrial products were difficult, given the wariness of Denmark and Norway over Swedish industrial hegemony, and certain product categories (notably chemicals) would be absent from the union until the start of the 1980s. However, almost immediately after Nordek began life, the death in early 1972 of Charles de Gaulle brought uncertainty in Europe, given that the former French President was a highly influential leader for the nascent European Communities.

    A new presidential election was planned anyway for 1972, so Pompidou served as little more than a caretaker President, but the main point was the removal of the principal barrier to European Communities entrance by new countries. By 1973, the United Kingdom (and Republic of Ireland) were already arranging their cards in order to apply for EEC membership once more with the new French President Giscard seen as more amenable to EEC expansion; initial Danish feelers about a potential application by the PM Krag were generally positive too, although the Nordek "guillotine clause" would force the individual Nordic nations to apply for European membership rather than the Nordics as a whole - there was absolutely no possibility of Finland joining the European Community in any shape under the current geopolitical environment. Later on, the Danish general election in late 1973 had yielded highly mixed results, and so was later deemed the "Landslide Election"; existing parties took significant losses, parties with no seats returned, and two entirely new political parties took significant amounts of seats in Parliament. The Social Democrats under Krag were the largest party, and so Krag remained as Prime Minister, but Parliament under him was highly divided, and the European debate frequently cut across party structures.

    With Parliament so divided amongst pro-European and pro-Nordic stances, a referendum was established for early 1975, while work gently continued in Nordek itself - but hardly at full speed given that it may all fall apart anyway in a few years. Public opinion polls had generally backed EEC entry historically, especially if the United Kingdom entered, given the level of Danish agricultural exports to the UK. The referendum question asked the public "if the Danish Government should open negotiations with the European Economic Community", and with such a clear question a mandate for negotiations would be established over the top of politicians. The public debate raged; was Nordek a suitable alternative to Europe? Was the larger European market a better fit for Danish exports than the other Nordic nations? Much of the "yes" side argument were founded on the economic gains, particularly for Danish agriculture, in exporting to the wider European Community as well as with their close partners in Great Britain. The problem with this approach is that it solely appealed to voter's wallets, and not their heads. In comparison, the "no" side offered many rebuttals. The notion that the European Community was on a journey towards a European super-state federation, which Denmark would be a mere municipality within, and in which Danish values and the Danish version of the "Nordic Model" would be watered down for the wider "capitalistic" European market. Instead of joining this European club, "no" proponents continued to espouse Nordek as a real alternative to Europe, with a sizeable market which is fundamentally built upon the Nordic economic model, in collaboration with the Danish soul mates in the other Nordic nations.

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    The Danish Referendum of 1975 cut the country in two.

    It was not to be for the pro-Europe lobby. The pro-EEC side failed to explain their side sufficiently, even with the economic strength of the Danish Agricultural lobby, whereas the anti-EEC side played on the crippling effect it would have on Nordek (cutting themselves off from the Nordic countries), sabotage the planned fixed link to Sweden, surrender Danish sovereignty to European politicians (rather than the unanimous political decisions in Nordek) and lose control of Danish fishing and agricultural industries. The referendum threw up a shock result; 53% against opening negotiations; a large group of antipathic voters not bothering with the referendum, and a large group voting agains. The Norwegian Government did not hold a referendum; it was clear that, although significant, there was insufficient political or public backing for European negotiations to start with.

    The Danish pro-EEC side were shocked, and it left few options for Denmark; it's only real option was to plunge in to Nordek along side the other Nordic nations. From a Soviet point of view, it marked a success for the political elite who had backed allowing Finland to join Nordek - and allow Nordek to come in to existence, as it had now by extension stopped further expansion of the western-aligned European Community to Scandinavia. There could be no doubt now, that all five Nordic countries were committed to the Nordek project, for they had no other options. The agricultural components of Nordek, although heavily negotiated, were never in doubt for Denmark could not afford to lose the Nordic export market. Modelled closely on the EEC, it was perhaps no doubt that an agricultural subsidy would become a Nordek function, with Nordic producers covering supplementary demands in other Nordic countries. Closely modelled on the European "Common Agricultural Policy", a subsidy to farmers would generally be paid to maintain prices, in part based upon the farm's latitude in order to compensate northern farmers who could not compete with the intensive farming of Denmark in the far south of the Nordics. Unlike the growing EEC however, fisheries remained a topic of debate. With Norway and Iceland almost completely dependant on their fishing industries, they were loathe to hand over control to another body, or allow foreign ships to fish in their waters without any say, and so the act of fishing remains predominately a national function, although the market in fish products would be opened up. Norwegian proponents of Nordek held this up high as a victory not just for Norway, but against the backers of EEC membership as proof that Norway had influence and power within Nordek, something she would not have in the EEC where Norway would have to fully hand over power in certain areas to a federation where Norway's voice mattered little. The European Communities "Common Fisheries Policy" had already forced the United Kingdom to open up her seas to European fishing vessels, and it proved a sharp lesson in European politics - especially for the Nordic nations who were nowhere near as large as the UK was.

    The 1973 Oil Crisis also played it's part. Oil became rationed - not just for the petrol in cars, lorries and shipping, but also for heating, with limits on room temperatures, prohibitions on heating private swimming pools and limits on road lighting, all designed to save energy and especially oil requirements. As such, "Nordatom" was also set up in order to develop nuclear energy for the region and reduce the dependency on foreign energy where possible, with the Swedish Prime Minister an enthusiastic backer - not just to provide energy independence, but also as an outlet for the fledgling Swedish nuclear industry. This was balanced by the discovery of North Sea Oil in Norwegian waters; the state owned Statoil was established in 1972 by Norway, and was mirrored in Denmark with almost identical actions.

    All this meant that Nordek was effectively following global events during the 1970s, and it was definitely at the mercy of them, but in some ways this proved the making of Nordek by merely surviving the baptism by fire. By the end of the 1970s, the United Kingdom and Ireland had joined the European Economic Community as full members. However, that route was no longer available to the Nordic countries, and the only option was to embrace Nordek (heavily modelled on the EEC as it was) in order to get through the economically bumpy 1970s. As the decade came to a close, all 5 nations decided to continue with the project (there being a 10 year exit clause in the original Nordek treaty), as the full customs union came in to place, for everything, in 1980 - the last objections to some industrial goods having been dropped in the late 1970s as Denmark attempted to salvage her reputation within Nordek following the European debacle.
     
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    Chapter 3: NordAtom
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 3: NordAtom

    agesta.jpg

    Agesta Nuclear Plant was an early initiative in Sweden to generate nuclear electricity, with a convenient potential by-product of plutonium for military use.

    The modern day Nordatom company owes it's existence to the proposal for a "NordAtom" international Nordic group, modelled on the successful Nordic joint-venture in air traffic; the "Scandinavian Airlines System", but for atomic energy. In the 1950s and 1960s, electricity usage had substantially risen, with much of Nordic electricity generated from fossil fuels, although diversification was well under way; Sweden had built hydroelectric dams across many of it's northern rivers, and the Nordic General Fund under Nordek was now helping fund corresponding massive Norwegian hydroelectric dams. Co-operation in nuclear matters has had a long history in the Nordics, with many significant research sharing, and joint planning. The "Kontaktorgan" has long been a Nordic-wide shared programme, sharing research and safety information, since the 1950s, and largely continues today in smaller form, acting as a liaison between the national nuclear regulators and safety agencies. It has also allowed joint inspections of facilities - particularly the Barsebeck nuclear plant, given it's location relative to Copenhagen - as well as joint emergency & disaster planning. But the Nordatom company came about eventually by mergers between Swedish owned ASEA-Atom, and other component manufacturers jointly owned by Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Despite the fact that Sweden and Finland had projects on the way anyway to deliver nuclear power, the initial idea for Denmark and Norway to also participate by 1972 had become cooler, with some Danes foreseeing continued low oil prices making nuclear power economically unviable. Iceland was also involved in the early days, but now maintains a general distance as an observer, allowing the primary 4 (later 3) participants to continue with deeper co-operation, given that Iceland generates all it's power from either hydroelectricity or geothermal schemes.

    As always with the early years of Nordek, global events took over. The 1973 Oil Crisis roughly tripled the international cost of oil, and the later 1979 Oil Crisis raised it further to roughly 5 or 6 times the original cost. Although North Sea Oil was beginning to flow in to Norway and beyond now, the price was still high, and invalidated earlier economic predictions. Questions over energy sovereignty flared up, especially due to price-fixing mechanisms in the Middle East due to global events, and suddenly the issue of energy security was thrust to the forefront of Nordic politics. A switch to domestic supplies, immune from worldwide events, seemed particularly appealing, whilst in light of economic issues further joint projects to provide employment and industry were desired. Norway was another casualty however, switching to observer status, when the Norwegian Government decided not to pursue nuclear power and instead continue to build on it's abundant hydroelectric power potential. Sweden and Finland continued to be more enthusiastic; both had fewer possibilities for moving away from oil and gas, and Finland in particular had little in the way of natural resources. Danes continued in the programme, somewhat half-heartedly, choosing not to invest in Nordic Nuclear, although they were the only country to build a new nuclear power plant under the involvement of the group, with the reactors sourced from the group for a new nuclear site; Storstrømsværket.

    Further reactors were procured from the group for use in the Finnish and Swedish nuclear stations; Forsmark, Ringhals, Oskarshamn and Olkiluoto. All the nuclear power plants were located on the coast for access to cooling water. However, during this mini construction boom in the nuclear industry, the "Three Mile Incident" occurred in the United States. Public and political opinion began to swing, and in both Denmark and Sweden, politicians decided that the reactors currently under construction would finish, but no more reactors would be authorised. By 1985, the nuclear industry was generating plentiful electricity; approx 70TwH/y in Sweden, 25TwH/y in Finland, 5TwH/y in Denmark, although future prospects were uncertain with the new political climate. Any hope of return to normal was later dashed by the Chernobyl Disaster in Ukraine; public opinion turned decisively against nuclear power in the years following, and the new safety procedures and costs significantly altered the financial models previously in use. In the Nordics, it was well known it was unrealistic however to simply turn off all the nuclear power stations however, despite what pressure groups may insist; the amounts of electricity generated were massive, and not easily replace.

    Laws were introduced however, forcing nuclear operators to dispose of the waste domestically (meaning within the Nordics) in order to continue to be permitted to generate electricity. Joint Swedish-Finnish efforts, involving Nordatom in discussions, therefore created two joint deep geological repositories, one in each country in order to accommodate long-life nuclear waste. The repositories worked in tandem, using the same processes and overall design, burrowed hundreds of metres down in to the ground at Forsmark in Sweden and at Onkalo in Finland. All this created the conditions for further research in to thorium-based nuclear power given the far lower risks and substantial reduction in waste products. Agesta Nuclear Plant, recently decommissioned, was to be reconditioned to host a small thorium reactor for research and small scale electricity production, and in the early 1990s began functioning on a small scale, and closed in the early 2010s. Nordatom continues to work on scaling up thorium based systems for wider use, especially in light of the 21st Century push for greater renewable energy sources.

    By the early 1980s, Denmark was in full swing of adopting wind power, both on land and at sea. Storstrømsværket and it's 2 reactors continued operating, considering they substantially reduced Denmark's reliance on fossil fuels, and continued to be known as "Denmark's dirty little secret". Peak demand, similar to the rest of the Nordics, is largely met by waste incinerators, which both generate electricity as well as heat for district heating systems. Sweden decided not to build further nuclear power stations, but allowed half the reactors to eventually be retired in obsolescence, and replaced by renewable sources (chiefly on land wind power, and eventually solar power in the south). The other half continue to be maintained and supply electricity to the market. In Finland, a lack of natural resources meant that nuclear power had little alternative; indeed a third nuclear power plant was built in the early 2000s due to the electrical demands, whilst Nordatom has also been involved in building a new nuclear power plant in Estonia during the 2010s to supply electricity and reduce energy dependence on Russia.

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    Notes: Considering the large amount of talk about the possibilities for nuclear in this thread, this has been a stab at answering them. A lot of my research came from here: http://www.nks.org/scripts/getdocument.php?file=111010111119615. I'm definitely not an expert in nuclear energy, so I'm not precluding a re-write of anything neccessary, but I *think* it's all fine. There's a few comments on thorium technology there, but I'd rather not deviate significantly there; I have no expertise to judge whether thorium is a realistic option given that there's media backing and opposing it on a multitude of facets.

    Nuclear power in this TL is a little more widespread and accepted in lieu of real alternatives. I don't see a massive issue there. There's one nuclear plant in Denmark, roughly the same amount in Sweden (most with perhaps an extra reactor), and the same amount in Finland (again with an extra reactor each). Rather than demanding they close (as in OTL), Sweden and Denmark here have both adopted a phrase of "no more nuclear plants", whilst Finland after a pause has continued to embrace nuclear power, with thorium research beginning in the 2010s. The Danish plant continues, although Sweden is decommissioning some of their reactors.
     
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    Chapter 4: The early 1980s
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 4: The early 1980s

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    The Carter-Brezhnev signing of an agreement in 1979; a few years is a long time in international politics.

    "Kemst þó hægt fari."
    "You will reach your destination even though you travel slowly" (roughly)...was probably the unofficial motto of the Nordic Economic Kommunity.

    If the 1970s had been the birth of the Nordek in fire - the full embracement of Nordek by all five participants was held back until the economic woes following the 1973 Oil Crisis and "Danish Debacle" forced their hands, then the early 1980s was a difficult maturing, a time of gradual Nordek expansion. Tensions between east and west took a substantial turn for the worse, leaving the Nordics - straddling both camps - in a difficult position. The rate of integration slowed anyway as, legally speaking, the full customs union between the Nordic nations was mostly achieved, allowing the full movement of people, goods, food, capital, but the ability to work together as a single Nordic bloc became more difficult the more hostile the two opposing east and west camps became. As it was, thankfully the economy was recovering anyhow after the turbulent 1970s, and the integration had made the Nordics a mix of "Icelandic fish, Danish agriculture, Norwegian energy, Swedish industry, and Finnish know-how!", to quote a Finnish politician - although the reality was a steady stream of Finnish migrants moving west for jobs, usually to Sweden, and perhaps "Finnish forestry" was a better suggestion.

    Nevertheless, the results were impressive given the (globally speaking) smaller sized countries - Danish agriculture especially expanded to feed the wider Nordic market, aided by smaller agricultural regions in Sweden (particularly in the south), Norway and Finland. Swedish industry expanded to manufacture across the Nordics and several of the largest Nordic companies today owe their history to this period of expansion, and a large part of this Swedish industrial expansion was fuelled by the (comparatively speaking) poorer Finnish migrants moving to Sweden in search of better jobs. The shifting economy of Finland, which had previously aimed for self sufficiency, led to instability in Parliament in the late 1970s as the Finnish agricultural lobby demanded more protection from the onslaught of Danish farming. As farms were sold, and merged to create better economies of scale, former farmers then went searching for jobs in the towns and cities or moved to another Nordic nation in search of those things, and often switched party allegiance to Social Democratic parties. It was a time of rapid transition for Finland, with increasing urbanisation and economic shift away from agriculture and self-sufficiency, and towards greater urban life in the service-sector and a small - but increasing - amount of manufacturing moving to Finland in search of cheaper costs. Other "harmonisation" took on smaller roles where they actually came to fruition. The planned introduction by 1992 of a common Nordic driving license would start with full mutual recognition of each nation's driving licenses in 1982 (*1), allowing holders to drive in any country for an unlimited period of time. In due course, this would become a single Nordic driving license, awarded by each nation in accordance with their law, but would allow cross-border penalty points to be awarded, and potentially revocation of the license under severe circumstances.

    The retirement of Baunsgaard from the Secretary-General of Nordek after almost 10 years of leading the economic union he had initiated as the Danish Prime Minister led to a search for a successor. Eventually, the hunt led to a Norwegian successor in the form of ex-Prime Minister Odvar Nordli, who seemed content to mediate between the five Nordic nations and gently push the agenda along. In all likelihood, this was partly due to his health issues, but that was perhaps part of the reason for his nomination to the role over the idealistic Baunsgaard, that Nordli would take a step back and allow the 5 Nordic states a chance the breath and ascertain where their futures lay. This new spirit of intergovernmental co-operation to achieve integration (in part required due to the need for unanimity in decisions) stood in sharp contrast to the EEC, where centralisation of power under a supranational commission led to continuous debates over decisions and the future of the EEC - supposedly "ever closer to federation". This meant there was little formal need for a Nordic Parliament like the European Parliament, as each country agreed to measures and decisions themselves, and the shared "Nordic mindset" allowed much of this to happen in the spirit of that co-operation. It also conveniently avoided any constitutional requirements for referendums to ratify, as all decisions were implemented via standard national Parliamentary mechanisms.

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    The new Secretary-General in his previous role as Norwegian Prime Minister.

    One of the early issues Nordli had to deal with was the burgeoning "Home Rule" states; Greenland, the Faroes, and Aland. All three were not sovereign, and were part of either Denmark (for the first two) or Finland (for the latter), but by the early 1980s either were in the midst of being granted, or already had received self-governing status. The Faroes and Aland had been in the Nordic Council since 1970, but Greenland would be a new entrant as a constituent country of the Danish Realm. Thanks to the Norwegian red lines over fishing during the initial Nordek negotiations, in that a nation's waters may only be fished in by that nation, although the resulting products may then be shipped within the customs union, membership of Nordek was largely uncontroversial, but the burgeoning powers of self-rule (and thus legal control over affairs co-ordinated at a Nordic level) meant a requirement to involve them fully in Nordek processes. The so-called "5+3 Agreement" introduced full representation for Greenland, the Faroes and Aland in the Nordek administration. Although legally unclear at the time as to whether those members had the right of veto over Nordek, in practise the communal discussions and agreements meant that the power of veto was rarely used and the legality was a moot point. As part of the agreement, Greenland formally became party to the Nordic Passport Union.

    Actions by the Swedish Prime Minsiter, Olof Palme, in the realm of foreign affairs were less welcome though, as they were sometimes perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the voice of Nordek collectively. Palme's criticism of the Soviet Union in 1979 (for their invasion of Afghanistan) meant that Finnish President Kekkonen, and later Koivisto, had to walk on "tightrope covered in oil" to manage the relationship with the Soviets, and maintained the Finnish veto on a more co-ordinated foreign policy regarding trade in order to preserve relations with the Soviets. The early part of the 1980s, having seen a deterioration in east-west relations, led to strained foreign relations all around (although none as complex as Finnish-Soviet relations), although Palme's ability to alienate both sides did further the image of Sweden and Nordek-itself as more neutral instead of being closely aligned with the west. Trade continued with both west and east however, with exports to the EEC under the EFTA conventions which Finland had duly signed in the late 1980s, and to the Warsaw Pact countries (especially the Soviet Union) - with Nordek rules making some special exemptions for the Soviet Union given the Finnish position. Palme's criticism of the United States, and visit to Iran, caused equally negative reactions from US politicians as well, although the work of Icelandic, Danish and Norwegian partners of the USA in NATO was much easier given the somewhat lower risk of a military reaction by the United States.

    Equally elsewhere, much of the political capital and time was spent on matters outside Nordek, given the geopolitical situation in the early 1980s. Whilst Palme spoke about the world, Finland traded with the Soviet Union and attempted to diplomatically handle the relationship, Denmark reformed their domestic economy and Norway continued to set up and evolve it's oil industry. Nordek itself predominately established more of it's administration, with the creation of the agencies to administer the economic union. Much of this bureaucracy was located in Malmo, extremely close to Copenhagen, but after discussions in 1985, the Nordek machinery moved further up the Swedish coast in to new buildings in Gothenburg in order to be closer to Oslo and Stockholm and more neutral with regards to Denmark. Gothenburg was a metropolitan centre already, and roughly equidistant from Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm - although Helsinki was still a distance away, as was Reykjavik.

    A range of newer - and better designed - buildings for the bureaucracy and administration for the Nordics would be built in a new suburb on the north side of the river. This would take the place of former shipyards, which had largely deserted Gothenburg during the shipbuilding crisis, with the land sold on from the shipyards regeneration programme; Swedeyard. Whilst not providing a like-for-like set of replacement jobs for shipbuilders, it tied in with Gothenburg City Council's vision to transform the city from an "industrial city" to a "knowledge-intensive city", and thus would provide a new industry of civil service, bureaucratic and support jobs for the new intergovernmental institution.

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    (*1) I can't find any info online about whether Nordic driving licenses had mutual recognition pre-EEA/EU/EEC. If so, read this as "better mutual recognition" in the aim of a unified driving license in the future!
     
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    Chapter 5: The late 1980s
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 5: The late 1980s.

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    The Nordic state flags at a 1980s Nordek meeting.

    The early years of Nordek had seen it take a very similar growth to that in the European Community. Joint work on nuclear energy, a growing economic union, and a generally ingovernmental approach co-ordinated by a joint secretariat. The Nordics had, by 1985, enjoyed the success of a full customs union, and growing intra-Nordic trade both in goods, food, and free movement of people. Nordatom had delivered new nuclear power plants, enabling cleaner energy - reducing fossil fuel usage - and also energy security, reducing the volume of imports of such material. By the 1980s however, the European Community was now looking at reforms, and exactly the same began to happen in the Nordics, helped by an improving global situation as the flare up in tension in the early 1980s reduced - aided by a notable PR win for the Nordics in the Reykjavik Summit between the two superpowers.

    The introduction of the "CE" marking and declaration of conformity with European laws was mirrored in the Nordics with the "NN" symbol (short for NordeN), showing conformity with one of the Nordic members regulatory and technical standards for health, safety and environmental protections, on the basis that all Nordic national standards met minimum thresholds and should be mutually recognised. The hope was that this would reduce the administrative burden on manufacturers for selling devices manufactured in one Nordic state, could now be sold in all other Nordic states without further certification. Further action in the late 1990s would see a European-Nordic agreement on the harmonisation between CE and NN conformity, allowing joint declarations by manufacturers of "CE/NN" conformity.

    The parallels mostly stopped there however. The European Community was admitting new states for accession now (Greece had acceded to the European Community in 1981, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986), and the voting system had become rather complicated. In addition, many idealists sought to move the European Community on towards a closer federal union, and envisaged a new "European Union", with far greater centralisation at the "Union" level (or federal as some phrased it), and a reduction in member state influence. This proved to be highly controversial, and caused a great deal of debate in EC political circles, but the Maastricht Treaty ended up being signed and forming the new European Union (evolved from the European Community).

    The Nordics took a separate move however. The Nordic mindset saw Nordek as a concept of co-operation between nation states, and a sense of scepticism towards supranational or federal integration. After all, three of it's members had only achieved true independence within the century - Norway in 1905, Finland in 1917 and Iceland in 1918 or 1944 depending on the person speaking (1918 saw independence in a personal union with Denmark, with the Danes handling foreign affairs and defence for the new state, whilst 1944 saw the establishment of the Icelandic Republic and the removal of all links to Denmark). All this meant there was little appetite for a full union above the Nordic member states, and to a Nordic mindset, the future was in further, deeper co-operation and "shared services", even if some political power would have to be centralised. Idealists and advocates for some counterpart "Nordic Union" also ran up against foreign policy issues too, with none able to square Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic membership of NATO with Finnish requirements for a high level relationship with the Soviet Union. Even from an economic viewpoint, Finland continued to do significant trade with the Soviet Union (and other Eastern Bloc countries) despite the Nordic customs union - the Soviet Union was treated equally to the European Community in the Nordics when it came to foreign trade in order to keep the great bear happy, and this had proven an advantageous relationship with a great deal of raw materials coming westwards.

    In came Kalevi Sorsa to the Nordic Secretary-General seat in 1989, after a career in Finnish politics. The move was the culmination of Danish-Norwegian-Finnish attempts to ensure that Nordek did not become a sole vessel for Swedish economic dominance, and now each of the three had had a Secretary-General - presumably with a Swede next. Sorsa was a committed supporter of Nordek, seeing it as a vehicle for improving the Finnish economy and international relations - and also one day, potentially a vehicle for closer integration with the European economy as the Soviet Union stagnated. Sorsa had close links with his fraternal parties across the Nordics in SDP parties, whilst also high-level connections in Washington, and more importantly Moscow - adding a degree of credence to assertions he could gather acceptance for further Nordek integration with both the domestic Nordic governments and the Soviets next door.

    sorsa.jpg

    The new Nordek Secretary-General.

    Many other ideas were being discussed by 1990, with ideas ranging across the entire political mindset with a few still pressing for a full federal union. This was not to be, but gaping cracks in the Soviet Union were suddenly visible, and for a couple of years, everyone watched events unfold to the east. One major policy initiative in 1990, shortly before the Soviet implosion was a "Nordic Airspace Agreement", which introduced the Nordek single market to the aviation market within the Nordic area. Aviation was a critical part of Nordic transportation, given the long distances and often unfriendly terrain, and the agreement introduced the concept of a "Nordic" air carrier - any airline of a member state, majority owned by the Nordics and principally based in the Nordics. Any Nordic carrier, after a transition period where rules on prices were deregulated, would be able to fly between any Nordic airports, whilst also competition rules were laid out on facilities and supporting processes (ie. air control, landing slots, ground services) to ensure freedom of access for all. Whilst there were fears about the future of more rural subsidised routes (which were still permitted), the introduction of smaller and more nimble regional airlines would often end up enhancing rural air connectivity with better services and lower prices.

    Road signage was also be harmonised under members state agreement; the International E-Road Network was fully integrated in to national signage, which had proved difficult when E-roads were renumbered, with the Nordics refusing to resign the roads due to the expense it would cause. This led to the "E4" and "E6" roads being retained as they were. Major trunk roads (often called "national roads") which were not E-Roads would be renumbered, with the process scheduled to take up to 12 years with a slow rate of sign replacement and updating, with longer-distance roads receiving an Nxxx number - although the meaning of the "N" was never conclusively stated, and rotates between "Nordic", "Norden" or "National" in popular culture. Roads in the N1xx group were cross-border main roads - primarily in Norway and Sweden and to a lesser extent Finland, with subsequent numbers groups assigned: N3xx (Denmark), N4xx (Norway), N5xx (Sweden), N6xx (Finland) and N7xx (the Atlantic Islands; Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes) - with those national authorities then subdividing the numbering scheme as appropriate for them. However, the Atlantic Islands all elected not to participate - they had no land borders to standardise numbers on and had little in the way of truly "major" roads by wider Nordic and global standards. In terms of marketing, Iceland had branded it's ring road as "Highway 1", and the was reluctant to lose the clear signage, whilst Greenland had no interconnecting roads between their settlements, and the Faroes had a similarly tiny number of roads.
     
    Chapter 6: Confederation (early 1990s)
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    Chapter 6: Confederation (early 1990s).

    "Lika barn leka bäst."
    Alike children play together best.

    bridge.jpg

    The Oresund Bridge not only links Denmark to Sweden, but was also a product of joint Nordic funding through Nordek.

    By 1991, the proposals for closer Nordic integration had continued to be put forward, with the Soviet Union in a state of tumult, but by the end of the year, it was clear that the Soviet regime was on life support with a poor prognosis, and this threw open the doors of possibility for Nordek reform free of the need to play to a virtual Soviet veto. Ideas for federal union continued to be laid down by a mix of elite politicians, but were still unable to square a circle; Soviet/Russian fears of a Finnish slide to the west and to NATO, ending up with NATO only 400km from St Petersburg (Leningrad at that point). The US feared a slide of Danish and Norwegian partners in to ambivalence towards NATO (thereby setting a scene for NATO disintegrating in the face of a common enemy), as well as a loss of of the important military base in Iceland - critical for monitoring Soviet/Russian movements out to the Atlantic Ocean. Domestically, much of the Nordic political systems preferred continued practical "co-operation between equals" rather than lofty ideas of grand sweeping constitutional reforms.

    Sweden and Denmark particularly had done well out of the Nordek economy and Norway had done well with Nordek subsidies to modernise itself and get it's energy economy operational. Iceland, however, not so much - unlike the neighbours in the Faroes and Greenland, being a sovereign country meant they received no domestic transfer payments from the richer Danish mainland and also being so small meant it received less attention. Whilst receiving funding, in particular to complete the road system around Iceland, it was clear that there were few "headline" projects for which Nordek could take credit and market itself. In Finland as well, the economy had been in a state of rapid transformation - there had been winners (usually the urban city population) and losers (the rural farmers) with a rapid trend towards a service-based and urban country as farmers left the rural lands. This had some contrary effects however, as farms merged and became larger, increasing scales of efficiency, with many farms now turning to forestry and logging instead of agriculture. Political earthquakes had been weathered, with the rise and fall of the populist SMP party representing the less affluent Finns, and the emigration of the Finns had been stemmed as companies opened offices and sites in Finland itself.

    By 1993, firm new treaty proposals were tabled, named "Treaty establishing a Nordic Confederation". In order to avoid any pretension or illusion of political union, the Nordics would remain a firmly co-operative system, there would be no proposal for an elected Nordic Parliament, even if there was no real requirement to play for full Soviet acceptance any more. There seemed little point in offering any new frustrations with the new Russian neighbours, especially after the Russian-Finnish Agreement of 1992 had brought the previous "Treaty of Friendship" to an end, and the end of the "Brezhnev Doctrine" in the 1980s meant Russia was seemingly unlikely to militarily intervene in Finland without provocation. There was, however, a Nordic Assembly, made up of national Parliamentarians from the member states, in proportions reflecting the national Parliaments. Seats in the Nordic Assembly were granted on a regressive scheme with a minimum of 2 seats for the small autonomous territories; on 1990s statistics, Sweden (40), Norway (30), Denmark (33), Finland (32), Iceland (11), Greenland (2), Faroes (2), Aland (2). This would ensure greater co-operation between the various national Parliaments - crucial for the future if the Nordic scheme of discussion, compromise, and unanimity in decisions was to be retained.

    Fundamentally, the concepts of Nordek and the Nordic Council would be unified, with the bureaucracy merged and the Nordic Council becoming the institution which managed Nordek and a host of other pan-Nordic programmes, with the administration known as the "Nordic Executive". The Nordic Council would gain it's own international legal identity, allowing for membership of the World Trade Organisation - directly comparable to the moves the European Union was making. More fundamentally would be the introduction of direct "Nordic Law" in policy areas where the member states had agreed to integrate; commercial & economic especially, as well as a host of business policy issues such as corporate bankruptcy and how firms should handle cross-border staff, in order to create a single, clear set of rules - which would then also have the advantage of being challenged if needed in a clear Nordic administrative court system. While there was a great desire to spread the Nordic institutions out from Gothenburg, to other countries, there was a major hurdle; most felt it would be advantageous to be situated away from national capitals, and all non-capital cities in the Nordics bar Gothenburg were small and had poor transport connections, except Malmo (also in Sweden). In the end, to avoid long debates, arguments and protracted political trading over locations, the new Nordic institutions would continue to be located in what had become known as the "Nordic Quarter" in Gothenburg, which was rapidly rebuilding the north shore of the Gota Alv.

    The economy was to be boosted by the harmonisation of VAT rules; the entire Nordics would now be a single VAT bloc (except the Aland Islands and Greenland which did not charge VAT), eliminating the "customs-free" purchases available on most cross-border flights or ships. Whilst the elimination of customs-free purchases at the airport was briefly unpopular, it did hugely simplify cross-border purchases, and allowed the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes especially, but also the Finns and to a lesser extent Icelanders, to cross the border, purchase what they wanted, and return home with no risk of further taxes being imposed at the border, whilst VAT would always be charged on the location of the seller to avoid complex cross-border tax collections. A new Nordic currency would be established by the 2000s, in all member states, inherently implying a closer economic, banking and financial union, although steps on how to implement this were to be left for another time. Co-operation or integration would be sought in media and telecommunications, transport (road, rail and aviation), commercial policy (to better govern the rapidly emerging cross-border economy) - and other areas later if members decided to do so unanimously. Smaller steps also borrowed from European practise, with a common passport design, although there would be no copying of the European principle of citizenship. This would remain solely a prerogative of the Nordic member states, although it was worth noting that Nordic rules from the 1960s meant that any Nordic state citizen moving to another Nordic state could become as a citizen in their new place of abode under a streamlined process after reaching a (usually shortened) amount of time in residence. A flag symbolising the Nordic Confederation would also be established, modelled on the common Nordic Cross design, and featuring the common colours; red, blue, white and yellow, whilst a new "Nordic Swan" emblem signifying the Nordic Executive would feature on joint schemes such as the common passport design.

    flag.jpg

    A new flag for the Nordic Region/Nordek.

    Shared agencies/bodies would be, in principle, be operated by a chairman appointed by the Nordic Executive, and monitored by a board of directors with each member state (excluding the autonomous territories) being represented by one director, with the Nordic Executive appointed chairman also present. In this way, the Nordic Council became the mechanism for administering the co-operation between the member states. With such linguistic diversity across the Nordics - covering three primary language groups and a smaller group (Inuit languages in Greenland, "Old Norse" in Iceland and the Faroes, "Scandinavian" in Denmark, Norway & Sweden, and Finnish...in Finland), naming institutions that would be simple and recognisable became increasingly challenging, sometimes just opting for a neutral English name. In future, the shared bodies would use a single name where ever they operated (ie. "Nordmat" for the Nordic Food Standards Agency), but would always be accompanied by a distinct typographic logo representing that body. With the "Nordic Swan" representing the Nordic Executive, many of the bodies would feature a logo combining the swan with a representative second logo (ie. a head of wheat for the Nordic Agricultural Fund, a simplified passport emblem for the Nordic Border Agencies, simplified coins for the future Nordic Central Bank), thus aiding different language speakers to recognise the body.

    --------------------
    PS: I would add that so far, to the end of this chapter, the Nordic Confederation is agreed at the Nordic level, but will still need enactment in constitutionally required referendums in several countries...to be covered.
     
    Chapter 7: The mid 1990s
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    Chapter 7: The mid-1990s

    "Ei ole koiraa karvoihin katsominen."
    You don't choose a dog according to it's hair according to Finns.

    referendum.jpg

    Referendums all around in the 1990s.

    Initially, the early 1990s (and indeed very late 1980s) were dominated by an international context; the cracking and eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. This would have profound impacts on the Nordic states, and Nordek in particular. Support for new liberal and nationalist groups from western leaders was to a lesser extent mirrored in the Nordics, although notably Finnish politicians continued to ignore the issue, unwilling to "provoke the bear" themselves and commenting that unrest was an "internal Soviet matter". The three Baltic states / ex-Soviet republics would rapidly gain independence and recognition (by virtue of UN membership) by 1991 - and corroborated by the "new" Russia as independent, with troops gradually leaving - also echoed by a new Russian-Finnish Treaty of Friendship. All three states would join NATO over the next 10 years (fully acceding in the early 2000s), keen to fully cement their newly regained freedom, but economic co-operation was another question. Lithuania looked south and west, with Poland, towards European integration. Estonia looked north, keen to advertise it's "Nordic-ness".

    The former Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme, had been one of the largest obstacles to Nordic deeper integration due to his outspoken nature on foreign affairs, and the need for Nordic balance between placating the Soviet Union and co-operation with the United States & NATO. He was especially vocal and critical of the Soviet Union during the turbulent early 1990s, when the Baltic states where pushing for independence. Now those same Palme comments became the biggest proponent of Nordic integration, with Palme's backing of the Baltic states providing a feeling of goodwill between Sweden (and to a lesser extent the wider Nordics), and the Baltic nations. Palme's comments have often been seen as a great example of the high-minded principles of the Nordics, acting against colonialism where ever seen and speaking out against it - but equally those very comments made life difficult for Finland's special position with Russia. The fall of the Soviet Union, and general warming of relations between the Russian Federation and Finland (and by extension the Nordics) allowed huge steps forward by the Nordics. The signing of the new treaty governing relations between Finland and Russia re-affirmed the territorial integrity of both parties, by extension refuting the concept of any irredentist claims to land held by the other side, also allowed the ending of the previous "friendship" treaty between Finland and the Soviet Union (for whom Russia was treated as the legal successor). The actions allowed Finland to drift closer to the Nordics in it's foreign stance, less looking over it's shoulder at "Mother Russia".

    All these actions, and dissolution of the Soviet Union, combined to allow a new spirit of "1990s optimism" - despite financial problems in the early 1990s, especially in Sweden but also across much of the Nordics. This new found optimism led to the agreement of the "Nordic Confederation" treaty between Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and also co-signed by Greenland, the Faroes, and Aland Islands, in which the signatories agreed to deeper integration predominately in the economic realm, with the potential for further co-operative integration if desired. The treaty, whilst not centralising a significant amount of power, did raise new constitutional questions due to the direct effect of Nordic law in the economic and commercial realm, and would legally require a referendum in several of the signing countries (and desired to eliminate any legal issues in others). In to this complex field, somewhat unintentionally, waded Estonia - and to a lesser extent Latvia and Lithuania who began to enquire about membership in the new Nordic Confederation. The Baltics were very different from the general "Nordic Model" which seemingly was at the heart of each of the 5 Nordic nations. A generally free market, with strong legal and social safeguards. A high-tax system, with high benefits and governmental spending, generally strong Parliamentarianism (although the Finnish Presidency had only recently allowed political power to flow back towards the Prime Minister) and a united economy. Even with Estonia sharing a linguistic family with Finland, and thus being the closest, they didn't seem great fits - both emerging post-Soviet nations, significantly poorer, and potentially jeopardising Russian relations given the historic Russian position on the shores of the Baltic and the continued existence of the Kaliningrad exclave.

    The approach divided the Nordics, and the spirit of friendly relations and harmony between the Nordic nations. Some were in favour - Finland especially backed Estonia, as did Sweden partly who saw new markets to operate in - although many Swedes were unsure about admitting a bloc of 8 million people in to Nordek, many of whom were likely to migrate to richer countries, which would often be Sweden for various reasons. Denmark and Norway were more unsure, and were sceptical of their "Nordic identity" as well as the cost of integrating ex-Soviet republics in to the (at the time) Nordek system. Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes were somewhat ambivalent - they were hardly going to be a major target for migration or have to pay substantial amounts to modernise the Baltics, but there was an unease about the potential redirection of funds used in the three islands to instead subsidise the Baltics. The Icelandic Prime Minister, David Oddson, was caught making less than polite comments about the Baltics, whilst a Dane in Government asked "Who on earth are these people? They aren't historically Nordic, culturally Nordic or linguistically Nordic, and so they shouldn't be in Nordek", apparently blissfully unaware of Swedish history in Estonia and Latvia (and even the Danes in Estonia before that). The comments also highly irritated Finns (and to a lesser extent the Greenlanders, who were still ultimately under Danish rule), whose language was not Scandinavian and was a Finnic language similar to Estonian, and saw it as yet more "linguistic imperialism" by the Scandinavians to their detriment. This was notwithstanding the fact that the three Baltic nations, due to the regressive allocation of Nordic Assembly within the future Confederation, would collectively have more influence than any other existing Nordic nation.

    Quickly, Lithuania looked elsewhere. Despite being a planned entrant to NATO (much to Russia's concern), economic stability was equally important, and Lithuanian politicians - widely - felt that Nordek could not offer the markets and the economic freedom to allow Lithuanian progress. The geographical position of Lithuania, right between Russia and it's Kaliningrad exclave realistically left it with little alternative, especially with at the very least, Nordic ambivalence towards any chance of membership to the north. Estonia, on the other hand, would not be dissuaded; it was a Nordic nation, shared a language family with Finland and had a history with both Sweden and Denmark. One of post-Soviet activities of Estonia in 1993 was to adapt it's classic Estonian flag in to a Nordic cross design, to try and nail down it's Nordic credentials in the public mind in Scandinavia. Latvia was caught in the middle, undergoing an identity crisis as to it's future roadmap.

    estonia.jpg

    The new Estonian flag.

    The removal of Lithuania - in the early 1990s accounting for just shy of half the Baltic people - simplified the equations significantly, reducing the potential entrants to just Estonia and Latvia with approximately 4 million people - less than any Nordic nation bar Iceland and the territories. The later decoupling of the issue - with the concepts being divided in to two questions on the referendum also removed some momentum from the "anti-expansion" groups, and allowing the two separate points to be debated without clouding each other. It allowed the proponents to paint the treaty questions in simpler terms; simplifying and reducing the bureaucracy by bringing together the Nordic Council and Nordek (and the dozens of other Nordic conventions), simplifying the framework for business by removing different national interpretations of the same written Nordek law, and introducing a common currency. Other activities were possible, but only unanimously - and thus retaining a national veto. Of the voices, predominately Danish, wanting better opportunities for trade with Europe, this was one area did attract criticism over Nordek not doing enough, but the fact that the Nordics were better negotiating together as a bloc rather than individually for European Union membership was a difficult point to counter.

    Legislation was tabled rapidly following the treaty signing, with governments aiming for referendums in the summer of 1994; May would be "Referendum Month" across all the Nordic nations & territories, with the summer generally proving an easier time to get people out and vote instead of the wet, and very cold winter. The lead-up was remarkably similar in most Nordic countries; proponents advocated the larger Nordic market, the better business environment, and new opportunities for both business and the individual man & woman on the street - whilst also pointing out the lack of other options, with the loss of trade from the dissolved Soviet Union, and an already rejected European Union. Critics derided a loss of national sovereignty, lack of democratic oversight of Nordek (and the proposed Nordic Confederation), and the fact that even combined, the Nordics would still rank as a mid-European country by population, and a "high, but not at the top table" country by GDP - proper European membership was needed in order to offer better business opportunities. The Danes went first - given the previous referendum, everyone thought it wise to let Denmark vote first, on Tuesday 17th May. The Danes were then followed by Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Sweden, the Faroes, Aland and finally Finland over the course of the next 6 weeks - which exactly spanned 1.5 months, lending some peculiar phrasing to the slogan "Referendum Month".

    The question on the Nordic Confederation "Should <country> accept the proposed 'Treaty establish the Nordic Confederation' ?", gave an unambiguous answer. Each country voted yes, although some by more than others, with enthusiasm predominately in the primary Scandinavian Three (Denmark, Norway, Sweden). This was likely based on the geographically short distances between them - the "no barrier" borders were clearly advantageous among three, with Copenhagen residents now moving across to Malmo and the wider Skane area with cheaper property prices and commuting across the Copenhagen every day. Finland also backed the treaty, considering the severe drop in trade from the dissolved Soviet Union left it with little other choice. Enthusiasm was far less prominent in the Atlantic however, Greeland, Iceland and the Faroes all approved the Treaty with lower turnouts and closer results, with Greenland in particular running somewhat close to the line with 53% approving the Treaty - something rescued by the more enthusiastic Danes living in Greenland (keen to preserve maximum links with Denmark) over the more negative view amongst the local Inuit.

    The question on expansion "Should <country> accept applications from Estonia and Latvia to join the proposed Nordic Confederation?" was far more controversial. In light of opinion polls indicating a potential "no" vote in some countries (predominately Denmark), a compromise was quickly arranged. Estonia and Latvia would accede to the economic community as proposed, but their right to join the passport union and many other underlying Nordic agreements would be postponed for 5 years - having the effect of preventing freedom of movement from Estonia and Latvia to the existing Nordic states until those 5 years were over. The hope was that within those 5 years, Estonia and Latvia could be better integrated in to the "Nordic System", and so by the end of the period there would be no large scale migrationary movements or "brain drains" from Estonia or Latvia - and likewise the legal environments in those countries would be ready for compliance with things like the Nordic Extradition Agreement, and other Nordic conventions. Estonia made plenty of effort, but would it be enough?

    The answer was yes - just, with an average of 54% approving of the enlargement; it seemed the 5 year "transition window" had convinced just enough voters that enlargement was suitable. Denmark was the closest, with a mere 51% approving of Estonia and Latvia joining.

    ------------------------------------
    I don't think the Nordic Confederation will be massively controversial; there will be a load of "no" voters - nationalists and those who favour Europe, but I think "yes" will be reasonably comfortable here, maybe around two thirds in favour across the region. Estonia and Latvia joining is far more touch and go. Given that Estonia and Latvia are in NATO for defence purposes from Russia allows the Nordics/Nordek to continue as a purely economic community; if they can manage Finland's relationship with the Soviets, Estonia/Latvia with the new Russia should not be "too" difficult. Their accession also dilutes the DK/SE/NO strong influence on Nordic direction due to the regressive seat allocation, gives Finland a closer ally in the Nordics, and presents a nice new market (or two) for Nordic businesses.
     
    Chapter 8: Communications in the mid 1990s
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    Chapter 8: Hearts and Minds (mid-late 1990s), Part 1

    postal.jpg

    Even Santa Claus has a mailing address in Finland.

    With the Finnish Secretary-General of Nordek - now of the Nordic Executive - Kalevi Sorsa stepping down in the mid 1990s after successfully introducing the Nordic Confederation and expansion to Estonia and Latvia, a new leader had to be decided. After Danish (Baunsgaard), Norwegian (Nordli) and Finnish (Sorsa) leaders, and given general Swedish business enthusiasm for new markets in the new entrant to the Nordics, it was almost a foregone decision that the new leader would be a Swede. It was also apparent that the new leader would have their work cut out to better win over the hearts and minds of Nordic citizens, to really deliver new initiatives which improved their lives, as well as successfully integrate Estonia and Latvia in to the Nordic fold. The former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was not widely acceptable due to his foreign policy, but his opponent Carl Bildt turned out to be acceptable to the Nordic member states. He was a proponent of Nordic and European integration, had been a strong advocate for Estonian and Latvian membership of the Nordics, and was not someone who would advocate for Nordic centralisation.

    The 1993 Nordic Treaty, amongst other things, expressed a desire to closer co-ordinate and unify communications policy. An easy early decision was to harmonise the various postal code systems, leading to a system which had 3 letters (signifying the local area) and 3 numbers (signifying the exact area), and allowed the reuse of a fair part of the existing postal code systems. The reform solved a problem with growing urbanisation in the Nordic cities placing pressure on existing city postal codes, with previous 4-digit postal codes in Denmark (including Greenland), Norway and Latvia, 5-digit codes in Sweden, Finland and Estonia, and 3-digit codes in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. For example, rather than 00xx to 12xx being Oslo in Norway, this would now be "OSL xxx", with each city or local government area having 999 possible codes under it. Stockholm became "SKH", Helsinki "HSK", Copenhagen "CPH", Gothenburg "GTB" and Reykjavik "RVK", and this eventually allowed quick mail handling as well as the non-requirement any more of a country marking to indicate which Nordic country the mail was addressed for intra-Nordic shipments. In the longer term, with the introduction of satellite navigation in vehicles, it also made cross-border destinations easier to input without needing to enter a postal code and a country.

    With regards to telecoms, a 1992 policy in the European Community to concentrate all emergency services on the number "112" was also of interest the Nordics, in simplifying and unifying all emergency services. This would sweep away the current numbers - 90 000 for police in Sweden for example, and establish a clear single emergency number across the whole of the Nordics to access police, fire & rescue, ambulance, coast guard and mountain rescue, and the scheme was easily agreed mutually, and rolled out via national policy across all of the Nordics in 1995/1996. The international dialling prefix would also be standardised at "00". But more importantly, growing cross-border movements between the Nordic nations - and especially the long land border between Sweden and Norway, was beginning to show a demand for better roaming for the slowly growing mobile phone market, whilst increased cross-border commerce was leading to more international phone calls - profitable for the telecoms companies, but hampering growth. The ex-pat communities - often Finns in Sweden - wanted cheaper ways to keep in contact with family and friends at home, rather than calling an international number to speak to them.

    The obvious example for telecommunications harmonisation was, globally speaking, the North American Numbering Plan. This was a major inspiration as the only other major internationally-shared telephone system, but also that it was shared between multiple countries and territories, in an uncontroversial manner, which did not appear to give any issues of impinged sovereignty. Although devised in the 1940s, it had spread out from the United States, and now covered Canada and several Caribbean islands with a national standard for the numbers. This was a system which covered hundreds of millions of people - far in excess of what was needed in the Nordics however. A similar numbering system, but using European area code concepts for the Nordic market would be embraced; a 3-digit area code, a 2-digit exchange code, and a 5 digit subscriber number (or often just a 7-digit subscriber number depending on the system being transferred) - but would also be a fully unified system, with calls between Nordic countries charged at the long distance rate rather than the international rate and in the long run a single unified mobile phone system. The 06xx personal numbering system was later re-used after the non-adoption of personal numbering, with mobile phone numbers being ported to the 06xx category which would be operator-independent and fulfil number portability between operators. To support, this, the area code actually became an "06" area code, with a 9-digit subscriber number.

    00: International phone calls
    01xx: Not used
    02xx: Geographic fixed lines
    03xx: Reserved for future
    04xx: Non-geographic & business (local rate)
    05xx: Reserved for future
    06xx: Personal numbering (later used for network independent mobile numbering, to aid number portability)
    07xx: Mobile telephony (later deprecated following switch to 06xx)
    08xx: Free phone numbers
    09xx: Premium rate services

    nmt.jpg

    Nordic Mobile Telephony handsets; mobile communications had a long history in the Nordics.

    The recent dissolution of East Germany also conveniently freed up an international code; +37 in which to achieve this. The initiative, later branded as a "Nordics 2000" project, was one of several projects to better link up the Nordics in terms of communications, allowing better cross-border personal connections, instead of creating the physical connections between areas in earlier years and decades (such as the Oresund Bridge and Great Belt Fixed Link). The (in contrast to today) small amount of mobile phones were ported firstly, to new +37 7xx phone numbers, with special (cheaper) international tolls applying for calls between the new +37 systems and the legacy national systems. With their membership applications for the Nordic Confederation accepted, Estonia and Latvia would transition early on to +37 (away from +7 used in former Soviet times) in 1996, with each country receiving an area code. This was regarded as the simplest transition; both countries already used a system internally of 2 digit area codes (which were re-used as the exchange codes) and 5 digit subscriber numbers, which now sat within the national area code.

    The Atlantic zones were then moved next, with Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes and smaller Norwegian islands migrating in the late 1997. Whilst all historically used shorter telephone numbers and had smaller area codes, these too used legacy area codes as the exchange codes roughly speaking, and so resident's land line telephone numbers remained little changed (although sometimes padded with a "1" to lengthen a shorter Greenlandic or Faorese telephone number) - although now belonging to a larger local area. In Iceland, +354 421 1234 became +37 122-42-11234, although within a few years, notation across the Nordics has settled on +37-122-4211-234 with a 3-4-3 digit system (and retaining a clear area code).

    Finally, after some intensive preparation work to shift phone numbers around, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (including Aland) all migrated to the new numbering plan under +37 - just in time to fulfil the "Nordics 2000" branding. Subsequent to this, the former international dialling codes were all released back to the international telecommunications union for reuse. The released numbers eased pressure in Europe and aided planning for the aim to transition to a single European Union telephone numbering scheme, with the EU aiming to copy the Nordics in the long run; the initial idea was for non-European Union countries to use +3x, and for the European Union to use +4, but the number of subscribers and amount of national and mobile telephone networks greatly complicated work within the EU. The European Union scheme later failed due to complexity and political squabbling over control, with a regional scheme in the Benelux region being the sole recognisable outcome.

    One of the short-term impacts of this was the sharp reduction in business lines used. Business integration had begun in the 1990s, but really accelerated in the 2000s, with the Nordics in particular seeing single instances of sales and support companies operating pan-Nordics. The reduction in telecommunications (having a single point of contact, rather than a Danish one, a Swedish one, Norwegian, Finnish etc) meant the concentration of a lot of businesses under the 04xx telephone numbers - with many call centres locating in Norway due to the wider understanding of both Danish and Swedish or Finland due to understanding of both Swedish and Finnish. This was then followed by the widespread, but unofficial, language system, with the first telephone contact requiring the caller to press a button for which language, which mostly reflected the alphanumeric keypad buttons; 3 (Dansk/Danish), 4 (Islensku/Icelandic), 5 (Kieli - Finnish for "language" due to a conflict for "S"), 6 (Norsk/Norwegian), 7 (Svenska/Swedish). The Finns were the only ones to not get the correct number button for their language, "suomi", which only led to further frustration in Finland - rightly or wrongly. Finland had been economically turned upside down, especially in the 1980s, due to the effects of Nordic integration, and tiny impacts like this felt like a thousand tiny cuts to those who perceived the Nordics as a Scandinavian owned construct with Finland a second rate player - although Estonia and Latvia held promise for balancing that out in future.

    Despite mobile communications being an early adopter of the +37 7xx regional area codes, an issue early on was the unified mobile network, and the difference in mobile phone contracts. Early on, national currencies forced providers to process contracts in each country, but as a Nordic currency rolled out, providers were quicker to consolidate with just 3 major mobile operators available today - Telia, Telenor and Elisa (and a host of virtual network operators). The unified market today allows the purchase of communications services cross-border - an Icelandic resident can purchase a mobile phone from (Swedish) Telia, and use it in Iceland or anywhere else in the Nordics completely equally.

    ----------------------------
    Notes: So the Nordics needs to prove it's relevant for the man and woman on the street, and win "hearts and minds", as the Nordics has definitely caused economic issues in the 80s during economic transformations, and the early 90s economic wobbles.

    So a shared postal code system to aid mail processing; very uncontroversial, easy to implement (just internal processes to adapt), and low-moderate benefit. Phone number changes take time (circa 5 years here), and shouldn't be too controversial in terms of "control and sovereignty" - if the United States, Canada and dozens of smaller Caribbean islands can share a numbering scheme, then the Nordics should be able to. The main difference from North America is the provision of 06/07 for mobile communications as is standard in Europe, and the Nordics-wide billing scheme / connection rates. Much more difficult to implement, but will have a huge benefit, to both business/organisations as well as to residents. Mostly inspired by the OTL EU 1990s proposal for integration under +3 for all of EU.
     
    Last edited:
    Chapter 9: Hearts and Minds (mid-late 1990s), Part 2
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 9: The Nordic Currency

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    The Euro currency was a strong inspiration for the Nordic countries

    By the 1990s, the path to the European currency (now the "Euro") was firmly laid out - even if it was to the dislike of the United Kingdom. Attempts had been made before; the Latin Monetary Union had been in place until the First World War (as had the Scandinavian Monetary Union closer to home), but this would be a currency governed by a European government rather than the previous intergovernmental efforts. And similarly to the European Union, the Nordic Confederation (or more precisely, it's member states) sought a unified currency in order to stimulate cross border trade as well as reduce administration and transaction costs associated with fluctuating currencies.

    However, the 1990s financial crisis - particularly in Sweden - threatened to knock efforts off course, and early efforts would only see promises (instead of actual steps) to introduce a shared currency within the Nordic Confederation treaty. It would only be in 1997 that real practical work would begin, with the Nordic group of the 7 economic ministers to establish strategy, given that Estonia and Latvia were in the midst of acceding to membership. Although there were reservations about how the currency would function, and the emergency cases (such as the Swedish banking collapse), support in principle for a shared currency in principle was unanimous, in order to try and keep the Nordic economy on a par with the rest of Europe. Following the example of the European Union, which had provided much of the inspiration for the now Nordic Confederation - originally a "Nordic version of the European Community", 1996 saw the full legalisation of capital movements; money could flow between the Nordic states (at that point excluding Estonia and Latvia) completely freely, whilst the responsible ministers agreed to try and better harmonise financial and budgetary policy between the countries.

    By the middle of 1998, political agreement had been made on the Nordic currency, broadly following the example of the European Union's "Euro" currency (which had just been named that after several years as just the "Ecu"). An accounting Nordic currency would be introduced, floating against the national currencies, before then phasing it in for use in the nations, and then replacing the currencies. Strict controls were to be maintained over borrowing (less then 60% debt-to-GDP) and no long-term budget deficits (generally agreed to be more then 3 years these days) - largely reflecting the strict governmental budgeting that now prevailed in Nordic nations. Although Sweden had run at approximately 70%, in the aftermath of the banking rescue, the phased introduction of the Nordic currency would give Sweden time to adjust, ideally following the Norwegian example of reducing their debt-to-GDP ratio. 60% had also been used in the Euro example, but the Nordic countries wanted to ensure that the new mutual currency would be viable and stable long-term, and stay well away from the "Italian malaise" of large debt-to-GDP issues that had quietly caused consternation in the European Union with regards to the Euro currency. The small number of participants, however, allowed discussion and mutual acceptance, rather then the strict rules enforced within the EU.

    A large debate ensued regarding the name. The currencies in use in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland were all called the krone/krona - literally "crown", as was the future member Estonia's kroon. However, public sentiment - especially in Finland, but also notable in Estonia, Latvia and to a lesser extent Iceland, favoured a less "monarchist" and more neutral name. Daler/Thaler was considered, due to the shared use across Scandinavia, but many did not want to share the same name as the US dollar, and sought for something a little more Nordic, and equally suggestions of "Nords" or other invented names lacked credibility it was felt. Eventually, the name of an old coin - the skilling was agreed on, with the "penny" as the 1/100 subdivision - although the penny rapidly became only relevant in accounting terms, and would soon see little usage by the public at large.

    The skilling was a historical Scandinavian coin, and initially minted in Denmark during the time of the Kalmar Union in the 15th Century, although the later Swedish revolt and currency reform meant that skillings remained the currency of Denmark and Norway only. Later on in the 17th Century, it was again minted in Denmark, Norway and Sweden - for which Finland also used it during it's time as part of Sweden and likewise Iceland when it was Danish. It also had the naming advantage that it would be the only "shilling" in Europe, with Austria relinquishing theirs in order to join the Euro - the other other shillings globally were only in use in various East African nations. Although the name of currency is the Nordic Skilling (NSK), internationally it had become known as the Shilling due to anglicisation. The symbol used, "Ꞩ", was an S with an almost horizontal line through it, marking it aside from the vertical line ($) used for dollars; whilst the character was already present in most electronic fonts, it required awkward codes to use until the character became available directly on European keyboards in the later 2000s.

    Introduction of the new Nordic Skilling began in 2003, with the currency becoming the official currency, and the national currencies becoming de facto sub-divisions of the skilling at agreed exchange rates in the five Nordic nations - Estonia and Latvia were held back until becoming full member states of the Confederation. All banks, accounting work, electronic transfers were then denominated in skillings, with only cash remaining in it's previous form. Shops began to dual label items in both skillings and the previous currency, with credit/debit cards paying in skillings, and cash in the prior currency. Bank, savings and other financial accounts were switched to be denominated in NSK early on in the process, as shops began to dual-label prices, although some requested to keep their accounts in the national currencies as long as possible before switching. In tandem with this, many of the large Nordic banks set up new branches in Estonia and Latvia, expanding to the new markets, and providing finance and unified Nordic structures for the new countries - which were only just over 10 years old.

    A year later, in 2004, the cash rollout began. Coins were denominated in Ꞩ1, Ꞩ2, Ꞩ5, Ꞩ10 and Ꞩ25 - with no coinage for pennies. Cash transactions would be rounded (Ꞩ1 being approx €0.11) to the nearing skilling; previous national "ore" coins (1/100 subdivisions of krone/krona) had already been discontinued in several countries for various amounts. Banknotes for Ꞩ50, Ꞩ100, Ꞩ250, Ꞩ500 and Ꞩ1000 would also be rolled out with a variety of designs, although in contrast to the European version, there were no national differences - all currency was fully pan-Nordic. The coinage had the Nordic Confederation flag on one side, and around the outside quoted the value of the coin in all 5 Nordic languages (later 7 languages in coins minted post-accession), whilst the obverse merely showed the numeric value of the coin. The banknotes, with the larger area, had a greater breadth of design and featured a selection of well known sites from across the Nordics whilst making efforts to stay away from purely national symbols and people, whilst also utilising the extra space to also show the Faroese and Greenlandic languages.

    Although the designs were to be rotated every 10 years with new revisions, dissatisfaction from the smaller regions and new members led to a new strategy for the 2010s currency issue; fully plastic notes would be embraced, and the theme of "recognisable sites" continued on the bank notes (ie. Jelling Stones, Geysir/Strokkur, Oresund Bridge, Olavinlinna, Viru Gate, etc) combined with artwork and flora and fauna from across the Nordic Confederation. However, the former national Central banks would be granted the right to print their own banknotes, under a similar system to the regional banknotes in the United Kingdom. The designs would use the same design for the front of the banknote as the main Nordic set, whilst the rear was free to be designed as wished. The main difference from the UK example was that the banknotes were completely legally acceptable across the entire Nordic Confederation, and recognisable as such due to the common front design. By 2020 however, the regional banknotes were in decline with their future uncertain again, due to the cost of printing them and maintaining them, as well as the pan-Nordic decline in cash and rise of electronic money and the "Swishing" (a play on the name "Skilling") mobile app for e-payments.

    --------------------
    This chapter has been unfinished in drafts for months, and now have some time during holiday season. I searched long and hard to find a suitable currency name (one that was historical, sounded appropriate, and was relatively "unique"; not sure ); the Scandinavian skilling seems to have been in use in all 5 Nordic countries, and I like that a unique currency identifier is suitably available.

    There will of course be linguistic challenges with fitting it in to national languages; I don't think the declension will be pretty in Icelandic, and I'm guessing it might be the same for Finnish/Estonian, but I think the name is best available compromise between the countries.
     
    Chapter 10: The 2000s
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 10: The 2000s

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    At Troll Antarctic station, with Nordic culture well on display.

    The 2000s were an evolution rather than a revolution for the Nordic Confederation; the last 30 years had seen a swift pace in terms of Nordic integration, with the introduction of the Nordic single market and many feats of "soft" integration such as the telephony system. The rate of integration now slowed and turned to smaller technical unifying mechanisms, encouraging "pan-Nordic" operations by companies, and also member enlargement - 2005 was a major milestone, and saw the full accession of Estonia and Latvia to the Nordic Confederation. This had been a major foreign policy goal for Estonia ever since independence from the Soviet Union; their flag had even been changed to embrace the Nordic Cross design to try and hammer down their place as a Nordic people in the view of the "classic" five Nordic nations. Nowadays, Estonia and Latvia are considered the "new Nordics", in contrast to the "historic Nordics". The move also reduced the perceived "Scandinavian power"; despite the requirement for unanimity in decisions, the ability of Denmark, Norway and Sweden to push their agenda forward had been noted, especially in the 1990s. The addition of Estonia and Latvia allowed Finland and Iceland to counterbalance the Scandinavian big three.

    Part of the trade off for Estonian and Latvian accession to the Nordic Confederation, and the business opportunities for existing Nordic businesses - Swedish banks in particular were quick to establish themselves early on in the new members, was a mechanism for subsidising the two nations. Part of the reason for the 12 year application process, was to give time to subsidise and modernise the two economies, prepare them for membership and market competition, and allow the Nordic structures to evolve better subsidy processes. Transfer payments would now occur from the existing 5 Nordic countries - rather rich in comparison - to Estonia and Latvia, and thankfully due to their population sizes it would be far from the most expensive expenditure for any of the supporting 5. The evolving Nordic Regional Fund, would be further bolstered, but would also be spending a significant portion of funds on the new entrants to improve infrastructure, whilst targeted subsidies were available to companies to set up factories in Estonia and Latvia to provide job opportunities.

    The establishment of a joint Nordic Antarctic Research station, was built on the previous Norwegian "Troll" station. Although technically owned by the Norwegian Government, operationally the station was jointly funded jointly via the Nordics. The large all-year research station was a further experiment in renewable energy, with a large solar panel array on the roof in order to reduce the need for oil generators all year round, and wind turbines outside - although experiencing 24/7 sunshine during summer, solar power would be little use for the winter months. Batteries inside would absorb fluctuations and excess generated electricity, with any further excess being used to melt snow for usable water. The research station offers year-round accommodation for up to 14 people, and conducts a great deal of research on air quality, ozone & UV levels, weather and other Earth sciences research. Researchers are selected from a pan-Nordic programme, with university research also conducted.

    Some action would be taken in reaction to global events however. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, and following tsunami killed almost 900 citizens of the Nordic countries who were in the area on holiday at the time. A Nordic Confederation sponsored set of flights operated mostly from Thailand, but also a few other countries such as Sri Lanka, worked to repatriate many of the affected Nordic citizens to Stockholm; onwards domestic commercial connections could then fly them closer to home from Arlanda airport. Over half were Swedes, but many Finns and Norwegians were also in the affected group. Such united foreign action has not always been possible however; the stark realities of a westward leaning Iceland, Norway & Denmark with close relations with the United States, United Kingdom and NATO in particularly does not mesh easily with Finnish-Russian relations in particular, but also Estonian and Latvian concerns (despite being in NATO as well) over Russian actions and requirements to "not provoke the bear". Such balancing acts has done as much as anything else to interrupt any floated ideas towards greater "federalisation" of the Nordic Confederation due to the stark differences in foreign and defence arrangements. Despite this, one major foreign policy goal signed off in 2009 was the introduction of a Nordic-Canadian free trade agreement, the first major deal outside Europe.

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    The Nordic embassies at Berlin; the Estonian and Latvian flags are just out of shot.

    Other smaller co-ordination efforts continued to evolve. The unification of Germany, and subsequent desire for Nordic embassies to follow the move of the German Government to Berlin led to a suggestion to co-locate all Nordic embassies, with a shared services building. A Finnish architecture firm won the design competition, with a joint construction project beginning in the late 1990s. The shared site would feature separate embassy buildings for all 7 states - the 5 historically Nordic states, as well as new applicants Estonia and Latvia who were on their path to full membership, reflecting the sovereignty of each state although acting collaboratively. The shared services building would feature the main canteen / cafe, joint exhibitions, as well as consular services such as Nordic visa processing. Following the success of the German embassies, the programme began to be replicated in other countries as redevelopment became required. London was soon followed, with redevelopment in the new Nine Elms development to feature a large new embassy for the US Government. The Nordic Governments in 2013 announced the desire to build a new "Nordic Embassies Area" in Nine Elms, establishing a new "diplomatic quarter" south of the river in the areas, with the Dutch considering the move as well. With aging building in the United States (in DC), a similar Nordic Embassy complex is being mooted in the USA, as well as in Poland, Australia and New Zealand - the latter two specifically for cost-saving reasons for the embassy. One further agreement by the Nordic Seven will also involve sharing Consulate-Generals for consular functions in various province/state cities in the United States, Australia and Canada; all geographically large countries with scattered population centres (and the capital city not being largest city), meaning that in areas where a Nordic citizen's home nation has no embassy, a citizen could use the services of any other Nordic embassy present - which is often Denmark or Sweden.

    Reforms also occurred in the logistics sector, with pricing no longer allowed to be influenced by internal Nordic borders - pricing must be influenced by distance and/or transportation costs, accelerating a move in Denmark, Norway and Sweden to form joint logistics and mail companies (such as PostNord). Many of the road transport systems were unified; subjects like vehicle inspection checks now sat on a single pan-Nordic database, efforts were underway to create a unified vehicle registration plate system and cross-compatible electronic tolling systems for highways and city centres. A single driving license system for Nordic driving licenses allowed easier cross-border penalisation for driving infractions, and awarding of "penalty points".

    One of the large socio-political changes in the 2000s was the growing issue of climate change, and the beginning of significant changes in energy sources. Ever since the early 1990s, the electric grids of Norway, Sweden, Finland and eastern Denmark had been linked in to a super grid, but the early 2000s saw the expansion of this to western Denmark, Estonia and Latvia - in the example of the last two, fulfilling foreign policy aims to spread their energy sources away from Russia. The Faroes and Iceland were later connected to the super grid via undersea cables, to share electrical loads - something the United Kingdom has hooked in to via an interconnector to the Faroes, whilst an extension to Greenland is being evaluated for the future in order to reduce the Greenlandic dependency on oil plants and provide a trans-Atlantic interconnection to Canada. Historically, hydroelectric power had been a significant energy source for Iceland, Norway and Sweden, but huge advances in wind power generation have occurred in 6 Nordic states (except Iceland, which is already fully powered with renewable electricity), with wind energy now supplying around 12% of all electricity in the 6 states. Growing interest in solar energy has led to small increases in solar power capacity in Skane (Sweden) and areas of Denmark. Nuclear energy has been a major point of deliberation, with much of Swedish and Finnish energy dependant on nuclear energy - and Finland building an underground nuclear waste depository with co-funding by Sweden in order for joint use. Nowadays, over half of the produced electricity in the Nordic electrical market is generated by hydroelectric power - mostly in Norway and northern Sweden, with some from Finland and Iceland. A fifth of electricity is nuclear-sourced - mostly by Sweden and Finland, with aims to grow this to a quarter and reduce fossil fuel usage (whilst retaining an element of it for demand management), whilst just over a tenth is sourced from wind power - mostly by Denmark and Sweden, with notable contributions by Finland and Norway. Further investments are expected in wind power, especially in the North Sea, whilst Denmark and southern Sweden (Skane) are now investing in solar power. Excess electricity is either used to supplement district heating sources, or exported to Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

    Immigration to the Nordics also significantly changed in the 2000s. In the 20th Centrury, intra-Nordic migration had been one of top sources for national immigration, whilst the Yugoslav Wars had provided a large stream of displaced people and Turkey provided a steady stream of educated migrants too. The accession of Estonia and Latvia to the Nordic Confederation provided a new stream of migrants in to the Nordics, whilst the accession of eastern European countries to the European Union also facilitated eastern Europeans to migrate to the Nordics under streamlined European-Nordic migration rules. In the 2000s however, the patterns shifted; Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan became the primary source of migrants and asylum seekers, whilst Syria would rocket to the top for a few years during the early stages of the Syrian Civil War, and the changes spurred new border controls on the Nordics, particularly on the Danish-German borders, where border patrols became far more visible and checks became stricter. All asylum seekers technically needed to provide photographic identification to enter the Nordics - which often was difficult to provide for asylum seekers and displaced people. Massed groups attempted to break through the Danish/German border against Danish police - backed up by seconded Swedish police, and led to a war of words between the European Union and the Nordics as the mainland Europeans were blamed for freely allowing migrants to pass through en route to the Nordics by some parts of the media. For the first time in decades, or even centuries, the German/Danish border is now reinforced in several areas to try and control illegal immigration. Smaller differences also included smaller numbers from south east Asia, and in Finland particularly, Russians. Across the Nordics, by 2020, roughly 12-15% of all residents are foreign-born, creating challenges for integration and social acceptance.

    For Estonia and Latvia, it proved a trial by fire. Much of the late 1990s and 2000s had seen the equivalent of billions of Euros in Nordic Skillings invested in the area; much of it to modernise infrastructure to allow industry and business to thrive there and provide balance to the inevitable onslaught of the wider Nordic business. A spine of dual carriageway "motorways" were provided by modernising roads. Major rail routes were electrified, water treatment plants improved, and district heating networks improved. In to this came the unification of telephone networks early on, and the introduction of Nordic mobile networks, whilst Nordic banks especially moved in wholesale to service the new Nordic markets. Schools often began to teach Swedish as a foreign language instead of Russian - much to the displeasure of the Russian diaspora in both countries and Russia itself, but was encouraged by Estonian and Latvian Governments as part of their "de-Sovietisation". One of the biggest shifts was the introduction of two overseas car manufacturers, who set up production plants in Latvia to produce for the Nordic market and escape import formalities. Tallink (who operate shipping routes in the Baltic Sea) and Energia (oil shale refining), both based in Estonia, are the two most well known new Nordic businesses which have transitioned in to the free Nordic market.

    ---------------------------
    Not quite enough here to break it in to two chapters for early and late 2000s, so apologies for the sizeable chapter!

    The Nordic embassy complexes are based on the Nordic embassies in Berlin (linky). The part on energy is a small embellishment on OTL; mostly the integration and especially including Iceland in that. The immigration stuff; I can see some potential for the Nordic to end up like the UK; a prime migratory target, with the Nordic blaming the mainland for allowing all the migrants through. Whilst I don't see the Danish-German border ending up with a US/Mexico style wall, I can see the potential for some areas to have a harder border.
     
    Chapter 11: The 2013 Referendum
  • Devvy

    Donor
    Chapter 11: The Finnish Referendum

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    Helsinki would see yet another Nordic referendum - but this time with decidedly larger potential consequences.

    The 1990s and 2000s had seen a significant political realignment in Finnish politics. The introduction of green-focussed political parties had made their presence known, whilst the rise of the more nationalist "True Finns" party had been buoyed by the perceived "Scandinavian" focus of the Nordic Confederation. It was a rather tumultuous time in Finnish politics; despite the economic advantages of the Nordic single market and new opportunities for Finnish industry (and on a European scale thanks to the Nordic-European agreement), the collapse of the Soviet Union and faltering Russian economy had meant that many tradition Finnish economic links had disappeared quickly, although the growing stability in Russia has led to many calls from Finland for a new Nordic free trade agreement with Russia - received luke warmly by the Scandinavian nations. The status of Finland, largely separated from Denmark, Norway and Sweden by the Baltic Sea also meant that much of the Nordic integration efforts had had less effect in Finland, whilst acts such as the Nordic Agricultural Fund, although also subsidising Finnish farmers, primarily benefited the farmers of southern Sweden and Denmark where the weather was more favourable. In addition to this, some felt their language was treated with inferiority compared to the mainland Scandinavian languages, with (S)venska always taking priority over (s)uomi, and the currency name of "Skilling" paying little attention to Finnish pronunciation and grammar, despite being historically present in Swedish Finland.

    The Finnish Parliamentary Election in 2011 brought several matters to a head, with the nationalist True Finns party winning almost 23% of the seats (2nd place), and making the party almost impossible to ignore with regards to government formation. Their headline policy was, however, anathema to the largest party, the Social Democrats, in that along with it's "Nordic scepticism" it also called for a referendum on the continued membership of Finland in the Nordic Confederation. Many of the True Finns party members looked back on the 1990s referendum establishing the Nordic Confederation as a mistake; the referendum had been taken shortly after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, leaving the Finnish economy in a delicate place, and whilst the Nordic Confederation may have been set up with the best of intentions, many felt it primarily served Scandinavian interests rather than the wider Nordic bloc - although many Finnish companies had benefited from the accession of Estonia to the Nordic Confederation, expanding to operate in the country given it's linguistic familiarity to Finnish.

    The result of the Finnish government formation negotiations continued, but the size of the True Finns parliamentary party meant that in the end it just couldn't be ignored. A landmark agreement saw the True Finns enter government, with an agreement stipulating 2013 as the year to hold an in/out Nordic membership referendum. The move caused a media bombshell in the rest of the Nordics, provoking strong opinions; Finland was one of the non-Scandinavian larger countries, who helped balance power against the Scandinavian nations, whilst were also an integral "historic Nordic nation". Any withdrawal of Finland would see Sweden, Denmark and Norway influence within the Nordics grow further, whilst also severely damaging Nordic prestige on the world stage given the global perception of the Nordics as a well operated international group with little internal tussle. On the flip side, the True Finns saw better trade opportunities outside the somewhat protectionist Nordic single market, much larger and closer trade relations with a growing Russian economy and the other economic giants to the east; compatible rail systems meant that Finland could easily send rail freight all the way to the Far East. With regards to the Nordic Confederation, it was paralysed; the potential departure of Finland would substantially change the balance sheet for many of it's programmes, and whilst there was little point in funding integration projects in Finland if it was about to leave, but equally at the moment Finland couldn't be financially disadvantaged against the other countries lest it play in to the Finnish viewpoint of the Scandinavian nature of the Confederation and swing further votes against the Confederation.

    The two sides "Nordic" and "Independence" (as termed in foreign media) began campaigning swiftly. The independence side promoted Finnish specialities in forestry and high-value industries such as electronics and chemicals manufacturing, and the global appeal of such products. They simultaneously advertised Finland as "under Swedish rule for centuries and Russian rule for a century; let's not hand over sovereignty again!", whilst also highlighting the demographic changes occurring in Finland as a result of immigration from both European and other areas of the world. The Nordic side attempted to combat this; Finland had transitioned effectively to part of the Nordic market and enjoyed direct access to a large and unified Nordic market, and extended access to the European market via the Nordic-European agreement - something the Independence side could be replicated independently as part of a free trade agreement with both sides. Where the Nordic side had the advantage was the stability of sticking with the status quo; no second financial upheaval due to another currency switch, with the Nordic Confederation ruling out a formal currency union with Finland if it wasn't part of the Nordic Confederation; from Nordic political circles, most respected the referendum was happening, but insisted "leave means leave" if the Finns voted to withdraw, highlighting the incompatibility between Finland leaving the Nordic Confederation and continuing to make use of Nordic services such as the currency. Likewise, the growing unification of telecommunications (such as the telephony system) meant that Finns in other Nordic countries could easily, and cheaply, stay in touch with their families back in Finland which would be lost by leaving the confederation.

    There were many further facets to the political question, but most centred around Finnish debates between themselves, with the Nordic Confederation (centred in Gothenburg, Sweden) mostly staying out of the debate, wary it could be perceived as Swedish impinging on a Finnish domestic matter, although Russia made clear their interest in an independent Finland and an offer of closer economic relations. The older generation were seen to be more in favour of leaving the Nordic Confederation, whilst the younger generation were more in favour of remaining inside. Finns living and working in other Nordic countries were, predictably, heavily in favour of remaining within the confederation, considering their immigration status was underwritten by the Nordic system. Although the independence side pointed out that the Nordic free movement and passport union predated the Nordic Confederation, and free movement within the Nordics was something they were in favour of, they were unable to state how they would guarantee the rights of Finns abroad or limit the demographic changes they were against in Finland itself.

    As the referendum day neared, on the 15th September 2013, opinion polls were closer than expected, but appeared to be leaning towards continued membership of the Nordic Confederation - and that was the result. 58% voted to remain in the Nordic group, with 42% voting to leave - but with only a 65% turnout (meaning that the "independence" voters were likely mostly "True Finn" voters and a few others). The result, whilst closer then expected (largely due to the low turnout), was a boost for the Social Democrats and other pro-Nordic groups as it largely eliminated the question over Finland relations with the Nordics from the domestic debates where it had often lingered in the background. It also largely silenced the True Finns, who had largely campaigned on their referendum policy (which had been granted) and lost the question, with the party entering an identity crisis. Post-referendum opinion polling reflected many nuances, but predominately painted Finnish attitudes to the Nordic Confederation of one of head-over-heart, recognising that the Finnish economy was largely unified with the wider Nordic economy, and the dependence on Nordic energy in particular, but most worrying for many in the Nordic Confederation was the perceived ambivalence towards the Confederation by many Finns, as proved by the low turnout.

    It was clear to the Nordic Confederation that it would have to operate differently, and better represent the interests of the wider regions of the Nordics if the entity was to continue to thrive in future, and move away from a perception of "Scandinavianism". The first sight of this was the election in late 2014 of the first Estonian Secretary-General, in the shape of Andrus Ansip, a nod to the "new Nordic" members, and it was clear that the Nordics would have to make more efforts over just being a "systems unifier".

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    Notes: This was a chapter that kind of sprang from the array of posts by our Finnish posters! 🙂
     
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