Nordic countries

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Coordinates: 64°00′N 10°00′E / 64.000°N 10.000°E / 64.000; 10.000

Nordic countries
  • Norden (
    Land controlled by the Nordic countries shown in dark green. Bouvet Island and Antarctic claims not shown.
    Land controlled by the Nordic countries shown in dark green. Bouvet Island and Antarctic claims not shown.
  • Yiddish
  • Composition5 sovereign states
  •  Sweden

  • 2 autonomous territories

    1 autonomous region

    2 unincorporated areas

    1 dependency

    2 Antarctic claims

    • Inauguration of the Nordic Council
    12 February 1953
    23 March 1962
    • Inauguration of the Nordic Council of Ministers
    July 1971
    • Total
    6,125,804 km2 (2,365,186 sq mi)[a] (7th)
    • 2021 estimate
    27,562,156 (52nd)
    • 2000 census
    • Density
    7.62/km2 (19.7/sq mi) (225th)
    GDP (PPP)2019 estimate
    • Total
    $1.6 trillion[1] (19th)
    • Per capita
    $58,000 (13th)
    GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
    • Total
    $1.8 trillion (10th)
    • Per capita
    $66,900 (15th)
    • 5 currencies
    • right
    Calling code

    The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or Norden;

    cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic. It includes the sovereign states of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway[b] and Sweden; the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland; and the autonomous region of Åland.[4]

    The Nordic countries have much in common in their way of life, history, religion and social structure. They have a long history of political unions and other close relations but do not form a singular entity today. The Scandinavist movement sought to unite Denmark, Norway and Sweden into one country in the 19th century. With the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden (Norwegian independence), the independence of Finland in the early 20th century and the 1944 Icelandic constitutional referendum, this movement expanded into the modern organised Nordic cooperation. Since 1962, this cooperation has been based on the Helsinki Treaty that sets the framework for the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

    The Nordic countries cluster near the top in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life and human development.

    universalist welfare sector financed by high taxes, enhancing individual autonomy and promoting social mobility. There is a high degree of income redistribution, commitment to private ownership and little social unrest.[7][8]

    Lutheran Christianity, the state religion of several Nordic countries.[9][10]

    Although the area is linguistically heterogeneous, with three unrelated language groups, the common linguistic heritage is one factor that makes up the Nordic identity. Most Nordic languages belong to

    Eskimo–Aleut languages. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are considered mutually intelligible, and they are the working languages of the region's two political bodies. Swedish is a mandatory subject in Finnish schools and Danish
    in Faroese and Greenlandic schools. Danish is also taught in schools in Iceland.

    The combined area of the Nordic countries is 3,425,804 square kilometres (1,322,710 sq mi). Uninhabitable icecaps and glaciers comprise about half of this area, mainly Greenland. In September 2021, the region had over 27 million people. Especially in English, Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for the Nordic countries. Still, that term more properly refers to the three monarchies of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Geologically, the Scandinavian Peninsula comprises the mainland of Norway and Sweden and the northernmost part of Finland.[11][12][13][14][15]

    Etymology and concept of the Nordic countries

    The term Nordic countries found mainstream use after the advent of Foreningen Norden. The term is derived indirectly from the local term Norden, used in the Scandinavian languages, which means 'The North(ern lands)'.[16] Unlike the Nordic countries, the term Norden is in the singular. The demonym is nordbo, literally meaning 'northern dweller'.

    Similar or related regional terms include:


    Sovereign states

    Sovereign state Kingdom of Denmark[18] Republic of Finland[19] Iceland[20] Kingdom of Norway[21] Kingdom of Sweden[22]
    Flag Denmark Finland Iceland Norway Sweden
    Coat of arms Denmark Finland Iceland Norway Sweden
    Official local name Kongeriget Danmark[18] Suomen tasavalta[19]
    Republiken Finland[19]
    Ísland[20][23] Kongeriket Norge[21]
    Kongeriket Noreg[21]
    Norgga gonagasriika[24]
    Konungariket Sverige[22]
    Local common name Danmark Suomi
    Ísland Norge
    English common name Denmark[18] Finland[19] Iceland[20] Norway[21] Sweden[22]
    Population (2021 estimate) 5,894,687[18] 5,587,442[19] 354,234[20] 5,509,591[21] 10,261,767[22]
    Area 43,094 km2[18] 338,145 km2[19] 103,000 km2[20] 385,207 km2[21] 450,295 km2[25]
    Population density (2015 estimate) 129.5/km2[18] 16.2/km2[19] 3.2/km2[20] 13.5/km2[21] 22.9/km2[22]
    Capital city Copenhagen[18] Helsinki[19] Reykjavík[20] Oslo[21] Stockholm[22]
    Largest urban areas
    [citation needed]
    Copenhagen – 2,057,142
    Aarhus – 330,639
    Odense – 213,558
    Aalborg – 205,809
    Esbjerg – 116,032
    Helsinki – 1,488,236
    Tampere – 370,084
    Turku – 315,751
    Oulu – 200,400
    Jyväskylä – 140,812
    Reykjavík – 201,049
    Akureyri – 18,103
    Reykjanesbær – 14,000
    Akranes – 6,699
    Selfoss – 6,512
    Oslo – 1,043,168
    Bergen – 265,470
    Stavanger/Sandnes – 229,911
    Trondheim – 191,771
    Fredrikstad/Sarpsborg – 117,510
    Stockholm – 2,371,774
    Gothenburg – 1,015,974
    Malmö – 707,120
    Helsingborg – 272,873
    Uppsala – 253,704
    Form of government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy[18] Unitary parliamentary republic[19] Unitary parliamentary republic[20] Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy[21] Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy[22]
    Current head of state and government Margrethe II[18] (Queen)
    Mette Frederiksen[18] (Prime Minister)
    Sauli Niinistö[19] (President)
    Sanna Marin[26] (Prime Minister)
    Guðni Th. Jóhannesson[20] (President)
    Katrín Jakobsdóttir[20] (Prime Minister)
    Harald V[21] (King)
    Jonas Gahr Støre[21] (Prime Minister)
    Carl XVI Gustaf[22] (King)
    Ulf Kristersson[27]
    (Prime Minister)
    European Free Trade Association No No Yes Yes No
    European Union Yes Yes No No Yes
    European Economic Area Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Official languages Danish[18] Finnish[19] and Swedish[19] Icelandic[20]
    Official or recognized minority languages German (in South Jutland)[18] Sign Language
    Tavringer, Romani
    Main religions 74.8% Lutheran[18]
    5.3% Islam[18]
    19.9% other, unspecified or no religion[18]
    1.7% other religion[28]
    29.4% unspecified or no religion[28]
    63.5% Lutheran[29]
    11.7% other Christian[29]
    3.3% other religion[29]
    21.5% unspecified or no religion[29]
    68.7% Lutheran
    7.0% other Christian
    3.4% Islam
    0.8% other religion
    20.2% no religion[30][31][32]
    60.2% Lutheran[22]
    8.5% other[22]
    31.3% no religion[22]
    GDP (nominal) (2016) $306.7 billion[33][34][35][36] $236.8 billion[33][34][35][36] $20.0 billion[33][34][35][36] $370.4 billion[33][34][35][36] $511.3 billion[33][34][35][36]
    GDP (nominal) per capita (2016)[37][38][39] $53,744[37][38][39] $43,169[37][38][39] $59,629[37][38][39] $70,392[37][38][39] $51,165[37][38][39]
    GDP (PPP) (2016)[40][41][42] $273.8 billion[40][41][42] $231.3 billion[40][41][42] $16.5 billion[40][41][42] $364.4 billion[40][41][42] $498.1 billion[40][41][42]
    GDP (PPP) per capita (2016) $47,985[43][44][45] $42,165[43][44][45] $49,136[43][44][45] $69,249[43][44][45] $49,836[43][44][45]
    Real GDP growth rate (2019 est.) 2.85%[46] 1.15%[46] 1.94%[46] 0.86%[46] 1.29%[46]
    Currency Danish krone[18] Euro[19] Icelandic króna[20] Norwegian krone[21] Swedish krona[22]
    Military expenditure
    1.41% of GDP 1.99% of GDP[47] 0.13% of GDP 1.4% of GDP 1.18% of GDP
    Military personnel 72,135[48] 900,000[49] 130[50] 69,700[51] 57,000[52]
    Labour force[53] 2,962,340 2,677,260 197,200 2,781,420 5,268,520
    Human Development Index rank (2019 data, 2020 report) 10 11 4 1 7
    Corruption Perceptions Index rank (2020) 1 3 17 7 3
    Press Freedom Index rank (2021)[54] 4 2 16 1 3
    Fragile States Index rank (2021) 175 179 177 178 172
    Economic Freedom rank (2021) 10 17 11 28 21
    Global Competitiveness rank (2019) 10 11 26 17 8
    Environmental Performance rank (2020) 1 7 17 9 8
    Good Country rank (2022) 2 5 20 11 1
    Global Gender Gap Report rank (2021) 28 2 1 3 5
    World's Mothers report rank (2014) 6 1 4 2 3
    World Happiness Report rank (2021)[55] 2 1 4 6 7
    The figures in this table do not include the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Åland, Jan Mayen, Svalbard, Bouvet Island, Peter I Island, and Queen Maud Land.

    Associated territories and other areas

    Territory / Area Faroe Islands[56] Greenland[57] Åland Svalbard
    Flag Faroe Islands Greenland Åland Svalbard
    Coat of arms Faroe Islands Greenland Åland Norway
    Official local name Føroyar
    Kalaallit Nunaat[57]
    Landskapet Åland Svalbard
    (2016 estimate)
    49,188[56] 56,483[57] 29,013 2,667
    Area 1,393 km2[56] 2,166,086 km2[57] 1,580 km2 61,022 km2
    Population density 35.5/km2 0.028/km2 18.36/km2 0.044/km2
    Capital city Tórshavn[56] Nuuk[57] Mariehamn Longyearbyen
    Largest urban areas Tórshavn – 12,648
    Klaksvík – 4,681
    Hoyvík – 2,951
    Argir – 1,907
    Fuglafjørður – 1,542
    Nuuk – 16,464
    Sisimiut – 5,598
    Ilulissat – 4,541
    Qaqortoq – 3,229
    Aasiaat – 3,142
    Mariehamn – 11,521
    Jomala – 4,646
    Finström – 2,529
    Lemland – 1,991
    Saltvik – 1,827
    Longyearbyen – 2,144
    Barentsburg – 471
    Ny-Ålesund – ~30–130
    Isbjørnhamna – ~10–12
    Sovereign state Kingdom of Denmark[56][57]  Republic of Finland  Kingdom of Norway
    Status Autonomous territory Autonomous region Unincorporated area
    Form of government Devolved parliamentary within a constitutional monarchy[56] Devolved parliamentary within a constitutional monarchy[57] Unitary parliamentary republic Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy[21]
    Current head of state and government Margrethe II (Queen)
    Aksel V. Johannesen (Premier)
    Margrethe II[57] (Queen)
    Múte Bourup Egede[57] (Premier)
    Sauli Niinistö (President)
    Veronica Thörnroos (Prime Minister)
    Harald V[21] (King)
    Jonas Gahr Støre[21] (Prime Minister)
    European Union No No,
    Yes No
    European Economic Area No No Yes No
    Nordic Council Associate member Associate member Associate member No individual representation
    Main languages Faroese,[56] Danish[56] Greenlandic,[57] Danish[57] Swedish Norwegian[21]
    Main religions 89.3% Lutheran
    6% unspecified
    3.8% none[56]
    96.08% Lutheran
    0.79% Inuit spiritual beliefs
    2.48% atheist+agnostic
    72.0% Lutheran
    1.3% Other religion
    26.7% No religion[58]
    GDP (nominal) $2.77 billion[33][34][35][36] $2.22 billion[33][34][35][36]
    GDP (nominal) per capita $50,300[37][38][39] $43,365[37][38][39]
    GDP (PPP) $1.471 billion[40][41][42] $2.173 billion[40][41][42] $1.563 billion
    GDP (PPP) per capita $36,600[43][44][45] $37,900[43][44][45] $55,829
    Real GDP growth rate 5.90% (2017 est.)[46][59] 7.70% (2016 est.)[46][59]
    Currency Faroese króna[56]
    Danish krone
    Danish krone[57] Euro Norwegian krone[21]



    Century Nordic political entities
    Icelanders Norwegians Swedes Finns
    8th Prehistoric Danish
    Prehistoric Greenlandic
    and West-Norse)
    Prehistoric Faroese
    Prehistoric Icelandic
    Prehistoric Norwegian
    Prehistoric Swedish
    Prehistoric Finnish
    9th Hereditary Kingdom of Norway
    10th Denmark Icelandic Commonwealth
    12th Sweden
    15th Kalmar Union
    19th Denmark United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway Grand Duchy of Finland
    20th Denmark Greenland Faroe Islands Iceland Norway Sweden Finland

    Italics indicates a dependent territory.

    Early history and Middle Ages

    Effigy of Queen Margaret, founder and ruler of the Kalmar Union

    Little evidence remains in the Nordic countries of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age with the exception of a limited numbers of tools created from stone, bronze and iron, some jewelry and ornaments and stone burial cairns. However, one important collection that exists is a widespread and rich collection of stone drawings known as

    Medieval Europe. However, these acquired the Latin culture of Rome.[60]

    The Nordic countries first came into more permanent contact with the rest of Europe during the Viking Age. Southern Finland and northern parts of Sweden and Norway were areas where the Vikings mostly only traded and had raids, whilst the permanent settlements of Vikings in the Nordic region were in southern Norway and Sweden, Denmark and Faroes as well as parts of Iceland, Greenland and Estonia. Christian Europe responded to the raids and conquest of Vikings with intensive missionary work. The missionaries wanted the new territories to be ruled by Christian kings who would help to strengthen the church. After conversion to Christianity in the 11th century, three northern kingdoms emerged in the region: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Iceland first became a commonwealth before it came under Norwegian rule in the early 13th century. There were several secular powers who aimed to bring Finland under their rule, but through the Second and Third Swedish Crusade in the latter part of 13th and through the colonisation of some coastal areas of Finland with Christian Swedes, the Swedish rule was gradually established in the region.[61][62]

    During the

    Lutheran Reformation
    played a major role in the establishment of the early-modern states in Denmark–Norway and Sweden.

    Early modern period and industrialization

    Sweden was very successful during the Thirty Years' War, while Denmark was a failure. Sweden saw an opportunity of a change of power in the region. Denmark–Norway had a threatening territory surrounding Sweden and the Sound Dues were a continuing irritation for the Swedes. In 1643, the Swedish Privy Council determined Swedish territorial gain in an eventual war against Denmark–Norway to have good chances. Not long after this, Sweden invaded Denmark–Norway.

    The war ended as foreseen with Swedish victory and with the Treaty of Brömsebro in 1645 Denmark–Norway had to cede some of their territories, including Norwegian territories Jemtland, Herjedalen and Idre and Serna, as well as the Danish Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel. The Thirty Years' War thus began the rise of Sweden as a great power, while it marked the start of decline for the Danish.

    To some extent in the 16th century and certainly in the 17th, the Nordic region played a major role in European politics at the highest level. The struggle for dominion over the Baltic Sea and its trading opportunities raged between Denmark–Norway and Sweden, which began to impact upon the neighboring nations. Sweden prevailed in the long term and became a major European power as it extended its reach into coastal tracts in modern-day Russia, Estonia, Latvia, and – following the Thirty Years' War – also into Pomerania and other North German areas. Sweden also conquered vast areas from Denmark–Norway during the Northern Wars in the middle of the 17th century. Sweden also had several conflicts with Russia over Finland and other eastern areas of the country and after the Great Northern War (1700–1721) Sweden lost most of its territories outside the old Swedish border to Russia which then became the new major power in Northern Europe.

    After the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the political map of the Nordic countries altered again. In 1809, Finland was conquered by Russian Empire from Sweden in the Finnish War, after which Finland became the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. In turn, Sweden captured Norway from Denmark in 1814 in the Swedish–Norwegian War and started a Union between Sweden and Norway. Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which had been re-colonised in the 18th century, became Danish. Population growth and industrialization brought change to the Nordic countries during the 19th century and new social classes steered political systems towards democracy. International politics and nationalism also created the preconditions for the later independence of Norway in 1905, Finland in 1917 and Iceland in 1944.

    Late modern period and contemporary era

    Nordic prime ministers at the Nordic Council meeting in 2014 in Stockholm

    During the two world wars and the

    managed to formally maintain its neutrality in the Axis/Allies conflict and avoided direct hostilities, but in practice it adapted to the wishes of the dominant power – first Germany, later the Allies. However, during the Winter War between Finland and Russia in 1939–1940, Sweden did support Finland and declared itself "non combatant" rather than neutral.

    Compared with large parts of Europe, the Nordic region got off lightly during the World War II, which partially explains its strong post-war economic development. The labour movement – both trade unions and political parties – was an important political presence throughout the Nordic countries in the 20th century. The big social democratic parties became dominant and after World War II the Nordic countries began to serve as a model for the welfare state. Economically, the five Nordic countries were strongly dependent on foreign trade and so they positioned themselves alongside the big trading blocks. Denmark was the first to join European Economic Community (EEC) in 1972 and after it became European Union (EU) in 1993 Finland and Sweden also joined in 1995. Norway and Iceland are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). All the Nordic countries are however members of the European Economic Area (EEA).


    Satellite map of the European part of the Nordic countries, except for Jan Mayen and Svalbard

    The Nordic countries and self-governing regions in alphabetic order – number of inhabitants (2018), area (km2) and population density (people/km2):

    Country Inhabitants Area Pop. density
    Denmark 5,806,014 42,933 135
    Faroe Islands 50,322 1,393 36
    Finland 5,520,535 338,424 16
    Iceland 355,620 102,775 3.5
    Norway 5,323,933 385,203 14
    Sweden 10,313,447 450,295 23
    Åland 29,884 1,580 18
    Total 27,301,531 1,322,603 21

    Denmark is by far the most densely populated country, whilst Sweden, Norway and Finland are low populated and similar to each other from this perspective. Iceland has both the lowest population and by far the lowest population density. But large areas in Finland, Norway and Sweden, like most of Iceland, are unpopulated. There are no such areas in Denmark. Denmark has a population density around continental average, higher than for instance France and Poland but lower when compared to the United Kingdom, Italy or Germany. Finland, Norway and Sweden has a population density that is a little lower than the United States, but higher than Canada. In round figures, Iceland's population density resembles Canada's.

    Land and water area

    This list includes

    total internal area
    (TIA) which includes land and internal waters.

    Rank Country Area EEZ Shelf EEZ+TIA
    1 Sweden 447,420 160,885 154,604 602,255
    2 Norway 385,203 2,385,178 434,020 2,770,404
    3 Finland 338,534 87,171 85,109 425,590
    4 Iceland 103,440 751,345 108,015 854,345
    5 Denmark (including Greenland) 2,210,579 2,551,238 495,657 4,761,811
    Total (excluding Greenland) 1,318,158 3,751,563 - 5,064,065
    Total 3,484,244 5,935,817 1,277,405 9,414,405


    The exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of the Kingdom of Denmark

    The Kingdom of Denmark includes the home-rule (hjemmestyre) territory of the Faroe Islands and the self-rule (selvstyre) territory of Greenland.

    Region EEZ & TW
    Area (km2)[64]
    Land area Total
    Denmark 105 989 42 394 149 083
    Faroe Islands 260 995 1 399 262 394
    Greenland 2 184 254 2 166 086 4 350 340
    Total 2 551 238 2 210 579 4 761 817

    The Nordic countries have a combined area of around 3.5 million square kilometres and their geography is extremely varied. The area is so vast that it covers five time zones. To the east the region borders Russia, and on the west the Canadian coastline can be seen from Greenland on a clear day. Even excluding Greenland and the Norwegian islands of Svalbard and Jan Mayen, the remaining part of the Nordic countries covers around 1.3 million square kilometres. This is about the same area as France, Germany and Italy together. To the south, the countries neighbor the Baltic states, Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom, while to the north there is the Arctic Ocean.[65]

    Notable natural features of the Nordic countries include the



    All of Denmark and most of Finland lie below 200 m and the topography of both is relatively flat. In Denmark, moraines and tunnel valleys add some relief to the landscape while in Finland the surroundings of lakes Pielinen and Päijänne display some moderate relief. The Finnish area just east of Bothnian Bay stands out as the largest plain in the Nordic countries.[66] The Scandinavian Mountains dominate the landscape of Norway. The southern part of the Scandinavian Mountains is broader than the northern one and contains higher peaks. The southern part contains also a series of plateaux and gently undulating plains. The western parts of the mountains are cut by fjords, producing a dramatic landscape. The landscape of Sweden can be described as a mixture of that of Norway, Finland and Denmark. Except at the High Coast the coastal areas of Sweden form lowlands. Sweden has three highland areas, the South Swedish Highlands, the Scandinavian Mountains and the Norrland terrain which is the eastern continuation of the Scandinavian Mountains.[66] The South Swedish Highland and the Norrland terrain are separated by the Central Swedish lowland. The topography of Iceland stands out among the Nordic countries for being a bowl-formed highland.[66]


    Despite their northern location, the Nordic countries generally have a mild climate compared with other countries that share globally the same latitudes. The climate in the Nordic countries is mainly influenced by their northern location, but remedied by the vicinity to the ocean and the

    Polar Circle
    the climate zone is mostly subarctic with harsh winters and short summers. In Greenland and Svalbard the climate is polar. The sea has a heavy influence on the weather in the western coastal zones of Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The precipitation is high and snow cover during winters is rare. Summers are generally cool.

    The further away that one gets from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream the colder it gets during the winters. Finland, most of Sweden and the south-eastern part of Norway are influenced by the vast continent to the east which results in warm and long summers and clear and cold winters, often with snow. For example, Bergen at the west coast of Norway normally has a temperature above zero in February while Helsinki in Finland normally will have a temperature of 7–8 °C below zero during the same month.[67]

    Climatic conditions and quality of land have determined how land is used in the Nordic countries. In densely populated mainland Denmark there is hardly any wild nature left. Most of the scarce forests are plantations and nearly 60 per cent of Denmark's total area is

    cultivated or zoned as gardens or parks. On the other hand, in the other Nordic countries there is much wild nature left. Only between 0 and 9 per cent of the land in the other Nordic countries is cultivated. Around 17 per cent of the land area in Iceland is used for permanent meadows and pastures and both Finland, Norway as well as Sweden have large forest areas.[68]


    Political dimension and divisions

    The Nordic region has a political dimension in the joint official bodies called the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Helsinki Treaty, signed on 23 March 1962 entered into force on 1 July 1962 and is the political agreement which sets the framework for Nordic cooperation. 23 March is celebrated as the "Nordic Day" as the treaty is sometimes referred to as the constitution of the Nordic cooperation.[69][70][71]

    Several aspects of the

    citizens of another Nordic country if that country is not represented in the territory concerned.[72]

    Nordic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers

    Nordic Council in session at the Parliament of Norway
    in 2007

    Nordic cooperation is based on the Helsinki Treaty.[73] Politically, Nordic countries do not form a separate entity, but they cooperate in the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The council was established after World War II and its first concrete result was the introduction of a Nordic Passport Union in 1952. This resulted in a common labour market and free movement across borders without passports for the countries' citizens. In 1971, the Nordic Council of Ministers, an intergovernmental forum, was established to complement the council. The Nordic Council and the Council of Ministers have their headquarters in Copenhagen and various installations in each separate country, as well as many offices in neighbouring countries. The headquarters are located at Ved Stranden No. 18, close to Slotsholmen.

    The Nordic Council consists of 87 representatives, elected from its members' parliaments and reflecting the relative representation of the political parties in those parliaments. It holds its main session in the autumn, while a so-called "theme session" is arranged in the spring. Each of the national delegations has its own secretariat in the national parliament. The autonomous territories – Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Åland – also have Nordic secretariats.[74] The Council does not have any formal power on its own, but each government has to implement any decisions through its country's legislative assembly. With Denmark, Iceland, and Norway being members of NATO and Finland and Sweden being neutral, the Nordic Council has not been involved in any military cooperation. However, the Nordic foreign and security policy cooperation has become closer and over the past few years expanded its scope.[75][76]

    The Nordic Council of Ministers is responsible for inter-governmental cooperation. Prime ministers have ultimate responsibility, but this is usually delegated to the Minister for Nordic Cooperation and the Nordic Committee for Co-operation, which coordinates the day-to-day work. The autonomous territories have the same representation as states.[77]

    Nordic model

    Vote percentage over time of the main social democratic parties in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

    The Nordic countries share an economic and social model, which involves the combination of a market economy with a welfare state financed with heavy taxes. The welfare states were largely developed by strong social democrat parties and in Finland with cooperation with the Agrarian League. Although the specifics differ between countries and there are ongoing political arguments, there is a strong consensus about keeping to the general concept.

    A central theme in the Nordic model is the "universalist" welfare state aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy, promoting social mobility and ensuring the universal provision of basic human rights, as well as for stabilizing the economy. In this model welfare is not just aid to those who are in need of it, but a central part of the life of everybody: education is free, healthcare has zero or nominal fees in most cases, most children go to municipal day care, etc.

    The Nordic model is distinguished from other types of welfare states by its emphasis on maximizing labour force participation, promoting gender equality, egalitarian and extensive benefit levels, the large magnitude of income redistribution and liberal use of expansionary fiscal policy. Trade unions are strong.

    The model has been successful: the countries are among the wealthiest worldwide and there is little social unrest. In 2015, Save the Children ranked[78] the Nordic countries as number 1–5 of countries where mothers and children fare the best (among 179 countries studied).


    democratically elected female head of state

    Nordic parliaments are all based on a

    Inatsisartut 31 seats and Åland's Lagtinget 30 seats.[79]

    Nordic citizens – and in the three member countries of the EU also EU citizens – living in another Nordic country are normally entitled to vote in local government elections after three months of residence, while other foreign citizens have to reside in the Nordic countries for three to four years before they are eligible to vote. In Denmark and the Faroe Islands, the percentage turn-out at elections is close to 90% per cent, but it is only about 67% in Åland and Finland. Men are more often elected to the national assembly compared to women. The biggest bias between the two sexes is seen in the Faroe Islands and Åland, while in Sweden men and women are close to being equally represented in the national assembly.[80]

    Nordic Passport Union

    Nordic flags

    The Nordic Passport Union, created in 1954 and implemented on 1 May 1958, allows citizens of the Nordic countries: Denmark (Faroe Islands included since 1 January 1966, Greenland not included), Sweden, Norway (Svalbard, Bouvet Island and Queen Maud Land not included), Finland and Iceland (since 24 September 1965) to cross approved border districts without carrying and having their passport checked. Other citizens can also travel between the Nordic countries' borders without having their passport checked, but still have to carry some sort of approved travel identification documents. During the 2015 European migrant crisis, temporary border controls were set up between Denmark and Sweden to control the movement of refugees into Sweden.[81]

    Since 1996, these countries have been part of the larger EU directive

    driving licence, is valid for Nordic citizens because of the Nordic Passport Union. When traveling to other countries than the Nordics, public officials in the foreign services of any of the Nordic countries are to assist citizens of another Nordic country if that country is not represented in the territory concerned, according to the Helsinki Treaty.[82]

    Since 25 March 2001, the Schengen acquis has fully applied to the five countries of the Nordic Passport Union (except for the Faroe Islands). There are some areas in the Nordic Passport Union that give extra rights for Nordic citizens, not covered by Schengen, such as less paperwork if moving to a different Nordic country and fewer requirements for naturalisation.

    European integration and international cooperation

    Organisation Denmark Finland Iceland Norway Sweden
    CoE Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Nordic Council Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    EEA Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    EFTA No No Yes Yes No
    EU Yes Yes No No Yes
    Eurozone No Yes No No No
    Schengen Area Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    NATO Yes No Yes Yes No
    OECD Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    UN Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    WTO Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

    The political cooperation between the Nordic countries has not led to a common policy or an agreement on the countries' memberships in the EU,

    Free Movement Directive partially supersedes the Nordic passport-free zone and the common Nordic labor market. The Schengen Area
    covers all the Nordic countries, excluding the Faroe Island and Svalbard.

    Additionally, certain areas of Nordic countries have special relationships with the EU. For example, Finland's autonomous island province

    not a part of the EU VAT zone

    In the EU, the Northern Dimension refers to external and cross-border policies covering the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries and Russia.

    There is no explicit provision in the Treaty on European Union or Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that takes Nordic cooperation into account. However, the Treaties provide that international agreements concluded by the Member States before they become members of the Union remain valid, even if they are contrary to the provisions of Union law. Each Member State must nonetheless take all necessary measures to eliminate any discrepancies as quickly as possible. Nordic cooperation can therefore in practice only be designed to the extent that it complies with Union law. Sweden and Finland issued a joint declaration when they joined the EU:[83] "The Contracting Parties notes that Sweden [...] and Finland, as members of the European Union, intend to continue their Nordic co-operation, both with each other and with other countries and territories, in full compliance with Community law and other provisions of the Maastricht Treaty."

    Article 121 of the EEA-agreement states that "the provisions of the Agreement shall not preclude cooperation: (a) within the framework of the Nordic cooperation to the extent that such cooperation does not impair the good functioning of this Agreement".[84]

    Current leaders

    All the Nordic countries are long-established parliamentary democracies. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have a political system of

    King Harald V
    of Norway has reigned since 17 January 1991.

    Finland and Iceland have been parliamentary republics since their independence. Both countries are led by prime ministers, whilst the directly elected president acts mostly as a ceremonial head of state with some legislative power. Finland had a long tradition of having a strong presidential system, since in the beginning of its independence Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse was elected to the throne of Finland and Finland was to become a monarchy. This failed due to World War I and the fall of the German Empire and so it was a compromise that Finland became a republic with a strong head of state. The President's powers were once so broad that it was said Finland was the only real monarchy in northern Europe. However, amendments passed in 1999 reduced his powers somewhat and the President now shares executive authority with the Prime Minister.[85]