Pasaulis susideda iš daug valstybių, jis kartu yra ir vieningas ir kartu labai įvairiapusiškas. Skirtingi regionai, skirtingos kultūros, bei požiūris, visa tai ir dar daugiau įtakoja žmonių gyvenimą, jo sąlygas. Atskirai kiekvienos valstybės ekonomika, politika, įtaka pasaulio raidai yra labai individuali, tačiau yra ir jas siejančių bendrų tikslų, kaip taikos, ekonominiai bei kiti tikslai. Šalys jungiasi į sąjungas, tarpusavyje bendradarbiauja įvairiose srityse.
Taigi, nepaslaptis, kad šiaurinis pusrutulis yra labiau pažengęs išsivystymo kryptimi.
Kaip antai JAV, Kanada, didelė dauguma Europos valstybių bei kitos.
Šiame referate kaip tik ir norime išanalizuoti Europos kai kurias valstybes. Pasirinkome daugiau šiaurines valstybes – visos Skandinavijos šalys (Suomija, Švedija, Norvegija) bei Danija ir šiauriausia – Islandija.
Pasistengsime atskleisti kaip kiekvieną iš jų įtakoja politiniai sprendimai, istorišku aspektu sugrįšime į XX amžių, pabandysime pažvelgti kaip pasauliniai karai bei kiti istoriniai įvykiai atsiliepė krašto ekonomikai. Šios penkios valstybės yra labai skirtingos ir kartu labai panašios, kokią įtaką daro pasauliniame kontekste, ant kiek ekonomiškai stabilios. Kokie santykiai su kaimynėmis šalimis. Lentelių ir įvairiausių grafikų pagalba stengsimės atskleisti ekonominius rodiklius kaip mokesčių, bei kiti finansiniai veiksniai veikia šalių ekonomiką, taip pat kitų stipriausių pasaulio valstybių kontekste, jų išsivystymo lygį. Tarpusavio konkurencingumą, pateiksime duomenis apie ateities prognozes. Taip pat nepamiršime jų dalyvavimo įvairiose sąjungose bei organizacijose ir jose turintį „svorį“. Galiausiai paliesime tų šalių piliečius, jų tvyrančią nuotaiką, moralę, pasirinkimo laisvės erdves, socialines garantijas, bei kitą.
Šios penkios valstybės kartu yra kaip ir pavyzdys kitoms šalims, kaip reikia tvarkyti savo ekonomiką, politinį gyvenimą.
Tai tikrai geras pavyzdys Lietuvai.
NEXT week 24m Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Finns and Icelanders will celebrate the summer solstice, a time of midnight sun. On the longest night of the year Swedes traditionally dance around a maypole, Danes light great fires on beaches, Norwegians take their sailing boats to the fjords, and people everywhere move to their cottages in the woods, on the coast or in the mountains. One Finn calls it “a time of leaving cities, drinking, making love, drowning and bonfires”. It is a night of exuberant pagan Nordic self-assertion.
A pan-Nordic identity is bu language (except in Finland). Those roots go a long way back. The Kalmar union of the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, signed in 1397, lasted more than a century. Each country was once ruled, at least in part, by a Nordic neighbour (except Denmark, where the ruler was Germany). Sweden’s national anthem does not mention Sweden at all but refers to “Norden”, the region. The intertwined national and Nordic identity is reflected in the flags of the five countries: each has its own distinguishing colours, but they all share the design of a cross on a plain background.
individual national histories too. Nearly a millennium ago, Snorre, a Norseman, described the different strengths as fighters of Swedes, Danes and Norwegians. As states, three of them are young: Norway won independence from Sweden only in 1905; Finland got it from Russia after the first world war; Iceland from Denmark towards the end of the second one. Sweden, Denmark and Norway are all rather fond of their low-key monarchies, whereas the other two are proudly republican.
Now the Nordic countries are being asked to adopt a third identity: a European one. Finland hurried into the warm embrace of Europe, currency and all, as soon as the Soviet threat next door had been removed. Two others, Sweden and Denmark, are members of the European Union, but remain undecided on the single currency. The remaining two, Norway and Iceland, have so far refused to join the EU. All four are worried about losing sovereignty and economic control. But, cautiously, they all seem to be edging closer, and are trying to define their places in Europe. As a Danish academic, Lykke Friis, puts it: “All Nordic countries are struggling to find a credible fit between their national identity and the EU.-.this fit is especially dificult because Nordic identity is about being better than Europe'”. For ‘better than Europe’, read richer than many of their European neighbours, endowed with enviable welfare systems and enjoying comparative political calm.
Identity inside the Nordic countries was built mainly on a shared history and complete ethnic homogeneity. Their inhabitants were the fair-haired, blue-eyed descendants of Norse farmers, fishermen and traders. In 1951 the author of a British report on Scandinavia wrote that “no alien stock” had touched this part of the world. But that is changing fast. The streets of Stockholm or Copenhagen today are full of brown-skinned, black-haired immigrants from all over Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa. Oslo has its “Little Karachi”, and in one part of Malmo in southern Sweden immigrants make up 90% of the population. In Sweden as a whole, one in four people is foreign-born or of foreign parentage. In Denmark and Norway the inflow of foreigners has also increased, spawning anti-immigrant political parties and strict new laws to keep incomers out. To a large extent, the Nordic countries’ continued prosperity and political calm will depend on how well they succeed in integrating the new arrivals. ilt on a common culture, geography, history, ethnicity, love of nature and a shared Scandinavian
Added to these two external pressures on the old Nordic identity is a third, internal one. In all five countries life expectancy is remarkably high and birth rates are low, so the populations are ageing. A post-war baby-boom generation is now ready to retire, collect benefits from generous welfare states and make use of the excellent hospitals, clinics and home-care facilities on offer. At the same time the pool of working-age taxpayers is shrinking and resistance to high taxes is growing. The remarkably successful welfare-state system that developed after the second world war is getting squeezed.
This survey will ask whether these three big challenges to the Nordic countries—Europe, immigration and pressure on the welfare state-are fundamentally changing the identity of its people. In one way, the answer is clearly no: a core part of the identity of the Nordic people is pragmatism, which has enabled them to cope with momentous changes in the past and will do so again. That British report of half a century ago gave warning that: “The Scandinavian states can no longer consider themselves in a peaceful backwater, unaffected by the swift stream of events which bears others remorselessly along.” At that point, Iceland had recently won its independence, Finland was paying reparations to Russia for fighting it, the Danes and Norwegians were coping with the aftermath from Nazi rule and the Swedes were trying to find an international role. They were hardly quiet times.
Since then the Nordic states have managed to swim in cold waters remarkably well. To be a citizen of one of them today is to be more assured of wealth, political stability, generous welfare, low crime and a good life than in most other countries. In international comparisons, one of the Nordic five regularly comes off best. Finns are the least corrupt people anywhere; Norwegians enjoy the best standard of living; the Finnish economy is the most competitive after America; the Nordics as a group are the happiest in their jobs, and most generous with foreign aid; Nordic women enjoy more equal treatment with men than those anywhere else; and so on. One veteran Finnish commentator sums it up crisply: “We live today in idyllic circumstances in terms of security, living standards and domestic politics; in a way it is unbelievable.” But can this tolerant, rich and happy dream continue?
As YOU travel around the Nordic countries, the money in your wallet tells its own story. Europhile Finns were delighted to be among the first wave of EU member countries to adopt the single currency, so you need euros to pay for your sauna or your plate of crayfish in Helsinki. The Danes, who have been in the European Union since 1973, narrowly turned down membership of the single currency in a referendum in September 2000, but the Danish krone is closely pegged to the euro, and euro notes and coins flowing over the border from Germany are widely accepted in shops and restaurants. So Danes are already getting used to the new currency, and polls show that two-thirds of them are ready to adopt it.
The picture is less clear in Sweden, which has been a member of the EU since 1995 but seems as reluctant as the British to embrace the common currency. If the Swedes vote yes in a referendum on September i4th, meatballs and aquavit in
Stockholm will be sold for euros as early as 2006; but that remains a big if. The prime minister, Goran Persson, is leading the yes camp against a motley crew of sceptics. But despite a Swedish tendency to agree that those in authority usually know best, voters so far seem unconvinced.
Compared with the Norwegians, however, the Swedes look like uncritical Euro-enthusiasts. Norway’s government twice applied for membership of the EU, only to be slapped down by oil-rich and fiercely patriotic voters at referendums in 1972 and 1994. The more recent vote proved pain-?fully divisive, so political parties have mostly shunned the issue since. For the moment the Norwegian krone looks safe. Yet eventually even Norwegian Euro-sceptics may be persuaded to change their minds. In recent months polls have shown growing support for joining the EU: leaving aside the don’t knows, the yes camp is now in a majority.
The price of fish
If Norway were to join, super-sceptical Iceland would be left out alone. The island was originally settled by uppity Viking warriors who wanted to run their own show, and still preserves a strong national pride. But Iceland’s main worry is that EU fishing directives would hurt its privately run and flourishing fish industry, which is central to its economy. The country is finding new sources of revenue (such as aluminium smelting and tourism) that might eventually ease its dependence on fish, but not for a while yet. However, if Norway, a rival exporter of fish, were to join the EU and get inside that big market, Iceland might choose to follow suit.
Many on the left of Nordic politics argue that moving closer to Europe would mean losing control over social policies (such as high taxes on alcohol). Soren Wibe, a Social Democrat MP in Sweden and an outspoken leader of the no campaign, says he fears adoption of the euro would eventually lead to a common European fiscal policy, “so we would have to dismantle our welfare state quite a lot.”
Such fears help to explain the persistent Nordic scepticism about wholehearted participation in the EU. One Danish observer of European politics says the aloof
Nordics have long felt that they are better off and better run than the average European country, but they do worry about being isolated. The urban elite tend to think that closer ties with Europe make sense, but they must convince their more reluctant compatriots, especially in rural areas. Giving people a direct say can make a difference. For example, many Finns regret that, unlike the Danes, they never got the chance to express their views on the common currency in a referendum.
Still, there is no doubt that, of all the Nordic countries, the Finns are the greatest cheerleaders for the EU. A former Finnish prime minister, Aho Esko, talks of a “Euphoria when Finland was president of the Union”, once his countrymen had finally shaken off their fear that Russia might limit the country’s role in Europe. “Compared with 1809, when Russia took control of Finland from Sweden, joining the EU is nothing,” says another Finn.
Paavo Lipponen, the country’s prime minister until April this year, believes his country has done well from joining both the union and the euro: Finland “definitely benefits from the single currency. It is stability that has given us such confidence. I don’t think [Sweden and Denmark] benefit from staying outside.” He offers Finland’s recent economic prosperity as something to bear in mind for those considering euro membership.
The new prime minister, Anneli Jaatteenmaki, is less voluble about things European, and one recent poll suggests that 68% of her countrymen think too much power has been handed to Brussels. But she is unlikely to make big policy changes, not least because her Centre Party must share power with the Europhile Mr Lipponen’s Social Democrats.
Meanwhile in both Denmark and Sweden there is a growing consensus that membership of the EU is a good thing, despite some pain for small farmers. The prime ministers of both countries also favour joining the euro. Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen thinks that staying outside the single currency has done his country no economic damage, but politically it has been a problem. “We don’t have a seat at the table where decisions are made.” He thinks public opinion is moving towards joining the euro: “People realise that Denmark should be a fully fledged member of the EU to have full influence. And they realise the euro would be more practical.”
But another referendum on adopting the single currency will be tricky, not least because questions loom on the country’s other “opt-outs”-from EU treaties on defence, citizenship, and justice and home affairs. Mr Fogh Rasmussen says the government aims to abolish the military opt-out, especially after seeing certain NATO tasks-such as peacekeeping in Macedonia—taken up by the EU. He promises another referendum on Europe in 2004 or 2005, though he has not yet decided if that is the right time for a “big bang” vote to end all remaining opt-outs. Although Danes seem ready for the euro, which they already have in much but name, and for military co-operation, they remain deeply sceptical about common policies on justice and home affairs (which would oblige them to give up some of their anti-immigration laws), and about the more symbolic question of being a citizen of the EU.
If Denmark were yet again to vote against adopting the euro, it might have to consider whether it can remain a member of the EU at all. There is a widespread assumption, both within the country itself and among other EU members, that Denmark’s optouts are temporary and that the country
is on the way to becoming a full and wholehearted member. Another public rejection would scotch that idea and prompt suggestions that Denmark should go for the “Norwegian solution” of associate membership instead.
Meanwhile, though, the Danes can have fun watching the Swedes tie themselves in knots before the referendum on euro membership in September. Swedish voters and politicians, even within government, are deeply divided. For example, although the prime minister is in favour, the trade and industry minister, Leif Pagrotsky, is campaigning for a no vote. He says Sweden’s economy is now doing better than euroland and that “the Euro-sclerosis in Germany is not for us.”
Last November, when the referendum date was announced, polls showed a small majority in favour of joining. But that has since evaporated, just as it did in Denmark three years ago, and now the no camp seems to be in the ascendant. In April the main blue-collar trade-union organisation, LO, took offence at the government’s refusal to put aside “buffer funds” to cover social costs arising from the transition, and said it would not campaign in favour.
Much now depends on Mr Persson’s own yes campaign, which could swing a lot of undecided voters. He can count on support from pro-euro companies that will provide money for the campaign, and from many male white-collar workers. But he will have to rely mainly on the political case forjoining-briefly, that Sweden outside the euro zone lacks influence in Eu-rope-because the economic case is not clear-cut.
Some economists, such as Klas Ekiund at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, argue that Sweden’s economy is in step with Europe, that interest rates set by the European Central Bank would suit it, and that the country would gain from a stable currency, more trade, higher growth and bigger markets within the euro zone. But others insist that gains would be marginal or non-existent. Mr. Pagrotsky worries that “Sweden would be less than 3% of the economy of the monetary union, and with a history of high inflation. Why drop the one effective anti-inflation measure?” He believes that Sweden should sign up only if Britain were to join the single currency.
Mr Persson may fear that if he campaigns strongly for a yes vote but is handed a no, his own standing will be damaged. He has been prime minister since 1996, was re-elected last year and is now the only Social Democrat to lead a government in the Nordic region. He may be loth to risk his popularity at the peak of his powers.
Whatever the Swedes decide, the campaign will encourage neighbouring Norway to rethink its position in Europe. Although a Swedish yes on the euro will not automatically help the pro-EU camp in Norway, it will prompt Norwegians to make up their minds. Already polls show that the group of undecided voters is shrinking, with the pro-EU camp picking up support.
One reason why Norwegians may want to consider EU membership anew is the price of food, which thanks to huge tariffs on some imported foodstuffs is one-third higher than in Sweden. Meat in Norway is so expensive that before Christmas families traditionally drive to Sweden to buy festive supplies of pork ribs and steaks. Because of limits on the amount of meat each person can import, children (known as Jleskunger, or bacon kids) are crammed into the backs of cars to make the trip worthwhile. Norwegians are expected to spend NKr9 billion ($1.3 billion) over the border this year.
But non-membership costs money in other ways too. Norway and Iceland have just been through tough renegotiations with the EU on the terms of their membership of the European Economic Area, which provides for free movement of goods, services, capital and labour between the Union and European countries (other than Switzerland) that have remained outside. From 2004 both countries will pay five times their present membership fee; Norway will also funnel existing bilateral aid for eastern Europe through the EU, so its total transfer to the Union will top NKn.7 billion a year, a tenfold rise.
Nor is money the only consideration. “As well as paying in, Norway has now adopted an estimated 5,000 EU directives as its own law,” says Jarle Hammerstad of HSH, a business organisation in Oslo. Even Norway’s formerly sceptical prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, has recently admitted he feels a “dilemma” over whether to apply to join. Most political parties are currently reconsidering the implications of membership.
EU enlargement to the east has also helped to change Norwegian perceptions of Europe. Haakon Kavli, a researcher with MMI, a polling organisation in Oslo, says the biggest shift in opinion towards membership has been in coastal areas. Many fishermen have traditionally been Eurosceptics, but many also sell to eastern Europe, and with those markets soon to become part of the EU they see more reason for Norway to join too.
Together, these trends suggest that Norway will reapply for membership, though not for a few years yet. Next year is too early, and 2005 will mark a century of Norwegian independence from Swedish colonial rule-not an auspicious time to hold a referendum on ceding some sovereignty to the EU. But a vote could come soon after. Terje Osmundsen, a political observer in Oslo, says he expects Norway to be in the EU by 2010.
It’s cold outside
If so, Iceland, which already conducts 70% of its trade with the EU, would be unlikely to remain the only outsider for long. EU enthusiasts such as Eirikur Bergmann of Iceland’s European Movement think a deal could be struck to preserve control over fish stocks. After all, Sweden and Finland persuaded the EU that their forestry industry near the Arctic circle should be given special treatment, so Iceland might get a similar deal for its fish.
Mr Bergmann, like fellow Europhiles all over the Nordic region, believes that voters will be swayed by the political argument:
“Iceland takes 80% of EU legislation but we have no say. We have outsourced part of our legislature to Brussels.” But the most persuasive reason for joining may be the prospect of the single currency: Iceland’s krona is volatile and the country is prone to inflation, so interest rates yo-yoed over the years. A survey in February of members of the Federation of Icelandic Industries showed that 59% were in favour of the euro. However, the re-election on May loth of David Oddsson, prime minister for the past 12 years and an outspoken opponent of EU membership for Iceland, has boosted the anti camp.
BOARD a train in Maimo, Sweden’s third-largest city, and in under half an hour you are whisked above the waves to Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. The Oresund rail-and-car bridge was at last opened three years ago, after a century of talks, nine years of construction and an outlay of Skr 15 billion ($1.9 billion).
The Swedes and the Danes were not always the best of friends-Denmark ruled this part of Sweden until 1658—but these days the two countries are good EU neighbours. They want their respective citizens to be able to cross the shared border more easily, as well as to
foreign investors to use the area as a hub of development for the Nordic and Baltic regions. The new bridge puts Copenhagen international airport as close to Maimo as it is to the Danish capital (a mere 15 minutes either way).
The newly named Oresund region of 3.5m people is now developing ties that would not have been possible without the bridge, such as a network of 12 Danish and Swedish universities with 140,000 students and 10,000 researchers, and a “medicon” valley with food, medical and biotech companies that already employ 26,000 people. Anders Olshov of Oresundsinstituttet, a body set up last year to study the effect of the new transport link, says that investment in the project has totalled SKr 100 billion.
Is it money well spent? “There is a sense of disappointment because very high expectations have not materialised,” says Per Ohisson, a journalist in Maimo. The number of cars using the bridge, at 9,000 a day, is much lower than expected because tolls are steep (SKr500 for a return journey), and cross-border traffic is building up only slowly. Some 2,500 Danes did buy (cheaper) houses in southern Sweden last year, but tax and social-security rules still make it hard to live and work in different countries.
Those teething troubles will no doubt be sorted out, and overall the project is already a success, says Mr Olshov. Culturally, integration is no problem because southern Swedes and Danes already have much in common. Economic benefits are becoming clearer too. Maimo had long been a depressed area, but is now the fastest-expanding city in the country. Small firms are flourishing, and bigger companies such as Daimler Chrysler and Biogen are moving into the area. Many new jobs have been created. If both countries adopt the euro, integration in the region will become even more complete.
MIX AND MATCH
ROSENGARD is a suburb of Malrno in Sweden, lined with carefully maintained high-rise buildings. Built to house working-class families a generation ago, it now contains the highest-density population of immigrants anywhere in the Nordic region. For every white face, you are likely to see at least nine brown ones peering down from windows and balconies. Many flats have sprouted satellite dishes so that the newly arrived can watch TV programmes from back home.
According to Mona Sahlin, the ministre of integration, “Rosengard is the hardest, most segregated part of the country. In some parts 95% of people don’t have a job.” Lars Birve of MKB, a company that manages most of the housing in the area, explains that “in Rosengard you can have a class of 30 children where none speaks Swedish.” Even in Maimo as a whole, over one-third of all residents were born outside Sweden.
A new wave of foreign arrivals in Sweden began 15 years ago. Experts prefer not to call it immigration because most come as asylum-seekers or as part of family reunions, unlike the many job-seeking Finns and others who appeared in the 1960s. But whatever the label, roughly im of Sweden’s 9m people were born outside the country; and if you add in those with at least one parent born abroad, nearly a quarter of the population are outsiders.
Mrs Sahlin draws a parallel with the number of foreigners, including many Swedes, who washed up on America’s shores early in the 20th century: “In 1910 20% of the Swedish population lived in the United States. Now more than 20% of the Swedish population come from another part of the world.” She points out that Sweden’s current influx nearly matches the peak of migration to America in 1913, when about 14% of the population there were foreign-born, compared with about 12% in Sweden today. That proportion is higher than in America now, as well as in any other European country.
Why is Sweden attracting so many more foreigners than the other Nordic countries? It is the
biggest, most urban and most cosmopolitan of the five, plays an active role on the international stage and has a policy, broadly speaking, of welcoming refugees. In recent years its liberal rules on family reunion have further increased the number of foreign arrivals.
The other Nordic countries have been less hospitable. In Norway the foreign-born proportion of the population is about 7% and in Denmark 6%. Iceland has very few foreigners, other than 2,000-3,000 Poles who regularly work in its fishing industry. And in Finland migration is almost unknown, unless you count an old Swedish minority.
Goodbye to meatballs
But in the three Scandinavian countries, the arrival of large numbers of outsiders with a different culture, religion, history and skin colour has brought about conspicuous changes. In 1951, that British report on “The Scandinavian States and Finland: a Political and Economic Survey” was still able to state: “There are almost no traces of alien stock in Scandinavia…this racial homogeneity…is reflected in similarities of political outlook and institutions, and of language.” Today Sweden’s cities, especially Stockholm and Maimo, bustle with different cultures. In one small square in downtown Maimo your correspondent, sitting in the China Garden restaurant, had a view of the Tehran Supermarket, a shop called Asian Trading and four other ethnic restaurants, the India Tandoori, the Middle East, the Falafel House and the Krua Thai. Not so long ago the hopeful diner would have been lucky to find a pizza house.
There is more change to come. Theodor Paues at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise expects one-third of Swedes to be immigrants within a few years, at least by parentage. More migration is likely from the parts of eastern Europe that are about to join the EU. And in Sweden’s parliament all the parties except the Social Democrats want a commission to be set up to attract more skilled labour from outside the EU.
Despite tough anti-immigration rules in Denmark and Norway, many foreigners are likely to enter through family reunion, which is hard to block. Mauricio Rojas, a member of parliament for Sweden’s Liberal Party and director of Timbro, a think-tank, says immigration is shaking the identity of the Nordics. The most important task now is to manage the integration of so many outsiders.
Back in Malmo’s Rosengard in early April, Bejzat Becirov offers a guided tour of his mosque and Islamic school. Mr Becirov arrived from Macedonia in 1962 and is perhaps a model of a newcomer who has bridged gaps between cultures and religions in his adoptive country. “This was the first mosque to be built in Scandinavia, it was built in 1984,” he explains. He took no foreign money from international Islamic organisations for its construction, but accepted donations from churches and synagogues in southern Sweden as well as from the local Muslim population.
It is a Friday, and as classes finish, dozens of small children pour out into the spring sunshine. A few girls wear head-scarves. Now the first of 3,000 adults arrive for prayer sessions. “At this mosque 130 languages are spoken, but I tell everyone they must learn Swedish. We have 55,000 members, and 5% of those are ‘original’ Swedes,” says Mr Becirov. In the days after September nth 2001, Christians, Jews and Muslims held meetings in the classrooms of the Islamic centre.
On April 27th Mr Becirov’s mosque and school was largely gutted by fire, with arson suspected. Sweden is not especially prone to violence against immigrants, though neo-Nazi thugs occasionally attack foreigners. But nor is it especially successful at integrating outsiders. The next day someone threw a molotov cocktail at the town’s synagogue.
The challenge of integration is threefold: to ease clashes of culture between migrants and the native population; to avert a xenophobic backlash in politics; and, most important, to bring foreigners into the workforce.
The first of these will take time. Many white residents, especially those who live away from the larger towns, are simply unused to seeing brown faces. Opinion polls suggest that hostility towards foreigners declines if the locals actually meet them. Mr Rojas, one of 30,000 Chilean-Swedes who arrived three decades ago, says the public has been reluctant to accept svnrt-skalle (black skulls) people as true Swedes, which they see as an ethnic identity, although most people agree that outsiders can become Swedish citizens, which is more of a political identity.
Hallo to onion bhajis
Breaking down those barriers can take many forms. In Oslo, Shabana Rehman describes her use of stand-up comedy to provoke discussion between cultures. Sitting in her sister’s restaurant, which serves Norwegian-Pakistani fusion food (curried reindeer, spiced monkfish), she explains:
“I start my act wearing a burqa and dancing an old Norwegian peasant dance; then I challenge the audience to say what it is to be a true Norwegian.” Many politicians, including those from the anti-immigration Progress Party, make a point of attending her shows. She once posed naked for a newspaper, her body painted in the colours of the Norwegian flag, to the horror of some of the Pakistani community.
Ms Rehman is due to tour rural Norway and several other European countries with her comedy act. She also writes a column
for a national newspaper and regularly appears on television. Is it helping? “I think things are changing, there is more intermingling, and more debate among the Pakistanis too. Yes, there’s change, but it took a naked Muslim girl to get that change.”
More exposure may help ease culture clashes between individuals, but tackling the political backlash against immigrants is harder. Despite its high rates of migration, Sweden has so far avoided the re-emergence of a populist anti-immigrant party at national level (one spluttered into life a decade ago, but quickly expired). Still, many expect that one will emerge soon, or at least that mainstream parties will propose tougher action to keep migrants out. Mrs Sahlin points to a redneck party, the Swedish Democrats, that did well in the south in recent local elections: “We are not immune. We have between 10-15% of voters who are very strongly against immigration; we expect a big fight in 2006 [the date of the next general election].”
In Norway, a populist and anti-migrant party, the Progress Party, is currently enjoying strong support, though perhaps more because of its charismatic leader, Carl Hagen, than because of its policies. In Denmark, the extremist Danish People’s Party has redrawn political lines, increasing its number of MPS to 22 in the 2001 election and now propping up the minority government. Its success is also partly due to a populist leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, a sceptic on the EU and on immigration. Mr Fogh Rasmussen and his Liberals need the support of Ms Kjaersgaard’s party in parliament, so the government has had to adopt many of her policies on immigration. Danes are less concerned about political correctness and more inclined to speak their minds than their Swedish neighbours. Many of openly call themselves racist.
Mr Fogh Rasmussen denies that Denmark has anti-immigration laws, but he concedes that “in principle we have an immigration stop”, because the government believes that the country has reached the limits of its capacity. In fact, because of family reunion, it is impossible to prevent more migrants coming in, but that has recently been made harder with a range of petty and illiberal rules.
Since 2002 Danes under the age of 25 have not been able to get non-EU citizens into the country automatically by marrying them; entry of foreign spouses is conditional on paying a deposit of DKr5i,6oo ($8,180), to be used against any claims on the welfare state, and on evidence from the couple that they have a monthly income of at least DKn6,ooo. They must also prove they have a “close attachment” to Denmark, for example by showing they have lots of Danish relatives. Observers say these rules are specially designed to cut the numbers of Turks, Kurds and Soma-lis, some of whom come to Denmark through arranged marriages.
Bashy Ouraishy, author of a recent book called “Danish Identity Seen Through Brown Eyes”, says the new laws mean foreigners will have to wait as long as 11 years to become Danish citizens, take a language test, prove they have committed no crime in another country and even swear an oath that they will learn about Danish culture and norms.
The most effective way to deal with xenophobic responses and cultural clashes is to make sure migrants quickly become part of the working population. Mr Paues from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise quotes a 2002 poll which suggested that 67% of Swedes were happy for more immigrants to enter the country if they had jobs waiting for them. But getting foreigners into jobs is difficult. A Swedish study last November showed that the country had 100,000 full-time or part-time job vacancies. Unemployment last year was only 4%, but among the non-European foreign-born population as many as 13.2% were without formal work.
Mrs Sahlin points out that this is a great improvement on 1998, when the rate was over 22%, and insists that migrants are moving into jobs ever more quickly. But trade-union rules make it difficult to hire and fire workers, lower-paid jobs for the less skilled are hard to come by, and a combination of high taxes on low incomes and generous welfare payments reduces the incentive to seek work at all.
The minister is adamant that immigrant workers will not be exploited by being forced into low-skilled jobs, but migrants and the people who work with them on the ground have different worries. Mr Birve in Rosengard complains that people eager to work are too often barred from formal jobs, so take up informal ones instead. He points out that when there were not enough jobs to go round for white Swedish building workers, the government offered tax relief on home refurbishment, causing a boom in the industry. Why not introduce similar incentives to get brown Swedes into formal work too?
There are already plenty of incentives to work in the underground economy. Mr Ekiund, the bank economist in Stockholm, suggests that untaxed, unregulated work and smuggling now account for 5-10% of the total economy, though these activities involve natives as well as foreigners. He reckons that migrants would be more easily assimilated if more of them could break into the formal labour market.
This is bound to happen sooner or later. As the Nordic countries’ population ages, there will be many more openings for foreigners in medicine, the caring professions and other jobs, especially in the public sector. The question is whether in this way migrants will help to preserve the Nordic countries’ treasured welfare model, or whether they will change their host societies so fundamentally that the model itself will come under threat.
KRYBBE TO GRAV
A COLD wind blows along Hornsgatan, one of Stockholm’s wide, sloping avenues. People hurry into shops or duck into the underground. Buffeted by chilly blasts, one man stands alone on a corner, offering copies of a magazine for the homeless. Is Sweden’s welfare state in such decline that working-age (and apparently sober) men have to rely on charity? Probably not. When your correspondent tried to buy a copy, the man was too busy chatting on his hands-free mobile phone to serve him.
Ask a Swede, Dane or Norwegian to tell you what is special about the Nordic countries, and you will soon hear about the Nordic model of social care. Support for high rates of trade union membership, high-quality public services and high taxes seems part of the Nordic identity. The region’s people expect free schooling and university education, high-quality health care, generous unemployment and sickness benefits, state-funded maternity and paternity leave, universal pensions and more. The past decade has brought important reforms to public welfare in all the Nordic countries, and further changes are bound to come in the next decade or two, prompted by ageing populations, immigration, wage and tax competition, closer ties with Europe, globalisation and other pressures. But the basic idea of paying high taxes for a generous level of public services enjoys wholehearted support, even among young voters.
The architects of the welfare state were the Social Democrats, traditionally the dominant political force in the Nordic countries. But these days they occupy the prime minister’s office only in Sweden. Denmark, Norway and Iceland all have centre-right governments, and in April Finland’s Social Democrats became junior partners to the relatively conservative Centre Party. Even so, practically every political party in the region promises to maintain the status quo of high taxes and high welfare. Even in Denmark, Mr Fogh Rasmussen’s rightish government pledges only mild cuts. The prime minister explains that “I can’t promise a drastic reduction, only a gradual decline in personal income tax from January 2004. Denmark will still have one of the highest taxation rates in the world. But we have a well-functioning public sector.”
Nordic people went from being among the poorest in Europe less than 150 years ago to among the richest in the world a generation ago. By the middle of the 20th century trade, shipping, forestry, iron ore, fish and pigs had generated considerable wealth; since then oil, farmed fish, cheap energy, cars, mobile phones, financial institutions and well-educated workers have added a great deal more.
Perhaps just as important, women have long been full participants in the formal, measured economy: they deliver their children to excellent state-funded day centres and go off to do their own jobs. This has meant a bigger formal labour force and a larger tax base.
Rich and even
Are the five economies in good enough shape to sustain a generous welfare model? They are certainly well off. Their 24m people between them generate more income than Spain’s 4om, and their national wealth is shared out more evenly than elsewhere. The two luckiest Nordic countries are Iceland and Norway. Iceland does very well out of fish, taps thermal and hydro power for energy-hungry industries and welcomes growing numbers of tourists. A $2 billion hydro-electric system and aluminium smelter, to be built with the help of an Italian company and completed by 2008, should double growth from its current unusually low rate of 1.5%, says the finance ministry.
Norway, the richest of the Nordic countries, will pump North Sea oil for another 50 years and gas for a century. It is the world’s third-largest exporter of oil, and relies on the black stuff for 200,000 jobs. It has been canny about its oil revenues, putting 80% of them into a petroleum fund that is invested overseas, so the benefits should last for many years yet.
But some people are worried that oil-bloated success could smother other parts of the economy. Entrepreneurs such as Thor Kamfjord, boss of a company called PolyDisplay, thinks the oil has made it too hard to find venture capital, hire staff and deal with bureaucracy. “The oil and gas income, in a wider perspective, is a catastrophe. We are getting lazy, high on raw materials, and no good at value generation.” He hopes that his firm, which specialises in flexible display screens, will become Norway’s equivalent of Finland’s Nokia. But he will manufacture in Spain, Germany or the United States rather than in high-cost Norway.
Others share his concerns. A survey this year on the best places to do business in the next four years, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, ranked Norway only 20th out of 60. Its Nordic fellows did much better: Finland came third, Denmark seventh and Sweden iith.
After Norway, Denmark is the richest Nordic country, but it relies mainly on trade, services and manufacturing and a range of entrepreneurial medium-sized companies rather than on North Sea oil and gas. Having a densely populated land-mass and two big neighbours, Germany and Sweden, undoubtedly helps.
Finland had to overcome a painful banking crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union next door, and continues to suffer from high structural unemployment, but the economy is competitive and attractive to outsiders. Esko Aho, a former Finnish prime minister who brought in liberalisation and tax reforms, believes the shock of the Soviet implosion brought unexpected benefits: “We were lucky to have problems in the early 1990s; we had to reform our economy and society.”
With the help of investments in export industries and hi-tech, exports as a share of GDP doubled to 40% in the ten years to 2001. The most obvious symbol of Finland’s success is Nokia, now a household name in mobile phones the world over. But that success carries its own risk: the company so dominates the Finnish economy that national economic growth depends rather too heavily on world demand for mobiles.
Meanwhile Sweden, the region’s biggest economy, has gradually been slipping behind its Nordic neighbours in terms of income per person. “Sweden has become the poorest in the neighbourhood. Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark are richer and on a better trajectory,” says Magnus Henrekson of the Stockholm School of Economics. Ericsson, the country’s biggest telecoms-equipment company, is having a rough time. It is shedding 60,000 jobs over three years, and in April reported its eighth consecutive quarterly loss.
The city of Stockholm boomed briefly at the end of the 1990s, mostly because of big investments in technology companies and heavy spending on research and development, but the shine is wearing off here too. Swedes worry about the lack of new big companies. Small service firms do well, but Stefan Folster of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise points out that every one of Sweden’s 50 largest companies was formed before 1970.
In the early 19905 Sweden’s public sector became too dominant even for Nordic tastes, with public spending in 1993 reaching 67.5% of GDP and the economy shrinking by 5.2% between 1990 and 1993. Carl Bildt’s Conservative government introduced reforms to cut public spending which were carried further by its Social Democrat successor. Since then, says Mr Pagrotsky, the industry minister, “We’ve had fairly good development for ten years, though we have not been fantastic.”
But now he is worried about adverse demographic factors. All the Nordic countries face an acute problem with ageing populations, and Sweden also suffers a higher rate of sick leave and absenteeism than other European countries. Mr Folster says these problems are so widespread (especially in the public sector and among women) that the proportion of people actually working is now the same as in 1995, when Sweden was in recession. Already the Finns are joking that: “The Swedish welfare state is like a Volvo without tyres: it is a great car, but it doesn’t work.”
Not all the Nordic economies may be in great shape, but thanks to natural resources, trade and highly skilled people all five of them can afford to keep their welfare systems going in some form. The question is in what form. Nordic welfare states were born from a shared sense of a “people’s community”, known by the Swedish term/olkhemmet. Much of it grew out of a protestant-Lutheran culture, in which care for the weak is the responsibility of society as a whole. But generous welfare depends on two details of demography and politics: that there are enough people of working age to fund the claims of those in need; and that these working people are willing to pay the necessary taxes.
Every Nordic country will have a top heavy population until at least the middle of this century as large post-war generations begin to retire. By 2050, says the UN, pensioners will equal 45% of the working-age population in Norway, 49% in Finland and 54% in Sweden. Across the region the number of workers per pensioner is set to halve by mid-century. Various measures are now being introduced to encourage older people to keep working. An official Finnish study published in April, the Sailas report, proposed measures to increase employment by moving students more quickly from school or university into jobs, and by raising the age at which people actually retire.
Privately funded pensions are being introduced in all the Nordic countries to reduce the huge liabilities being piled up by public pensions. On current trends, by 2050 public pensions are expected to gobble up 7% of GDP in Denmark, 10% in Sweden and 18% in Norway. A few economists are even suggesting that universal state pensions be phased out and replaced by means-tested ones. And many more advocate creating incentives for older people to work until later in life. Torben Tranaes, a professor of welfare economics in Copenhagen, calls this “the most effective cure to get a bigger workforce.” Denmark’s government has announced a scheme to let workers postpone drawing their pensions in return for improved benefits later, and others in the region are likely to follow suit.
Do you sincerely want to pay tax?
But will those in work really be willing to keep paying the taxes needed to keep the system going? Polls and election results seem to show that the high-welfare, high-tax model still commands popular support, but there is also some evidence to the contrary. Mr Ekiund, the economist at SEB, says Swedes increasingly move money offshore to avoid paying tax. He puts the total being kept overseas at a hefty SKr 500 billion ($65 billion). And many Swedes are prepared to employ black-market labour, for cash, to look after their children and old people and in construction and farming.
One way of keeping the welfare state going is to allow more foreigners, especially young ones, to come in to take jobs (and pay taxes). But that may create its own problems. Some economists and sociologists say a more ethnically mixed society may make the idea of the olkhemmet more difficult to sustain and lessen the general willingness to pay taxes.
Mauricio Rojas argues that the welfare state and immigration are very closely linked. “The welfare state presupposes a strong community. When you take tax you must redistribute to a community near you. The difficult problem is that immigration is resented by some Swedes who say, ‘they are taking our money’. For a welfare state to exist, you need a close community.” As monoethnic Sweden becomes a nation of nations, he fears that support for the welfare state might flag.
Mr Tranaes in Copenhagen points to an unpublished paper by John Roemer of Yale which suggests that ethnically homogenous societies are more willing to pay taxes. “In homogenous Denmark, people trust that the government will use revenues in the right way,” says Mr Tranaes. “But a more multi-ethnic society poses a threat to this attitude.” One characteristic of populist parties in Norway and Denmark is a combination of anti-immigrant attitudes with strong support for the welfare state.
When the Nordic countries first established their welfare models, they were responding not only to domestic factors but also to international pressures. Jon Bingen, a historian in Oslo, reckons that one strong motive was to avoid the threat of revolution and violence as experienced in nearby Russia. Inspired by German social democrats, the countries set up trade unions and established a strong welfare net to pacify the workers and stave off revolt.
Today, international pressures are working in the opposite direction. All the Nordics are worried about competition from less heavily taxed countries, as well as EU legislation and the ability of capital to move round the globe at will. Tax competition is seen as a particular peril. So far there is no proof of a widespread brain-drain of highly skilled workers to low-tax countries, but there is some anecdotal evidence. Many Nordic youngsters go to work (although mostly temporarily) in London, Brussels, New York and other foreign cities. High taxation at home may be only one of many motives, but there is little traffic in the opposite direction.
In the corporate field, tax competition is eroding the Nordic region’s revenue base. Finland has a relatively low corporate tax rate, at 29%, but in nearby Estonia, which will shortly become a member of the EU, the rate is zero. Some Nordic companies, such as Sweden’s IKEA, a furniture company, and Tetra Pak, which makes packaging, have moved their headquarters abroad. “People and money are being driven out of the country, you will find it all in London or Monaco,” complains one senior Swedish businessman. Sweden’s government now offers special tax exemptions for the richest individuals, and Finland taxes foreigners less heavily for a while. That keeps people in the country, but it undermines the principle of high taxation for all.
Sales tax across the region is mostly around 25%, but Nordic shoppers can buy goods cheaply online from other parts of Europe, or travel to nearby Baltic countries for bargains. Alcohol and cigarette taxes, long used to gain revenue and discourage undesirable behaviour, are being undermined by EU legislation allowing imports of large quantities of either for personal use. Jens Spendrup of Spendrups brewery complains that already one in three bottles of beer in Sweden has been bought (and taxed) overseas. Nordic leaders are unsure how to react. Sweden is slowly lowering its taxes on booze, but the Finns are pushing for a pan-EU effort to raise the price of alcohol in other member countries instead. Mr Ekiund sums it up: “The tax base is being eroded by international competition.”
Freedom of choice
Given scarce resources, the welfare state must either shrink, for example by supplementing public with private pensions, or become more efficient. The Swedes, in particular, have been experimenting for a decade in an effort to make the welfare system less cumbersome, and to offer middle-class voters more choice. Thomas Ostros, Sweden’s bright young education minister, says that freedom of choice has become more of a basic ingredient of the welfare state.
About 6% of younger Swedish students, and 8% of older ones, now go to independent schools that are privately run and allowed to select students according to criteria they set themselves, for example by academic ability. That is a radical change in Sweden, where equality of education long meant that stronger students would be discouraged from moving too far ahead as weaker students were encouraged to catch up. All the schools continue to be state-funded and free to users and must meet national education standards, but Sweden’s Social Democrats are, in effect, trying out a school-voucher system. “You can start an independent school if you meet the right conditions. You get the same money as a public school would. It is not quite the same as a voucher system because the schools get more money for students who need extra support, but there is freedom of choice, with resources following the choice. However, the most important thing is equality,” says Mr Ostros.
In the health system some hospitals (including Stockholm’s largest) and clinics are now privately managed, though state-funded, and users are free to choose which clinic to attend. More private clinics are opening across the Nordic region. The 20,000 flats in Maimo where newly arrived migrants and asylum-seekers are put up are also managed by a private company, MKB. Mr Rojas says the welfare state is undergoing significant reform as public-private partnerships are tried out: “Sweden had the most extended welfare state on earth, it was the role model for Nordic countries. Now this has totally changed. My children go TO schools managed by commercial companies; in Stockholm almost all clinics are private enterprises, but within the public sector. The new Swedish model is a combination of solidarity and freedom.”
Bui some fear that the changes now being introduced are the thin end of the wedge, and that once the principle of change has been accepted, the old system based on need might eventually be replaced by one based on the ability to pay. Jan Larsson in the Swedish prime minister’s office says there will be no backtracking on the changes that have been put in hand, but he also insists that the welfare state will not be dismantled: “Liberalisation has begun. We honestly believe in the need for alternative schools and clinics. But we don’t believe in opening everything up for privatisation.”
FROM VIKINGS TO PEACEMONGERS
SOME students of foreign policy like to categorise countries by the personality of their people. By that measure, Norsemen of a millennium ago were greedy psychopaths. Fierce warriors, pillagers and traders, the Vikings sacked Paris in 861, conquered much of England and northern France, settled Iceland and Greenland, discovered America and even to raid Baghdad.
That bloody projection of military might overseas makes today’s Nordic do-gooding look feeble. One observer now describes the Nordic personality as that of the world’s group therapist. For the Nordic countries themselves, being seen as peace-loving nations intent on battling only poverty is an integral part of their self-image. Gunilla Herolf, of Sweden’s Institute of International Affairs, says that “happy activism is part of our identity”.
Naturally there are differences between the foreign-policy objectives of the five Nordic countries. Mr Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark’s prime minister, says there is “a tradition of following different paths for foreign and security policies.” During the cold war, with the Soviet Union breathing
down Finland’s neck, the countries constructed a mix of allegiances and neutrality known as the Nordic balance. Denmark, Norway and Iceland all joined NATO, whereas Sweden and Finland professed neutrality and handled their Soviet neighbour with kid gloves. These days the EU is increasingly seen as a vehicle for foreign policy that might come to rival NATO, but for now Norway and Iceland remain outside the European club.
The American and British invasion of Iraq provoked sharply different responses within the Nordic region. Some European diplomats in Copenhagen derided Denmark as the “Voice of America” after it sent a ship and a submarine to support its NATO allies. But Mr Fogh Rasmussen is unrepentant: “As a small European country we would rather rely on a superpower’s security guarantees than on a European one based on a French, German and British security balance”. Iceland, which hosts an American military base, quietly joined Denmark in its approval of the American-led action. But the other NATO member among the Nordics, Norway, cautiously expressed regret, along with non-members Sweden and Finland.
Mr Bingen, the Norwegian historian, argues that the interests of the five countries have always been very different, and remain so: Finland still keeps a beady eye on Russia, but is also looking to develop ties with the new eastern European EU states; Norway cares only about the sea (“oil, gas and fish”); and Iceland subordinates itself to America.
But the differences should not be exaggerated. None of the Nordic countries is particularly pacifist. Sweden’s defence spending is among the highest in western Europe. Norway sent fighter planes to Afghanistan and supported NATO in Kosovo in 1999. And Finland has had an almost fanatical love for its armed forces since they held off Russian invaders in the second world war. “The army is the most popular institution in Finland,” says Mr Lipponen. There is widespread support for conscription, and one poll shows that 80% of Finns would fight for their country “even if the prospects of survival are dim”.
All five countries attach great importance to support for the United Nations, generous spending on foreign aid, peacekeeping and peace-brokering. So might some sort of common Nordic foreign policy eventually emerge? The three EU members among them are beginning to give this some thought. They think that within the enlarged EU, a northern European voice will be heard better if the Nordics (and perhaps Baits) spoke together. Already Nordic leaders meet to formulate common positions on subjects of interest to them ahead of EU gatherings. Mr Fogh Rasmussen says that “in the future we will see stronger regional co-ordination,” though he sees this as taking the form of “active bilateralism”-choosing partners for particular issues. Other politicians and observers agree that closer co-operation is bound to emerge but will stop well short of the formation of a Nordic block. Lykke Friis, the Danish academic, thinks that “the essence of the game now is how Nordic cooperation can be used as a platform within
the European integration process.”
Eu-enthusiasts in Norway and Iceland argue that membership of the Union would give the Nordics a stronger voice, for example in dealing with Russia, channelling aid to the Baltic countries and on environmental issues. Only Finland might be hard to persuade of the merits of this strategy: so far it has relied on clubbing together with other small countries (known as “the seven dwarves”) in the Union, and leaving the European Commission to act as a referee.
On non-EU issues, the Nordics have long been supporters of peacekeeping. Norway played a part in the first such operation under UN auspices in 1947 and has since deployed some 55,000 troops on such duties; Finland sent blue berets to the Middle East after the Suez crisis in 1956;
and Sweden has made available about 90,000 soldiers to UN armies since the country took part in the Korean war. All these countries are developing quick-response teams of peacekeepers to be deployed in trouble-spots. A joint Nordic battalion worked in the Balkans to prevent war in Macedonia. Ironically, Danish soldiers had to withdraw from the operation in Macedonia this year when command passed from NATO to the EU because of Denmark’s opt-out on military affairs, whereas Norway, a non-member of the EU, has been able to continue.
A moral superpower?
The five Nordic countries have a good deal in common. In essence, they are all democratic, protestant, pro-UN, anglophile and pragmatic; they also have an Atlanticist streak, partly because of huge emigration a century ago (every Swede or Norwegian has an uncle in America). A Norwegian journalist, Peter Norman Waage, puts it bluntly: “Traditionally our foreign policy bows to a bottle of Coke.” Even Sweden has been retreating from its non-alignment by forming a partnership with NATO and joining the EU. According to one senior Swedish observer, membership of the EU has made a big difference to the country’s neutrality and independence.
What the Nordic countries also share is their self-image. They may not be a “moral superpower”, in the phrase of one Swedish minister, but they do all want to make the world a better place, with foreign aid and in other ways. An eminent Swede dubs it an “Oxfam sentiment”. Norway’s Mr Bingen, less charitably, says this is a naive policy, “as if we were a peace-research institute or a development-aid agency” rather than modem nation-states.
Sweden set the pace during the cold war by supporting African liberation movements such as the African National Congress and then giving huge dollops of aid to favoured countries such as Tanzania-Its reward was support from the UN and some senior posts in the international bureaucracy. Denmark’s cost-cutting government may have reduced foreign aid, but it remains one of the most generous donors in the world.
More recently Norway has held the torch as a “moral and humanitarian entrepreneur”, in the gushing words of one journalist. It specialises in trying to broker peace deals between warring factions. The Oslo peace accord in 1993 was a laudable effort to resolve the Israel-Palestine tangle; a 1996 peace accord in Guatemala was nudged along with Norwegian help; a Norwegian negotiator has been trying to get Colombia’s government and various rebels to talk; in Sri Lanka a tentative peace deal was concluded last August with help from Oslo. In Sudan Norwegian aid groups have played an active, though not necessarily useful, role. In Zimbabwe’s stolen election in 2002, Norwegian monitors usefully remained in place after EU staff were expelled.
Norway owes its relative success to its patience, the general respect it enjoys as an honest broker, and to its oil wealth. It still has a faint collective memory of what it is like to be downtrodden: Sweden’s rule over it ended less than a century ago. Though Norway has no power to enforce peace agreements such as the Oslo accord, it enables others to sit down and talk. This has won it kudos, employment for lots of young Norwegians in international organisations, and possibly a bit more clout in the UN and elsewhere than it could otherwise have expected. Norwegian citizens, naive or not, seem happy with that.
THIS survey has argued that the identity of Nordic people is changing. Of course nowhere stands still, but for the Nordics the present shift is the most significant in decades. The transfer of sovereignty that comes with membership of the EU is a direct challenge to national identity, and may bring changes in foreign policy in its wake. Surging immigration has made the Nordic people less homogeneous, causing them to wonder who they are becoming. Even the denning characteristic of modern Nordic countries, the welfare state, is undergoing fundamental changes. And all the while, businesses and people move back and forth within the region and in and out of it. Even the language is gradually changing.
At the day-to-day level, technology too is making a big difference to people’s lives. Finns, Swedes, Danes, Icelanders and Norwegians are among the most IT-savvy people anywhere. They use the internet, mobile phones and broadband with the same gusto as the most technology-obsessed Asians. Toddlers play computer games almost before they can walk. In Finland you can buy a ticket for the metro, turn on your sauna from miles away, see how much tax your neighbour pays, order an application form for a university course, check in for a flight, pay to have your car washed and find out if there are any single men or women in your ski-lodge, all by using text messages on your mobile phone. Some Finns expect mobile phones soon to replace credit cards as the most common form of making electronic payments.
Technology may even be making Nordic people more outgoing. Finns are renowned for their dislike of conversation. An old Finnish joke has two men sitting in a sauna, drinking beer. “Cheers!” says one, raising his glass. An hour and a few refills later, he raises his glass again and repeats:
“Cheers!” Another hour on, and he breaks the silence yet again: “Cheers!” The second man is speechless with anger, but eventually brings himself to reply: “Are we here to drink or to talk?”
However, mobile phones seem to have helped to break the taciturn habits of the Finns and their Nordic neighbours. As they retreat to isolated woodland and lakeside cottages this month, they will continue to communicate with friends and family on their handsets.
That other stereotypical Nordic activity, binge-drinking, may also be becoming a thing of the past. Ingeborg Rossow, a researcher with Norway’s institute for substance abuse, SIRUS, says that Norwegians and Swedes have traditionally been causing more injuries per litre of alcohol drunk than other Europeans, but now drinking patterns seem to be shifting away from violent binges. More money helps, and so does increased travel and the resulting contact with different ways of life. Ten years ago Helsinki had only 40 outdoor cafes; today it has 600. One Finn who works in Brussels gently suggests that his countrymen are becoming more extrovert: “We used to talk and look down at our shoes.
Now, when we talk, we look at the other person’s shoes,”
The Swedes especially, with their heavy inflow of migrants, are having to learn to live with big social changes. In time most Swedes are likely to accept that the folkhemmet can include people born in other countries, even if they have a different religious and cultural background (although there is also a fair chance that an anti-immigrant party akin to Denmark’s may emerge). Sweden will have to make up its mind whether to reduce the inflow of asylum-seekers, now around 40,000 a year, or allow more migrants in to work legally. It may decide to do a bit of both.
And as more foreigners come in and settle in Sweden, they may in turn help to change their host country’s values. Even neighbouring Danes say they cannot understand why the Swedes have for so long put up with a nanny state that tries to run every aspect of their lives. As the Swedish population becomes more heterogeneous, it may demand more choice within the welfare state and become more reluctant to pay exorbitant taxes.
A change of philosophy
The new catchphrase now being bandied about in Sweden’s corridors of power is “freedom with solidarity”. Out goes the old one-size-fits-all approach; in come more private-public partnerships and more flexibility so individuals can tailor pensions, insurance, schooling and health care to their own preferences. The same is happening in the other Nordic countries.
A closer relationship with the EU has become more likely, even though not everybody looks forward to it. Some Norwegians say it will soon be time to “hold our nose and join”. Sweden’s vote in September on adopting the single currency is likely to be close. The prime minister is in favour and has told sceptics within his government to shut up, and although the economic arguments are finely balanced, the Swedish people tend to accept the advice of their leaders on such matters.
If the Swedes vote yes, Denmark’s Mr Fogh Rasmussen may be encouraged to risk calling a “big-bang” referendum on his country’s various EU opt-outs, including that from the euro, in the next two or three years. In Norway, the centenary of independence from Sweden in 1905 makes that an inauspicious date for deciding on EU membership, but if polls show continued support for joining, a referendum could come soon after. If Norway joins, Iceland too will reconsider membership, in the hope of extracting a deal on fishing.
This mixed bag of identities—national, ethnic, pan-European, Atlanticist, multilingual-leaves room for a resurgent Nordic identity as well. Despite the clear differences between the five countries, there are good reasons for the Nordic countries to want to co-operate more closely. Within an enlarged EU, there will be a greater need to line up allies in Brussels or Strasbourg, for which the other Nordic countries will offer the closest match of economic, social and political interests. In foreign policy, especially of the peacekeeping and humanitarian sort, the Nordic countries can hope to achieve a lot more together than separately, so they will seek more co-operation along the lines of the Nordic peacekeeping battalion in the Balkans, particularly if Denmark scraps its EU opt-out on military affairs.
As the Nordic countries’ identities change, will they be able to hold on to their old tolerant, rich and happy dream? The chances are that on midsummer night in 2050, the dancers round the maypoles will be older, greyer and slower, and some of the people sailing the boats in the fjords will be brown even if the sun doesn’t shine. The Nordic countries will all use the euro and subscribe in full to the EU’S various social, economic and foreign-policy rules. They will still be pretty rich, and their welfare services will remain more generous and universal than elsewhere. And without a doubt, their people will still be deeply in love with the mountains and the forests. Some things never change.
Šiaurės regiono šalys išsiskiria iš kitų Europos šalių. Jų savitumas yra pagrįstas bendra kultūra, geografija, istorija, etnologija, meile gamtai ir panašia skandinavų kalba, išskyrus Suomija. Šiaurės šalys įvairiais istorijos laikotarpiais susidūrė su skirtingais iššūkiais, kurie suformavo tą mentalitetą ir savitą kultūrą, kurią šiandien vadiname vienu žodžiu – „skandinaviška“.
Šiuo metu visos šios šalys susiduria su nauju etapu ir nauju dideliu iššūkiu, kuris keičia nusistovėjusį, idilišką skandinavų gyvenimą, tai yra Europoje vykstantys nauji ekonominiai ir politiniai pakitimai. Europa keičia savo veidą, vienijasi ir sudaro bendrą sąjungą – Europos Sąjungą. Skandinavai žiūri gana atšiauriai į šį bendrą „katilą“. Norvegija ir Islandija vis dar nepriklauso šiai sąjungai, o Švedija ir Danija nėra prisijungusi prie vieningos euro valiutos. Tik Suomija entuziastingai naudojasi visomis Europos Sąjungos teikiamomis galimybėmis. Stebint šių dienų tendencijas, jaučiamas bendras santykių su ES atšilimas. Vis daugiau skandinavų šalių žmonių ir politikų supranta bendros rinkos privalumus ir jos nenori likti „už borto“.
Penkios Skandinavijos šalys, jausdamos vis didesnę globalizaciją ir konkurenciją pasaulinėje rinkoje, bando integruotis tarpusavyje. Šios integracijos simboliu yra tapęs Oresund‘o tiltas, kuris jungia Daniją su Švedija. Besikeičintį skandinavų mentalitetą, taip pat gerai simbolizuoja imigracija iš ekonomiškai ir politiškai nestabilių šalių. Į imigrciją žiūrima gana negatyviai, tačiau vis labiau suprantama, kad yra sunkiai išvengiamas ir gana reikalingas reiškinys šalyje, kur yra mažas gimstamumas ir didelė dalis pensijinio amžiaus žmonių.
Yra susidaręs stereotipas, kad Skandinavijos šalys yra socializmo „lopšys“, kuriame valstybė pasirūpina savo piliečiais nuo gimimo iki mirties, tai yra susiję su dideliu mokesčių krūviu, nors Suomija yra laikoma konkurencingiausia šalis pasaulyje po JAV. Jau dabar yra aišku, kad šios socialinės gerovės sitemos yra pasmerktos žlugti. Šiaurės šalys stengiasi išlikti aktyvios pasaulinėje politikoje, stengiasi šioje politikoje laikytis moralės normų ir būti pasaulio sąžinę. Jos aktyviaii dalyvauja karinėse taikos palaikymo operacijose, teikia gausią humanitarinę pagalbą.
Mes turime būti dėkingi Islandijai už pirmą Lietuvos valstybės pripažinimą po kovo 11 – osios nepriklausomybės paskelbimo akto, o Danija buvo mūsų advokatė kelyje į Europos Sąjungą.
Taigi skandinavai tampa vis senesni, vis labiau „spalvoti“, vis aktyviau dalyvauja pasaulinėje politikoje, bet išlieka tokie pat santūrūs ir tęsią savo senas tradicijas.