Nordic Countries


The western side of the Baltic Sea is dominated by the descendants of a group of Germanic peoples who settled there. The languages, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are related and mutually intelligible, making a cultural area. Some settled on Iceland. Finland is included though the main language is different (a minority also speak Swedish). There is a Nordic Council for mutual cooperation and at one time it was possible that a Scandinavian Common Market might have been formed. The main division is between those which are members of NATO: Norway, Denmark and Iceland; and those which are neutral: Sweden and Finland. Following the end of the Cold War, this distinction becomes less important. Denmark, Sweden and Finland are members of the European Union. A previous Norwegian government negotiated entry but the people rejected entry in a referendum. Norway re-applied to join but many Norwegians disputed the right of other members to fish in its waters under the Common Fisheries Policy and voted against. Sweden and Finland voted to join. The Danes voted reluctantly for the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Norway and Iceland are associated with the EU in the European Economic Area.
In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland there is a common political culture of social democracy: good education and welfare services paid for by relatively high taxation levels (much higher than in the United States). Traditionally the difference between rich and poor has been narrower than in the unrestricted free market, low taxation, countries. The Scandinavians see a danger that they will compelled by the EU to dismantle their welfare systems (much as Canadians fear the North American Free Trade Area.)

Baltic States
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were part of the Soviet Union, independent during 1919-39, part of the Russian Empire and previously occupied by Sweden. Now they may evolve towards the Scandinavian model, following their regained independence and membership of the EU from 2004.

Baltic Council
In 1992 all the Baltic countries plus Norway and Iceland formed a Baltic Council for consultation.

There is potential confrontation with Russia over the minorities in the Baltic States.

 Denmark  Finland  Lithuania
 Estonia  Iceland  Norway
 Faeroe Islands  Latvia  Sweden
Last revised 18/08/08


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Since 5/12/11

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