Nordic states pledge to cooperate over strategy for Union summits

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Series Details Vol.7, No.27, 5.7.01, p4
Publication Date 05/07/2001
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Date: 05/07/01

By Jyrki Karvinen in Helsinki

NORDIC countries are tightening their cooperation within the EU, particularly in the way they prepare for summit conferences.

The prime ministers of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Paavo Lipponen and Göran Persson, along with their Icelandic and Norwegian counterparts, agreed to intensify cooperation at a meeting last weekend in Imatra, near Finland's border with Russia.

The leaders denied, however, that they are forming a 'Nordic bloc' within the EU. They insisted that they have simply agreed on closer cooperation similar to that among the Benelux nations.

In the past, the Nordic leaders have met informally ahead of Union summits. These meetings, however, have not played any significant role with regard to issues on the summit agenda.

Each country's has previously agreed on its own position, together with its respective parliament.

Now the three Nordic states will work closely together as the states prepare for summits. If need be, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are also ready to consult their non-EU Nordic partners, Iceland and Norway, during these preparations.

So far Denmark, Finland and Sweden have pursued markedly divergent EU policies.

Finland supports strong Union institutions and is the sole Nordic member of the eurozone. It is considered to be similar to Belgium and Luxembourg in its EU outlook - so much so that the three have even been referred to as the 'Befilux' countries.

Neighbouring Sweden has been a stronger supporter than Finland of inter-governmentalism, and only since the country's widely-praised EU presidency have the Swedes seemed to warm up to the Union, and perhaps also to the euro. Denmark, meanwhile, has ensured that it has been able to pursue its own policies within the EU.

Closer cooperation between these three member states is expected to show up in the debate over the future direction of the Union.

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