On Monday, the 26th of January the Nordic autonomies and their relation to peace was discussed by politicians and scholars in a seminar arranged on Åland by the Åland Islands Peace Institute and the Citizen’s and Consumer Committee of the Nordic Council. The audience consisted of members of the Nordic Council, gathered on the Åland Islands to attend the Nordic Council’s committee meetings, as well as invited guests. In the Alandica auditorium all 200 seats were taken when the conference was opened by the President of the Nordic Council, Höskuldur Þórhallsson and Annicka Engblom, President of the Nordic Council’s Citizen’s and Consumer Committee. They provided an overview of the background to the conference and the research project “The Nordic autonomies – Experiences and Visions in a Peace Perspective”.
The Nordic Council’s Citizen’s and Consumer Committee, with Annicka Engblom and Satu Haapanen in the lead, has together with the Åland Islands Peace Institute and its Director Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark been driving forces to bring about the conference and research project on the theme of the Nordic autonomies and peace. Gunilla Herolf, a member of the Åland Islands Peace Institute Research Board, introduced the audience to the research within the project.
One of the goals of the project is to shed light on the autonomies from a peace perspective, given that Norden and the Nordic countries often have regarded their autonomies as peripheral exceptions and sometimes even as problems. Relations between what can be described as “the centre and the peripheries” are not always unproblematic. The project aims to highlight an alternative perspective, and to examine whether autonomies can be regarded as a resource for the peaceful development of society and as relationships that are continuously developing. Furthermore, it aims to discuss if and how the experiences of the Nordic countries may be of interest in international conflicts and peace processes.
The core issue for the conference was formulated as “Can the Nordic autonomies be regarded as peace processes?”
In advance of the conference, a team of researchers have undertaken case studies and comparative studies of the Åland Islands, Greenland and the Faroe Islands in their respective areas of expertise – security, law, political science and economics. They also discuss the position of the autonomies in relation to the development in the Nordic region as a whole, as well as their relevance for peaceful societal development in other parts of the world. At the conference, three researchers presented their draft articles. Gunilla Herolf emphasized the importance of security politics for the three Nordic autonomies. Ágúst Þór Árnason, Professor of Law at the University of Akureyri, analyzed Greenland, with a focus on colonial structures. Tove Malloy, Director of the European Center for Minority Issues, presented her article,”Denmark’s role in the emancipation of Greenland: Guardian or peace actor?”, in which she makes both an historical as well as a topical analysis.
In a panel discussion on “The development of the Nordic autonomies – what lessons can be learned and what aspects can be used constructively?” politicians from the Åland Islands, the Faroe Islands and Greenland discussed self-government in relation to the central power and also to each other, under the lead of the moderator Sharon Jåma Hofvander.
Johan Lund Olsen, a member of the Danish Parliament for Greenland, was inspired by demilitarization, a regime he would like to see also in the Arctic. Sjúrður Skaale, member of the Danish Parliament for the Faroe Islands, analyzed the self-government of the Faroe Islands as a balancing act between independence and community, which do not automatically exclude each other, and also pointed out that Denmark should not be seen as a unitary state. Elisabeth Nauclér, the member of the Parliament of Finland for Åland, highlighted the importance of the Nordic cooperation as a partnership where small actors have the most to gain. Nauclér also compared the formal structures in between the autonomies, where the structures in the Åland-Finland case can be described as bureaucratic, almost “Czarist” while the Faroe-Denmark relationship might be seen as more pragmatic and informal.
Hans Wallmark, member of the Swedish Parliament and the Nordic Council contrasted the Nordic autonomies to international conflicts and concluded that there are good reasons to highlight the Nordic solutions in international contexts. He also claimed that these solutions are part of a Nordic brand. Wallmark further noted that this conference would be unthinkable in many situations in other parts of the world. In the Nordic countries the topic in question can be discussed in a rather relaxed manner.