I’m currently participating in the Nordic Council’s annual session in Reykjavik, which is taking place from 27th to 29th October. This is the most important forum for dialogue between parliamentarians, prime ministers and cabinet ministers in the Nordic region. So far I’ve met – among many other good colleagues – all the Nordic presidents of parliament. It’s an enormously important opportunity to speak to the Nordic region’s most prominent politicians, which is why I made the following speech during today’s general debate.
Speech at the Nordic Council’s autumn session
President, colleagues, Nordic friends,
Prime Minister Erna Solberg recently informed the Storting about the outlook and challenges facing all of us as a result of this year’s huge migration of refugees. For countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, the burden is immense. Peace, security, health, the economy and civil society are in danger of being permanently undermined.
Viewed from a Northern European perspective, the focus in recent months has largely been directed at our own – and in this context – far smaller Challenges.
The only way to tackle this wave of refugees is through a joint European effort. In just the same way that the refugees are distributed between different countries, so the expense and responsibility will and must be distributed between them as well.
The situation we now find ourselves in has put the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation to their most serious tests yet. It’s vital that we have a common European approach to these issues. Yet in such times it’s also vital that we arrive at good regional solutions. The Nordic countries must coordinate their refugee efforts with the rest of Europe. Such coordination will enable us to prevent competition regarding the level and standard of help provided by our different nations.
The institution of asylum is a question of protection and safety, not primarily a means of securing material prosperity. We must therefore work together to find an acceptable standard of living for those who have escaped war, persecution and want so that they do not endure fresh suffering in our countries. At the same time we must also find a standard that enables us to cope with the challenges Ahead.
First and foremost, we must help the many, whether they are standing at our door or in the enormous camps that have been set up in their already economically burdened neighbouring countries.
Over and above this, the Nordic community must unreservedly support the huge efforts being carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). To date, the collective contribution of the member states has amounted to just over a third of what the UN believes is necessary. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to urge you all to present a strong and worthy common Nordic front at next year’s humanitarian pledging Conference.
In the time ahead we must also work together to prevent such a situation as the current refugee crisis from happening again. An essential part of the solution lies in long-term work and planning.
In September the UN’s General Assembly adopted 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Poverty and hunger shall be ended, climate change stopped, and people shall be able to live in peaceful and just societies.
One goal that is particularly close to my heart is SDG 16: to promote peaceful and inclusive societies with efficient judicial systems and responsible institutions at all levels. This is hugely important. The only way to achieve sustainable development is through good democratic systems of government that respect the rule of law and human rights. Nothing is more destructive for a country’s development than misrule, corruption and a lack of reform.
Our Nordic parliaments must be responsible for putting the goals high on the agenda, both nationally and at an interparliamentary level. In our efforts to reach the SDGs, we ought to adopt national policies that are as similar to one another’s as possible. And we must coordinate our Nordic efforts within such interparliamentary forums as the Council of Europe and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Those of us who live in sound, safe Nordic democracies must pull together to bolster infant democracies in the exacting process of readjustment. This would be a major contribution to helping people live good lives in their own countries.