Today (2 February) the Parliament will conduct a follow-up debate on the Government Report on Nordic Cross-Border Barriers. Cross-border barriers or obstacles are laws, official decrees or procedures that prevent the free movement of people or the ability of businesses to operate across national boundaries in the Nordic region. Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality, who led the drafting of the report, is happy that in its statement the Foreign Affairs Committee emphasises the significance of drawing attention to these important efforts.
“I often receive communications from citizens concerning certain barriers they encounter in their daily lives. This proves the huge practical significance of removing these barriers, as well as the fact that Nordic citizens want and expect Nordic daily life to be genuinely barrier-free,” says minister Blomqvist.
“Nordic cooperation has strong support among the population and there are high expectations for it. By strengthening efforts to remove barriers we can improve the kind of Nordic cooperation that serves our citizens,” Blomqvist continues. “Freedom of movement is the cornerstone of Nordic cooperation. It creates a sense of fellowship and promotes our Nordic identity. It also boosts the competitiveness of the region as a whole.”
As the government report states and the Foreign Affairs Committee also points out, efforts to remove cross-border obstacles are not only about removing existing barriers but also about preventing new ones from forming.
“Preventive work is crucial,” Blomqvist states. “The Nordic dimension should be taken into account from the start whenever bills are drafted or legislation is applied. This was stated in the government programme and is also emphasised in the committee’s statement.”
Blomqvist also highlights the fact that the work must take into account developments in the society – such as digitalisation, and people’s increasing ability to telecommute across borders.
“For Nordic life to be properly border-free, digital services must work without barriers between the region’s countries.For example, many Finnish people need to take care of business digitally on Swedish authorities’ websites. In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, remote work has significantly increased, which means that we must ensure cross-border telecommuting is taken into account in relation to taxation and social security in the Nordic region. These are issues on which we are actively working at the national and Nordic levels,” Blomqvist concludes.