2030 Vision for Nordic Cooperation

Untitled 31.jpg

The Nordic Prime Ministers met in Reykjavik in August 2019, where they adopted a new vision for the Nordic Council of Ministers. Now the work begins to put action behind the words: The Nordic region will become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world. The co-operation in the Nordic Council of Ministers must serve this purpose.

IMG_0952 (002).JPG

Head of Membership Service & Senior Advisor

Posted Mar 10, 2020 in Health

Established in 1971, the Nordic Council of Ministers is the official body for cooperation between governments in the Nordic region where all decisions are made by unanimity. The work of the Nordic Council of Ministers is divided into eleven subject-area councils, such as the Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs (MR-S), and the Council of Ministers for Nordic cooperation (MR-SAM).

The Secretary General post is currently occupied by Paula Lehtomäki, who took over in March 2019, moving from a position as State Secretary to the Prime Minister of Finland. Paula is the first woman and the youngest person ever to take on the position of Secretary General at Nordens Hus in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies had the opportunity to meet with Paula and learn more about her plans for strengthening the Nordic region and how cooperation will become even more relevant for the people in the Nordics.

Given the new vision adopted by the Nordic Prime Ministers for the region to be the most integrated and sustainable region in the world by 2030, what are the most important steps to drive this vision forward?

The vision is our ambitious goal for the coming decade, and we are currently developing action plans and programmes to bring it to life. These must be set for 2021 with continuous revision as we progress in order to make sure we achieve the target. We must keep up to date and take advantage of new opportunities to facilitate mobility and ensure our policies so that our societies, our economies and our way of life in general take a more sustainable direction. I want to emphasise the prime ministers’ focus and discussions on sustainability and climate change. They have made it clear that they expect clear priorities in these terms. This is going to be at the core of Nordic cooperation and the process we are now embarking on. Further, I believe the vision is so clear that it enables us to harmonise the efforts under one umbrella while making sure that we are working in the same direction. So, what we are doing will be clearer for our stakeholders, while we work to align the many ongoing initiatives that are under the purview of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

What kinds of Nordic stakeholder collaboration will be needed to drive this vision?

We need the engagement of a multitude of stakeholders to drive this vision forward, as there are a broad range of issues that need to be solved. If you look at data, and not only health data, we need standardisation, a secure platform, and we need to ensure high quality capture of data, as well as the way we use data. It’s a very complicated entity I would say, and it requires shaping regulative frameworks and securing technical solutions in order to make sure that citizens' sensitive data is kept and used in a safe way. We absolutely need private actors involved, they are partly the ones that are going to utilise the data in the future, and we are the ones that help figure out the structures that need to be in place for it to be used. So, I think public-private partnerships should have a central role. They represent a strong and sustainable model for collaboration that ensure that a wide range of voices are heard in the development, implementation, and maintenance of largescale projects.

What do sustainability and integration mean for the long-term development of Nordic healthcare and welfare models?

First of all, sustainability also concerns social sustainability, and integration means not only integration between the Nordic countries, but it also means integration into society. It's important that you feel that you are a member of society and that you feel that you have equal opportunities. And here we come back to health services and the importance of good and equal possibility to live a healthy life in the Nordics. There is a growing amount of social issues where your health is often linked to your social background, so it is very important that we are able to support equal health for everybody.

How do you see strong Nordic cooperation enabling the region to overcome the challenges ahead?

The background of Nordic cooperation is based on a similarity between the countries. As a result of that similarity, we also have a lot of the same challenges that we tend to look at in a similar manner. So, when we can find solutions together, its often much more efficient, and that is why we share best practices among each other when each country has realised what is working and what is not. Nordic and European countries share many of the same challenges as well as aspirations to implement concrete solutions aimed at digitalising and ensuring better, more secure, and flexible use of health data. This is to support substantial value creation for patients and society, including new growth and business opportunities in the life science and health sectors.

Why is there a need for collaboration on health data in the Nordic countries?

For the Nordics to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world, health data will play a crucial role. Essentially because it can provide us with better health and improve the general welfare, where we still have a lot of work to do. It will allow us to innovate and help countries develop healthcare based on the high-quality data we have recorded over a long time. There is a quite practical example here. Let’s say that if I have an accident on my bike on my way to work here, there will be no data available from my personal health history, simply because it is locked up in Finland where I am originally from. If I am unconscious, I cannot give consent for my data to be used or transferred, so in terms of making a digitally integrated region, this is something we are working towards achieving.

In terms of making Nordic cooperation more relevant for the people in the region, how do you see the proactive involvement of citizens making the vision a reality for all?

Yes, sometimes cooperation in the Nordic region can feel a little bit distant from everyday life in the Nordics. So, we need to clarify what we are doing and also remember that our purpose is to serve the people of the Nordics. We are trying to have more active and open channels with civil society now. I'm planning visits to all the Nordic capitals, where we will discuss climate issues. We are also talking to environmental and civil society organisations in order to discuss what should be done on an institutional level in the Nordics. In connection to the work with the new vision during the fall, we will try to arrange a Nordic chat on social media where citizens will have the opportunity to talk directly to us about ideas, initiatives, needs, or suggestions concerning life in the Nordics countries and Nordic cooperation.

In order to achieve the vision for the region, three priorities have been made. The first one is the promotion of a green transition of our societies, working towards carbon neutrality, and a sustainable, circular and bio-based economy. As the health sector makes up a significant part of the Nordic economies, how will this transition impact healthcare in the Nordics?

The Nordic Ministers for Business have already agreed to support innovation in the health sector by making it easier for different actors in the industry to access health data across national borders. The ministers will also support the transition to a circular economy in the business community through new Nordic programmes launched by the business ministers in Reykjavik in June this year. Practically, Nordic Innovation’s and NordForsk’s health programmes are vital instruments that contribute to making the Nordics a leading region for research, sustainable growth, as well as supporting entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness in the region. A part of the green transition in health care has to do with the implementation of different e-Health initiatives, where patients for example don’t have to travel to see a doctor, but can have long-distance consultations. This allows for both more efficient care and less transportation.

The second priority concerns the promotion of green growth in the Nordic region based on knowledge, innovation, mobility and digital integration. How do you think this priority relates to the interaction between individuals and healthcare systems?

I think the interaction relates to and relies on a high level of trust, which is a rather unique feature of the Nordic countries. Now that we are entering the digital era with all this information, it is our responsibility to use it for innovation and for the public good in order to maintain the high levels of trust between the people of the Nordics as well as trust in Nordic institutions – especially in health, since data in this area is often considered quite sensitive.

The third priority focuses on social sustainability by promoting an inclusive, equal and interconnected region with shared values and strengthened cultural exchange and welfare. How can we ensure that the principles of inclusivity, equality, and welfare are also present in healthcare?

Demographic challenges have a major impact on health care systems, and in terms of equality we still have quite some work to do. Clearly, there needs to be a focus on how to cover the costs of our increased disease burden and continuously improving treatments, while keeping treatment costs down. We need to make sure that healthcare is economically sustainable for the region. In terms of inclusivity and equality in healthcare, we have people in multiple regions of the Nordics living in scarcely populated areas like the Arctic. We must also provide them with access to healthcare services. E-health initiatives could especially help citizens living in remote areas that have historically had more limited access to traditional points of care to receive better and more timely advice. Social sustainability has to do with people feeling included and equal in a society, and in healthcare it means that everyone has the possibility for high-quality treatment and health services. It is crucial that all the people in the Nordics feel that they have equal opportunities regardless of their capabilities and mobility.

You are working towards a digital update for the Nordic passport union?

Yes, we sometimes call it the 'Passport Union 2.0', as we have the union from the 1950s, which is a traditional passport union. The aim of the new union is to enable the use of national eID across the Nordic countries. It is the digital counterpart to a physical form of identification in the offline world such as a passport, ID card or driver’s license. It is a verified identity that provides the credentials necessary to trust that a person is who they claim to be online. I think it is important for Nordic citizens to be able to use their national eID and digital services safely in neighbouring countries since the Nordics are already so digitalised.

Could the Nordic e-ID be extended to include not just the personal ID, but their health data as well?

 Enabling access to a citizen’s health care data through their Nordic e-ID makes sense. It is a logical next step to work towards in terms of a Nordic digital identity, but there are still many questions to be solved with regard to standardisation of data across the countries, permits, infrastructure and safety.

How can cooperation in the area of health data give the Nordic countries an advantage within the EU?

I believe in a Nordic advantage. Even though we get the framework legislation from the EU, we can form more tailored initiatives that benefit the Nordic region as a whole because we are so similar both socially and structurally. But this still requires political agreement on what we want to achieve, what to prioritise, and how we should all contribute to realising a unique Nordic Way.

Other interesting articles



We are a leading global advisory firm in the use of futurist methods developed to solve strategic organisational challenges. Our clients include some of the world’s largest organisations.


Talks & courses

Inspire your participants with insights into the trends shaping the future — book us for inspirational talks, keynote presentations or courses on future developments.

Talks & courses


The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies (CIFS) is a self-owned membership organisation. The member circle consists of future-oriented organisations and institutions.