Nordic Council of Ministers

A change in chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers

New signals
Icelandic chairmanship Nordbok is a committee acting under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers which lays down the overall guidelines for Nordbok’s work. Chairmanship of the Council changes each year, the country taking over the chair presenting a programme proposing a variety of initiatives. These affect the work not only of the Council itself but also of its subordinate agencies. In 2004 it is Iceland’s turn to assume the chairmanship and the Icelandic programme is entitled Nordic resources: Democracy – Culture – Nature. The programme is available in Icelandic, Danish and English on the Council of Ministers’ Internet page www.norden.org.

Nordic creative energy
The introduction to the chapter on culture states, “Nordic culture contains the creative energy which provides the foundation for Nordic co-operation”. The chapter goes on to point out that globalisation with its consequent movement of peoples, the increased dialogue between different cultural regions and the constantly changing nature of collaboration between the European countries represent a serious challenge to Nordic cultural co-operation. Iceland is of the opinion that the Nordic countries together possess unexploited powers inherent in their common cultural heritage, values and human resources. Many things suggest that they can exert greater influence, strengthen their mutual co-operation and consolidate their status internationally.

Strategy for Nordic cultural co-operation
The starting point for Nordic cultural co-operation in recent years has been the 1998 programme of initiatives proposed by the ministers of culture: Nordic cultural co-operation at the turn of the century – a strategy.
This programme will now be revised and at the conference which the Council of Ministers arranges annually for the heads of all the Council’s committees and institutions, this year held in February, the question of revision was a central item on the agenda.

The proposals set out by the Icelandic executive committee describe the aim of this revision as one of adjusting Nordic cultural co-operation in response to the new signals coming from the Council of Ministers. Co-operation should also be more manifest and purposeful. The intention is to carry out a thorough survey of the various programmes of action among the different committees and bodies co-operating in the cultural field. The organisation of their activities will also be examined.

The revision will stress the need to make maximum use of the funds granted towards cultural co-operation, to raise public awareness of the value of Nordic co-operation in this area, to offer the public easier access to the results of this co-operation and to ensure that programmes of cultural support are more purposeful and their costs reduced. At the same time, however, it is reasserted that important contacts with ‘grassroot’ work should not be broken and that beneficial aspects of the present- day system should not be lost.

Given a changed view of the world and greater international co-operation, Iceland feels that it is not enough to improve Nordic cultural collaboration internally. It is also important to strengthen Nordic cultural initiatives outside the Nordic region and to try to integrate them into other presentations organised by the Council of Ministers in foreign forums.

Nordic countries have already established wide co-operation with their eastern neighbours, including the Baltic countries and Northwest Russia. These contacts will be maintained and developed, while at the same time looking in other directions.
Of particular interest in this respect is closer co-operation with our North Atlantic neighbours. Co-operation of this nature was dealt with in a special report published in 2003 concerning the West-Nordic regions. This report considered improved co-operation in many areas, one of which was culture.

Nordic ancient literature on the Net
In the course of 2004 the Icelandic executive committee will carry out a number of initiatives, including conferences. One of the tasks already mentioned would appear to be of particular interest to the library sector. Iceland will take the initiative in setting up a digital website concerned with Nordic ancient literature. The site will contain material about mediaeval culture, both academic and also accessible to the general public, and it will be available in the Nordic languages and in English. Consideration will also be given to the possibility of connecting the relevant databases of all the Nordic countries.

Translated by Eric Deverill

director, Nordbok.