- It is all about the freedom of movement, says leader Eva Tarselius Hallgren of the [Nordic] Border Barriers Council. The goal is to make it easier for people and companies to move and work across the Nordic borders.
- The Nordic countries shall be the most integrated region in the world and a model for other countries when it comes to cross-border cooperation. Our focus for 2018 is to break down even more barriers, including digital ones, says Hallgren.
The Border Barriers Council is appointed by the Nordic governments and allocated the task of trying to remove cross-border barriers to job creation and growth in the Nordic countries. The Council prioritises the most important barriers and try to work out solutions with the various departments involved.
- Through close ties with commuters, the Secretariat of the Nordic Council of Ministers is informed about perceived border-crossing barriers and then brings this to the attention of decision-makers, Hallgren says.
With even higher goals of removing more barriers for border-crossing, there is more emphasis than before placed on business.
- Removing border-crossing barriers makes it easier for commuters and students. It will also be eaiser for companies operating across borders in the Nordic countries, says the Council leader.
Social rights and tax issues often represent challenges in the Council’s work, issues related to workers, students and retirees to be able to move between the Nordic countries while maintaining their rights.
- We work in particular on issues related to the labour market, education and social welfare, Hallgren says.
The Nordic countries have over the years worked out their respective national regulations and legislation that is not necessarily harmonized nor easy to separate. This causes problems both for individuals as well as for companies.
Many barriers eliminated
Some 65,000 Nordic citizens live in one Nordic country and work in another. The Nordic cross-border commuters altogether contribute some € 5.3 billion to the Nordic economies while also saving their countries millions in unemployment benefits.
- Companies bringing construction machines into Norway no longer have to depose VAT in Norway, accreditation of education programs across borders has been simplified, and even though a person from Finland has worked abroad, there are now rights to adult learning and further education in his or her homeland, Hallgren explains.
In 2016, the Council’s work resulted in improved mobility for a.o. Sweedish snowmobilers, young Icelandic job seekers and university educated Greenlanders. In 2017, lack of information flow related to the reindeer herding industry as well as the maintaining of reindeer fences along the border between Norway and Sweden was solved.
- The Border Barriers Council kicked off its 2018 work process with an event focusing on even closer cooperation, networking and increased speed in trying to find solutions as fast as possible, Hallgren says.
Furthermore, the cross-border collaboration is to enter the world of digtalisation. An event on cyber security and digitalization was included in the kick-off event.
- We want to accelerate and take the driver’s seat when it comes to the EU’s cross-border e-ID project (eIDAS), and we have started a three-year project aiming to recognize identification across the national borders. The project is led by Difi, the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment, which has started working out a project plan, says Hallgren.
The goal of eID is that increased use of electronic communication across the Nordic borders will allow for more efficient interaction and in that way contribute to stronger economic growth. In short, it shall boost the internal market.
- We are also looking into the opportunities for care services and digital medical prescriptions across borders, which would mean positive opportunities for those commuting and traveling in the Nordic countries. I am convinced that we will be able to eliminate many border barriers in 2018. Perhaps we will even exceed our own goals, says Hallgren.
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FACTS ABOUT THE BORDER BARRIERS COUNCIL
- The Border Barriers Council is a politically appointed body tasked with promoting the freedom of movement within the Nordic countries, both for individuals and businesses, by the Nordic governments.
- The Border Barriers Council commenced its work in 2014.
- The Chairmanship of the Border Barriers Council rotates annually between the national members of the Council and follows the Chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers
- The Chairmanship of the Border Barrier Council is to lead the work on eliminating border barriers in collaboration with the Secretary-General of the Nordic Council of Minister.
(Source: The Nordic Council of Ministers)