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Scandinavia chooses Nordic Union over EU

July 28, 2018 | Expert Insights

A significant proportion of Swedes and Danes would prefer to be part of a 'Nordic union' between Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland rather than the European Union, a new poll shows. 


Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. However, in English usage,it also refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is locally known as the Nordic countries.

A personal union, entered into by the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway in 1536, lasted until 1814. Three sovereign successor states have subsequently emerged from this unequal union. That is, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.The Treaty of Roskilde, signed in 1658, forced Denmark–Norway to cede the Danish provinces Scania, Blekinge, Halland, Bornholm and the Norwegian provinces of Båhuslen and Trøndelag to Sweden.

As of 1995 fifteen countries had joined the European Union. They are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Denmark, Ireland and the U.K. joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986. Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined in 1995. Norway had signed an accession treaty in 1994, but Norwegian voters narrowly rejected membership in a referendum.

The reason for the Norwegians to reject the EU were pertinent issues that dealt with agriculture, regional policy, fisheries, offshore oil and gas, and sovereignty. Most of the “no” votes came from the rural and northern sections of the country and the coastal fishing towns, while the “yes” votes came mostly from urban areas . In recent times, there has been talks in Norway to hold referendum to join the EU.  


Research conducted by Sentio for Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen showed 47% support the hypothetical Nordic Union in Sweden and 45%  in Denmark. While, 32 % of Swedes and 36 % of Danes were happy to remain in the European Union, the rest said they were undecided on the issue.

As for non-EU member Norway, only 10%  suggested that it would be a good idea for the country to join the European Union. The concept of the so-called 'Nordic Union,' which would see Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland implementing joint policies, was backed by 32% of Norwegians.The poll was conducted in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with around 1,000 people surveyed in each of the countries. The researchers didn’t ask those in Finland and Iceland for their opinion.The respondents weren’t asked in the survey to explain the reasons behind their low level of trust in the EU.

With the bloc going through a massive migrant crisis since 2015, Sweden and Denmark were forced to accommodate thousands of people fleeing unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.In Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrats, who promote an anti-migrant agenda, have been recently polling at a record 20%  and are seen as among the favorites in the September 9 election. The country has received 400,000 asylum requests since 2012, with migrants believed by many to be contributing to the rise in crime and social tension.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats (SD) have called for Sweden to hold a referendum on the country’s EU membership after the 2018 Swedish general election.SD party leader Jimmie Åkesson told newspaper Dagens Industri that the EU is a "large web of corruption where no one has control over anything". Even if the vote plays out as such, SD would still have a hard time pushing a referendum through parliament. None of the other biggest parties in Sweden support holding a vote on Swedish EU membership.

The authorities in Denmark have taken a tough stance on migrants, admitting that integration policies have failed in the country. They announced plans to teach “Danish values” to children in ghettos and introduced a ban on burqa female full body veils, with huge fines for repeat offenders.The UN’s Human Rights Commissioner has condemned a new package of Danish assimilation laws for immigrants, including plans to separate toddlers from families to teach them local values, warning they could further discrimination. 


The SOM survey suggests that Swedish opinions on the EU are moving in the opposite direction, with 53 % saying they're generally for Swedish membership in the union. At the same time the proportion of people generally against EU membership dropped to 18%, down from 23%  in 2016 and the lowest ever registered in the surveys. 


Our assessment is that despite the outcome of the survey the likelihood of establishing a “Nordic Union” seems bleak. The EU migrant crisis has invariably led to a massive inflow of refugees in the Scandinavian countries causing problems of integration,we feel that this is the reason for Sweden and Denmark leaning towards the possibility of a Nordic Union. We believe that giving the Nordic and Scandinavian states more say in the EU decision making process will help in the stability of the bloc.