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The Nordics – an exception?

All the Nordic nations are small countries doing very well on many different rankings like economy, human development index and happiness. They also share a similarity in language, culture and history. However, is it enough to call them an exception? The Centre for European Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) arranged a workshop in order to unpack the Nordic model.

Present at the seminar were the Ambassadors and Deputy Head of Mission to all the Nordic countries, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. 

In his speech, Ambassador Nils Ragnar Kamsvåg pointed out that there are a number of common things that make the Nordics successful. For example, strong, independent and transparent institutions combined with adaptable and open economies. In addition, the Nordic societies are among the most egalitarian in the world. The Nordic economies are open and have shown to be able to adapt to global changes. However, he also underlined that the Nordics face the same challenges as other countries in adapting their societies to disruptive new technologies, ecological challenges, demographic changes and migration pressures to mention a few.  

Several professors from both JNU and the University of Agder, Norway were also present and contributed to the discussion. Professor Stein Oluf Kristiansen from School of Business and Law, offered insight to the institutional basis for economic performance in the Nordics. He pointed to three reasons why the Nordic model is successful. First, he mentioned resources as in market, economy and productivity. Second is public governance, the power sharing between state and market. Last one is values, referring to mentality and way of thinking. Here Kristiansen pointed out egalitarianism, trust, tolerance, secularity and individual autonomy as values contributing to the Nordic model. 

Kristiansen concluded his lecture with “Yes, we are an exception”, but also made it clear that the Nordic countries have fought for all these values, and must continue to fight in order to perform well on the different rankings. 

The relation between the Nordics and India was also up for discussion. There are growing research cooperation in a number of areas, for example in Polar and Arctic research. The Nordics are also tied to India because of global solutions being heavily dependent on India. Particularly climate and energy were mentioned, but also the Sustainable Development Goals more broadly. Several of the participants also brought up immigration and multiculturalism in Europe, and how the Nordic countries can learn from India on coexistence across cultures and religions. 

At the end of the seminar, PhD students from the Centre of European Studies at JNU presented their on-going research. The students cover a wide area of topics like the indigenous Sami people, energy cooperation in the Nordic region, challenges related to the Nordic welfare model and demography, and gender quota in boardrooms in Norwegian companies. Several of the PhD students had conducted field trips to Nordic countries. 

Despite the growing people-to-people exchange between India and the Nordics, several of the seminar contributors pointed to an institutional gap and information deficit on what the countries can offer each other. The conclusion was that India and the Nordics have discovered each other, but not enough. Workshops like this, as well as students travelling abroad to conduct their research, are an important step in bridging this gap.