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COPENHAGEN (Dagbladet): – I understand why the Norwegian Prime Minister defends the previous government when I hear him use the word «import infection». This is pan-nationalism, Hans Wallmark raged in the Folketing Hall on Wednesday night.
The Moderates’ representative received jubilant applause for his challenges to Jonas Gahr Støre:
– What we as internationalists must say is that the important thing is to stop the infection – not humans.
The Nordic Council has this week in Copenhagen had its first physical meeting in two years, after the pandemic’s meeting ban and closed borders. The wording on Nordic co-operation was not as warm as usual. Hard results testify that the pandemic has created bad blood between the countries. The Norwegian-Swedish border was in the debate with the Prime Minister and open wound.
For almost 70 years, we have had passport freedom and good co-operation in the Nordic region. We have a common labor market, cottages in each other’s country, and many commute every day to the neighboring country for work or family.
When the borders closed, many were stopped from going to work. They are suddenly in danger of losing their jobs, pensions and other employment rights. The pandemic became extra severe for those who have chosen to live and work in border areas.
– Our common vision of the world’s most integrated region has been difficult to spot in recent years, said Anna Hallberg
She is Minister for Co-operation in Sweden and stood at the Prime Minister’s meeting instead of Stefan Løfven, who is at the party congress where his successor elects.
Many of the most furious posts came from Swedes against the Norwegian Prime Minister. But closed borders are not just a Norwegian-Swedish problem. National Chairman Veronica Thornroos said that the pandemic has stifled Åland’s economy. Although Åland is Finnish, Sweden is their largest labor market. Transportation disappeared and the pandemic led many into unemployment.
“This has given us what I call nationalist pandemic Taliban,” she said.
Sweden’s consul on Åland was attacked because people thought he was Swedish.
– This creates wounds that are difficult to heal.
Thornroo’s contribution that in the future we will dare to trust that the neighboring countries also have a good intention to save lives.
Nordic politicians have had regular contact through the pandemic. Representatives of the Nordic Council talk about heated digital debates in the committees. Ministers often talked to colleagues on the phone.
– We are not only friends, but also friends, said Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.
She nevertheless described how mistrust grew when we could no longer travel freely between our countries. The Sweden Democrats’ Aron Emilsson called the closed borders Berlin walls in an area that has had passport freedom for many decades. Party colleague Staffan Eklöf talked about Nordic co-operation in crisis. Bertel Geismar Haarder, who has been a minister in eight Danish governments, stated that the Norwegian closure of the borders was wrong and that the handling cost many Swedish wage earners their jobs.
In stark contrast to show against Norway, the Prime Minister of Iceland received unbridled praise for Iceland’s equal treatment of travelers from different countries and rejection of color coding. All prime ministers also thanked Sweden for coordinating vaccines for the whole of the Nordic region.
At the end of the day also commented on the situation of former Finnish Minister of Defense Jan-Erik Enestam. The day before, he handed over to the Nordic Council 12 recommendations from a new report on crisis preparedness. The report states that the borders between Norway and the other Nordic countries have not been closed. Enestam wants to have a joint Nordic travel document in place, so that Nordic residents can move freely when the next crisis strikes.
The recent parliamentary representatives Tove Elise Madland and Maj Britt Lagesen from the Labor Party and the Norwegian-Swedish Member of Parliament Cecilie Tenfjord-Toftby from the Moderates were among those who spoke out to ensure that a similar situation does not arise again. It is tempting to think of solutions where Nordic foreigners are not treated like other foreigners, and where special border residents are given special rights.
This is nevertheless easier thought yet done. The Prime Ministers emphasize the importance of national sovereignty and that the most important task of any government is to protect its own citizens.
The Swedes’ criticism of Norway would have hit harder if Sweden had not had 15,000 dead of covid-19. Pandeminationalism is real, and it has great support in the population. Støre was right in his answer to Wallmark:
– It is people who bring the infection.
Those who currently travel from the Nordic Council to Norway must still be fully vaccinated or registered, test and quarantine. But we can go to the cabin in Sweden and to Denmark for summer camp, and the Prime Minister’s first formal visit goes to Stockholm. Good friends may visit each other for another friendship. But it takes many visits to get over a two-year break.