The Northern Dimension (ND) of the European Union’s policies 1has its roots in the early 1990s when three Nordic countries - Finland, Norway and Sweden - were negotiating their accession into the European Union (EU). It is fair to say that with the accession of Finland and Sweden at the beginning of 1995, 2the EU acquired an entirely new ‘northern dimension’, as what had previously been a predominantly Western and Southern European entity was introduced to a host of new geographical realities. This was reflected, first of all, in the much harsher climate, Arctic agriculture, low population density and long distances to be found in the two Nordic member states. A striking example of this is the fact that with the accession of Finland and Sweden the land area of EU grew by 33.3 per cent whereas the population grew by only a meagre 4 per cent (see Table 7.1 for more comparisons). The new dimension was not only a list of obstacles and hardships: new northern member states were also seen as highly developed market economies, as well as representing positive Nordic values such as equality, transparency and the welfare state.
The ‘northern dimension’ brought new flavours in terms of more strategic issues as well. Finland and Sweden were well-known Cold War neutrals - a stance that raised eyebrows in some of the older member states.
Table 7.1 Some peculiarities of the ‘northern dimension’ compared to EU-12.
338,000 square km
450,000 square km
2,368,000 square km
GDP per capita
Agricultural growth period
Sources: Eurostat and the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Statistical year 1995.