Research Centre NORDEN (RENOR) (compl.)

Project leader: Dr. Tobias Etzold

Project staff: Christian Opitz, MSSc

Period of 2nd project phase: 1 November 2016 - 1 October 2018

Funded by: Nordic Council of Ministers


Building onto its previous work between 2013 and 2016, in its second phase RENOR continues with its activities aiming at advancing policy-oriented research and the policy debate on the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), the Nordic region’s (“Norden”) place within Europe, Nordic cooperation and Nordic-German relations. The particular focus remains on the interests and challenges shared by both the Nordic countries and Germany mounting into an even closer dialogue and cooperation, ensuring the criteria of Nordic benefit. This work continues to lead to research-based policy-oriented publications and joint bi- and multilateral debates and events.


In times that are highly challenging for Europe (the refugee situation, terrorism, unstable security and tensions in EU-Russia relations, Brexit and the ongoing economic and financial troubles), there is a continuing need for research on Norden. From a European and a German perspective, Northern Europe has become increasingly important. Once the United Kingdom as a big and important member state has left the EU, the significance and strength of Norden in European affairs could even further increase. Although being reluctant partners at times, the Nordic countries have been and are able to make important contributions, also through their own Nordic cooperation, in particular to specific policy areas such as environment, adaptation to climate change, energy and trade.

Thematic focus

I) Norden in the EU

Although not the only organisational context, the European Union is undoubtedly the most important framework for action for the Nordic countries. This applies equally to both the EU members Denmark, Finland and Sweden, on the one side, and Iceland and Norway as non-EU states on the other. Many developments at the European level directly influence not only the individual Nordic countries, but also their regional cooperation. Within this context, RENOR pays particular attention to the following issues:

  • Recalibrating the relationship with Brussels after the Brexit-vote in the UK (Nordic visions for the future of the EU and future Nordic positions within the EU; Nordic stance in the EU-UK Brexit negotiations; Nordic views on important EU- dossiers such as a common refugee/migration policy);
  • The future of a border free Norden and Schengen;
  • Dealing with populist and EU-sceptical actors;
  • EU macro-regions (EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region).

II) The Future of Norden

Over the decades Nordic cooperation has seen ups and downs. Current challenges have highlighted the need to reform the political cooperation in order to be more effective. RENOR sees three dimensions which are of particular concern in this regard:

  • Degree of formality, e.g.: Where does the Nordic cooperation need to be institutionalised, where can it rely on more flexibility?
  • Degree of politicisation, e.g.: Should the traditionally rather low-key cooperation become more politicised, and if so how?
  • Degree of EU coordination, e.g.: How can Nordic cooperation within the EU be strengthened, including both member and non-member states?

III) Nordic-Baltic Cooperation and Security

The environment for regional cooperation between the Nordic and the Baltic countries, amongst which in the field of security, has changed significantly in the past few years. Politically, the looming exit of Great Britain as one of the most important partners may generally draw the group closer together in the EU. Moreover, the latent tensions around the Baltic Sea have already tightened Nordic-Baltic security cooperation, also within the framework of joint NATO activities. At the same times, the countries need and do try to pursue a constructive engagement with Russia. Against this dynamic background, RENOR analyses the changing Nordic-Baltic relations in its future trajectory, regarding both the internal structures as well as common responses to external developments and security challenges.


Tobias Etzold

Participation as an Added Value of Macro-regions

The Potential for Developing Macro-regional Cooperation in Europe

SWP Comment 2018/C 06, January 2018, 4 Pages
Christian Opitz, Tobias Etzold

Seeking Renewed Relevance

Institutions of Nordic Cooperation in the Reform Process

SWP Comment 2018/C 03, January 2018, 8 Pages
Tobias Etzold

Refugee Policy in Northern Europe

Nordic Countries Grow Closer but Differences Remain

SWP Comment 2017/C 01, January 2017, 4 Pages
Tobias Etzold, Christian Opitz

Nordic Europe after the Brexit Vote

The Five Nordic Countries Are Reassessing Their Relations with the EU

SWP Comment 2016/C 42, September 2016, 4 Pages
Tobias Etzold, Stefan Steinicke

Regional Security and Cooperation in the Arctic and Baltic

Destabilisation Follows Ukraine Crisis

SWP Comment 2015/C 44, September 2015, 4 Pages
Christian Opitz

Potential for Nordic-Baltic Security Cooperation

Shared Threat Perception Strengthens Regional Collaboration

SWP Comment 2015/C 40, August 2015, 4 Pages
Tobias Etzold, Janus Keck

Elections in Denmark: EU skepticism instead of gradual rapprochement

After its exceptionally good election results, The Danish People’s Party could draw Denmark further into the euro-skeptic camp, write Tobias Etzold and Janus Keck.

Point of View, 01.07.2015
Tobias Etzold, Paweł Tokarski

New Centre-Right Government in Finland

Economic and European Challenges and Perspectives

SWP Comment 2015/C 35, June 2015, 4 Pages
Tobias Etzold, Christian Opitz

Between Military Non-Alignment and Integration

Finland and Sweden in Search of a New Security Strategy

SWP Comment 2015/C 25, April 2015, 4 Pages