I am proud to call myself a European, and especially a Nordic citizen. I live with the hope that Europe might yet institute some of the mainstays of Nordic society:
- Free and equal access to education for all
- Virtually free healthcare
- Relatively transparent politics without corporate influence
- A professional non-jury system of courts
- A prison system aimed at rehabilitation
- Collective bargaining
- Freedom of speech
- Narrow salary differentials
- Relatively unpoliticised media
- Efficient and diverse public transport systems
- Defence forces only (peacekeeping) + national service
- The separation of retail and venture banking
- Careful management of innovation chains
- Research cooperation between state, corporations and academia
- Focus on clean technologies
- High standards of food safety
- Minimal corruption
- Respect for the organic ecosystem
- Long holidays for workers
- Run by engineers, not lawyers
- And so on.
Together these values create a stable, safe, just, equitable, compassionate and sustainable society - in theory. The Nordic countries are not perfect - far from it. Neither are they ideologically socialist: more consensus-minded, which is not quite the same thing. But they do work - rather efficiently. Taxes are not as high as often claimed, though higher than the European average - but most Finns, at least, would say that the services that are provided by the state are worth the reduction in their so-called disposable income.
These values are not individually unique to the Nordics - it is the combination of them that is unique. And there are many reasons why these values have evolved through a particular social history that is very different from, say, those European countries that passed through the social fragmentation of the Industrial Revolution.
This period of social stability in the Nordics is only 50 years old. It may not last. But it is worth defending and promoting so that it can survive and prosper - sustainably.
I am proud to be a European because I believe many European citizens aspire to these same values, and may one day be able to persuade their governments to adopt them.
I am also proud to be European because I enjoy the cultural diversity of European countries. I am also a (critical) admirer of the European Union: the institutions are efficient - it's the inept application of EU policies and funding in member countries, which leads to many of the perceived problems with the EU. And the global values that the EU projects are worthwhile and mostly supportable.