4 April 2023 marked a historic day for one of the NDPHS Partner Countries. The blue cross flag was raised at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, accompanied by an orchestra majestically playing Our Land, the Finnish national anthem. Finland had just become the 31st member of the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
From complete political and military impartiality during the Cold War, Finland has gone through a long journey to evolve from the neutrality identity of the past. The membership in the European Union in 1995 de facto brought political neutrality to an end. Yet, military non-alignment remained, turning to ‘non-membership in a military alliance’ in rhetoric in the 2000s, and, finally, leading to filing of an application for NATO accession in 2022. In the words of the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, conveyed moments after the official accession, “The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins.”
The Russian war in Ukraine has unsettled the security situation, not least in the Baltic Sea Region. The geopolitical world order of the post-Cold War era is shaken and brought to question through inhumane means. The ghosts of the past are haunting, bringing fear of repeated history. Yet, in the face of adversary, the countries in the Nordic and the Baltic Sea Region stand more united and closer together than ever before. As the latest NATO member, Finland joined seven of the other NDPHS Partner Countries in the Alliance, with Sweden waiting for final ratifications.
As Sauli Niinistö reiterated in Brussels upon the Finnish accession, security and stability are the basic elements of happy lives. Security, safety and stability therefore directly impacts people’s mental health, wellbeing, and resilience. We at the NDPHS acknowledge that health and well-being outcomes are impacted by a plethora of factors that lie outside of the healthcare sector – from social, economic and ecological dimensions to safety and security. As the Policy Area “Health” Coordinator of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, we seek to work across sectors to promote the Health in All Policies approach and advocate for the economy of wellbeing.
This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the NDPHS. Over the years, Finland has been a valuable partner. In 1999, Finland played an important role in establishing the Northern Dimension Policy Framework, hosting a Ministerial Conference on the Northern Dimension during its EU Presidency and inviting the European Commission to prepare a Northern Dimension Action Plan. Today, Finland chairs two of the NDPHS Expert Groups and actively contributes to the Partnership’s work.
We congratulate our dear Partner as their new era as a NATO member begins.