​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Workshop: Europe Today: From the Nordic Challenge to the State of Ethnic and National Minorities

Chairs: Agata Włodarska-Frykowska  University of Lodz, Poland. afwlodarska@gmail.com

and  Katarzyna Dośpiał-Borysiakand, University of Lodz, Poland

The Nordic Countries—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—have distinguished themselves by their democratic traditions, social inclusion, equality, solidarity, transparency, respect for the natural environment and mutual trust. For years these countries have topped international ranking lists regarding features such as the rule of law and protection of human rights, wealth, innovations, gender equality, and quality of public services. Compared to other parts of the world, the Nordic Countries have enjoyed long periods of peace and stability, which—in the words of Karl Deutsch—have turned them into a “security community” in which values are widely shared by the general public, the government, and state institutions and organizations. These countries also generally share the Nordic economic and social model: a combination of free market capitalism with a comprehensive welfare state, financed by heavy taxes and collective bargaining with trade unions, NGOs, and local communities. This model assumes an extensive involvement of the state in all areas of life. The Nordic states are characterized by their solid parliamentary traditions and egalitarian inclusion of all classes and groups. Consequently, the relationship between the people and the state is close, positive and cooperative.

            In recent years, however, the Nordic Countries, like the rest of Europe, have faced several crises, mainly caused by external factors. In the early 1990s these countries entered a period of economic turbulence that undermined their welfare systems with grave social consequences. Then they were hit by the 2008 financial crisis, with Iceland suffering the worst political and economic consequences. Still more recently, the deepening immigration crisis has been met with restrictive measures and austerity policies that have exposed the weakness of the integration policies of which these countries had been so proud.

            These crises also underlie the rise of radical populism in the region: The Danish People’s Party, the Finns Party and the Sweden Democrats have different historical backgrounds but seem to share the same ideological and socioeconomic centrist, authoritarian style. The Progress Party in Norway is midway between a populist radical rightwing party and a more traditional conservative one. In recent general elections these populist parties have gained second or third place in their respective parliaments, while in Finland and Norway they were invited to form a coalition cabinet.

            No less important is to consider the effects of these political and economic changes not only on the Nordic countries but throughout Europe, particularly regarding ethnic and national minorities, the position and status of which is continually changing. While on the one hand  new possibilities of development are open to some minority groups, the development of other groups is limited if not blocked. This contrast may be seen in the Baltic States with their large Russian minorities, especially Estonia and Latvia, and Lithuania with its Polish and Russian minorities. Another obvious example is the large and growing Polish minority in the UK.

            Our workshop thus aims to explore two facets of Europe today: the current form and meaning of traditional Nordic values and their resilience in the face of external, global processes and the state of ethnic and national minorities, their geographical position and distribution, their level of integration and assimilation. Since, among other factors, education, culture and language all play a role in the process of integration of minority groups, the workshop will seek to characterize and compare how different minorities succeed or fail to define and strengthen their political/cultural autonomy in Europe today. 

Please submit a 350–500 word abstract before 31 March 2016 to Agata Włodarska-Frykowska at: afwlodarska@gmail.com