An example of Idealism (IR theory) in Northern Europe

Idealism has emerged in contrast to political realism. Many appreciate it as a critique to it but nowadays it is possible to say that this approach is absolutely independent and much more topical at least while analyzing Northern Europe. Idealism is tightly connected with liberalism which brings to us first of all its famous values that are liberal democracy, human rights, individual freedom, inter-dependence etc.

Especially, in Nordic Europe women succeeded in sex equality – women representation in parliaments amounts to 33 – 40% (43% in Sweden, 37% in Denmark and Finland, 36% in Norway,  35% in Iceland)[1], while on average female representatives in parliaments amount to 10% around the world[2]. The Nordic Europe records are the examples for gender equality all over the world.

Another important example of idealism is democratization that came from Nordic Europe where people participated historically in governance. Thus, in Nordic Europe judicial and legislative bodies appeared early enough and were open for all free people. For example, alting, a prototype of a parliament, a body for settling disputes  was established in 930 in Iceland. Robert Dahl treated such bodies as a very important step towards contemporary democracy creation in Nordic Europe[3]. Out of alting, riksdag appeared in Sweden and storting in Norway – parliaments which play important role between dominions and mother country since dominions could also send representatives to mother country’s parliament. Parliaments are able to issue laws, to elect the king who was to abide by all the laws issued by the parliament[4], thus, a tradition of rule of law appeared.

Another vivid example of a liberal-idealistic paradigm is a free access to official documents initiated by Sweden and Finland already in the 18th century and which was adopted by the European Union.  In particular, that was Sweden which initiated this reform.

Another innovation which appeared in Nordic Europe and was unique is ombudsman, a Swedish word what signifies – plenipotentiary representative or an official who was aiming at human rights violation control. The prototype of nowadays ombudsman was created in Sweden at the beginning of the 19th century, that was an official who dealt with petitions from ordinary people blaming civil servants. Finland and Sweden became the first countries which applied for the Ombudsman, afterwards many other countries also created such officials.

In general, idealistic approach initiates many possibilities for cooperation that promises in its turn to be successful. Such cooperation is based on principles of international law, mutual agreements on various issues, declarations (for example, the Kirkenes declaration 1993 on Barents Euro Arctic Region, the Haparanda Declaration 2010 on the Baltic Sea States) and is bringing profits to all the members of cooperation process, i.e. mutually beneficial cooperation. With this phrase we may enclose the whole sense of the theory. Especially remarkable here is an initiative of idealists to create international organizations that should become as powerful actors as states.  And here, it matters indeed if we follow in which structures Northern Europe has membership in – Council of Baltic Sea States[5], Barents Euro-Arctic Council[6], the Arctic Council[7], the Northern Forum[8], The Nordic Council of Ministers[9] etc.

[1] Women in politics: world review [Electronic resource] // Demography Institute, High School of Economics. – Electron. art. – ,free –Screen title. – Rus.lang.

[2] Polenina S. Women rights in a human rights system: international and national aspect  [Electronic resource]// . – Electron. art. – ,free – Screen title. – Rus.lang.

[3]Dahl R. About democracy/ R.Dahl,- М.,2000,- p. 23.

[4] Dahl R. About democracy/ R. Dahl,- М.,2000,- с. 25.

[5] Baltic Sea Region [Electronic resource]//Baltic Sea Region . – Electron. art. –,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[6] Barents Euro-Arctic Council [Electronic resource] // Barents Euro-Arctic Council. – Electron. Art. – , free  – Screen title. – Eng. lang.

[7] Arctic Council [Electronic resource]// Arctic Council. – Electron. Art. – ,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[8] Northern Forum [Electronic resource]//Northern Forum . – Electron. Art. –,  free. – Screen title. – Eng.lang.

[9] Nordic Council of Ministers [Electronic resource] // Nordic Council of Ministers. – Electron. art. – , free  – Screen title. – Eng. lang.

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