About the project

Norden in Europe – Europe in Norden (EURONOR)

Based on area studies, history, law, linguistics, literature, political science, and sociology this multidisciplinary project addresses three related questions. How is the Nordic model interpreted and represented in discourses across Europe? How are core traits of the Nordic model affected by Europeanization? How and to what extent are the transformations wrought by Europeanization picked up and assessed in discourses on the Nordic model across Europe? In this context, Europeanization is defined as processes where states and societies become intertwined in a European web of political institutions, norms and values (Olsen 2002).

In addressing the first question we start by identifying a set of putative Nordic model traits. Through studying discourses across Europe wherein relevant Nordic model features and Nordic countries figure centrally, EURONOR will elucidate the extent to which those traits are understood as distinctive of the Nordic region or of the Nordic countries. In today’s world a new, interdisciplinary view on the dynamics between ‘Norden’ and ‘Europe’ is particularly important given the profound changes that all of Europe undergoes. The Nordic countries are deeply, yet differently incorporated in the EU. Denmark, Sweden and Finland are members; Norway and Iceland are in the EEA and affiliated with Schengen. All Nordic citizens have ‘economic citizenship’ in the EU (Olsen 2014), including mobility rights, and all Nordic states are part of the EU’s system of border controls (including asylum provisions). The multilevel constellation that makes up the EU reconfigures member and affiliated states and affects the values, institutions and societal conceptions on the national level (Eriksen and Fossum 2012). Simultaneously, Nordic model traits may be uploaded to the EU-level and/or may be transferred across states and societies in Europe. Thus, in order to understand the present status of the Nordic model we need to pay explicit attention to how Europeanization affects the Nordic model, which is the second question we address. The third question is concerned with how the two previous ones are related, i.e. whether discourses on Nordic model traits across Europe are attentive to the Europeanizing transformations and discourses.

EURONOR moves research on the Nordic model beyond the state-of-the-art in four complementary ways. First, it systematically assesses the external reception and conception of core Nordic model traits. Second, it does so with due attention to the contemporary context, which is marked by Europeanization. Third, EURONOR sheds new light on Europeanization’s implications for the Nordic model. Fourth, EURONOR provides us with insights in how and the extent to which the discourses on Nordic model features across Europe have picked up on the ways in which Nordic model traits are affected by broader European developments.1

Based on project findings EURONOR will reflect on what precisely we should associate with the Nordic model in today’s Europe: a set of (non-distinctive) normative principles; distinct principles embedded in a set of institutional arrangements; a Nordic cultural identity; or Norden as a self-perception. Such interdisciplinary reflections and approaches form the key added value of EURONOR’s research. They are important to position the thematic research initiative ‘UiO Norden’ and for helping to fulfil the international ambitions and academic quality accentuated through the cross-faculty research initiatives at the University of Oslo (UiO).

1 These comparative and contrastive approaches are emphasized in UiO: Nordic, http://www.hf.uio.no/forskning/uio-norden/om/mal-og-planer/programplan-unpacking-the-nordic-model.pdf, p. 7

Project design and organization

EURONOR’s first research step is to discern Nordic model traits. To that effect it draws on what international indexes and research literature identify as distinctive features of the Nordic model: progressiveness, social trust (Berg and Bjørnskov 2013), gender equality (The Global Gender Gap Report 2014), social equality and inclusion, press freedom (World Press Freedom Index 2015), promotion of peace and democracy (Schouenborg 2012), and consensus democracy (Persson and Wiberg 2011). It is widely held that the Nordic states are welfare states with comprehensive social services and well-entrenched democratic infrastructures sustained by educational institutions, media institutions, and political institutions in general. Project activities will be organized around three subprojects, all three interdisciplinary.

Subproject 1 (Gammelgaard (leader), Michailidou, Pouillard-Maliks, Trenz) surveys broad sets of European public discourses to compare ‘Nordic model’/‘Norden’ public images. Mapping the most recent developments of communication techniques between Norden and non-Nordic Europe (see also Harvard and Stadius 2013), we will ask: What does the ‘Nordic model’ look like in European public discourses? What images, values, opinions and reactions do journalists, politicians, cultural influencers and citizens project, in relation to, and against, the ‘Nordic Model’/‘Norden’? Crucially, which public discourse categories evoke the concept of the ‘Nordic model’, i.e. under what circumstances is the Nordic model discussed in non-Nordic public spheres? ‘Web-scraping’ and software-assisted content filtering and classification techniques will be used to collect and analyze media contents from several European countries (the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, and the UK). Supplementary analyses will be carried out on occurrences of Nordic-related lexemes in large and structured sets of selected European-language texts (corpora) (Mautner 2007). The aim is to compare public discourses on ‘the Nordic model/‘Norden’ across national public spheres and dimensions of public discourse: politics (national and EU elections, the Eurocrisis, international crises such as the one in Ukraine); popular culture (quality and way of life, including education, fashion and family/welfare); ‘core value’ topics (gender equality, human rights, democracy). To complement analyses of non-Nordic discourses, and to problematize the ‘Europe’ versus ‘Norden’ polarity, analyses will include ‘Nordic model’/‘Norden’ public images within the Nordic sphere (public discourses in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden). The undertaking will serve as a background for the case studies incorporated in sub-projects 2 and 3 of how Nordic model traits are transformed and/or discussed across Europe.

Subproject 2 (Mo (leader), Aukrust, Bratberg, Olsen, Wold,) focuses on recent changes in values and perceptions of Norden in Europe. Norden and the Nordic model are met with increased interest, but also conflicting views in European culture and politics. This subproject’s overall hypothesis is that major changes are currently taking place and that a new Nordic wave is shaped in a European context. Nordic solutions to political problems have until recently played a rather peripheral role in European politics, but for the last years discussions on the Nordic model have reached the heart of political debates and electoral campaigns. This new political impact is accompanied by an increased and broader interest in Nordic culture. Terrorist attacks in Norway and Denmark, riots in Sweden, surge of right wing populist parties in all Nordic countries have made Europeans more conscious of Norden. These kaleidoscopic transformations call for a new and interdisciplinary understanding of the Nordic model in European debates.

The main goal is to identify different influences of Norden and the Nordic model in a European context, including contestations over the Nordic model ‘inside’ Norden. Subproject 2 starts out with a study of the return in the early 2000s of the Nordic model as a reference in French political debate (Le Foulon 2006). Looking back to former moments of French interest in the Nordic countries’ capacity to provide ideas and solutions for political problems, it suggests that recent French interest represents a ‘third age’ of the Nordic model in France. One hypothesis is that the general notion of progressiveness today characterises the way the Nordic countries are being perceived in France – being Nordic means siding with progressive solutions to contemporary problems (cf. Sweden was cited as an inspiration during the 2007 presidential campaigns). This part will provide a cultural history of the political idea of the Nordic model; and analyse how ideas about globalisation and on-going processes of Europeanization and globalisation change the shape of the Nordic model in French minds.

A complementary study focuses on representations and manifestations of the Nordic model in the UK debate with emphasis on social democracy and sovereignty. It queries how representations of the Nordic model influence political decisions and actions in the UK, with particular emphasis on the extent to which political actors emphasise a specific role for social democracy. If so, what forms and aspects of social democracy are highlighted? It also examines to what extent and in which ways the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) references to the Nordic Model as an ideal for a future independent Scotland shape representations and manifestations of the Nordic Model in Scottish politics. What characterises the SNP’s perception of the Nordic Model, and how do other political parties respond to this in parliamentary debates, in the media, and in other contexts? To what extent have these debates taken into consideration how the Nordic states have been Europeanized?

Sub-project 2 also critically examines contestations of core values such as trust and consensus in light of recent developments. The point of departure is recent decades’ surge in populist movements in the Nordic countries. These populist movements are contesting Europeanization, challenging established consensuses, and have prompted analysts to query the salience of trust as an intrinsic feature of the Nordic model. While different in origin, many of the populist parties share a common frame of reference regarding the failure of established societal models in dealing with contemporary problems with immigration, integration, the economy, and the welfare state (Jungar and Jupskås 2014). They promote new representations of what Norden is and should be. Moreover, this surge in populism is both inward- and outward-looking. Starting from insights in political science and literary theory, one line of research will examine Europeanization as an alleged threat to the value-basis and institutional arrangements of the Nordic welfare state. A comparative study will be conducted of Nordic right-wing populism in order to establish how these parties conceive of citizenship. Citizenship is a signifier of how political communities frame themselves in terms of membership, identity and exclusion (Walzer 1983). We will analyze how, and in what ways new populist parties in the Nordic countries frame citizenship, immigration, and the welfare state in relation to the Nordic model in their party manifestos. Further, how and to what extent do the new Nordic populist parties consider Europeanization as a threat? A study of such counter-strategies highlights that Europeanization is not only a top-down process but also exhibits possible traits of horizontal ‘learning’. Alternatives may be found, not only in opposition to institutions ‘above’, but also in discursive representations of other models and perceptions of reality.

The study of populist discourse and horizontal ‘learning’ between actors in Nordic countries finds a complementary and cross-disciplinary tack in a literary study that focuses on dystopian representations of the Nordic model. Trust in established institutions is questioned by populist parties. A similar critique is expressed in a series of French novels published over the last years. In these ultra-contemporary texts, writers convey images of ‘Nordic trust’ that are colored by disbelief. Norway, in particular, is depicted as naïve confronted with current political changes. This analysis queries how, where and when a darker side of Norden in Europe appears in cultural and literary debates, and how it can be interpreted (Espagne 1999).

Subproject 3 (Fossum (leader), Eriksen, Holst, Sand, Sjursen) focuses on how Europeanization reshapes putative Nordic values as well as legal and political arrangements. First, we will spell out some of the main legal-institutional descriptions of the Nordic model, with concepts, institutions, values and principles, and analyze its relative Europeanization. The main questions pertain to the changing role of law in some of the Nordic model’s main legal trajectories, and how they are affected by EU internal market and other European regulations. Effects include substantive regulations, the institutions of law, their relative and changing significance and variations of legal discourse and method. Europeanization is assessed as a process of mutual, but asymmetric effects and adaptations across states, effects which are both systematic and contingent. Law will be analyzed as processes closely interacting with societal, political and economic aspects. This analysis is complemented with a study of how Europeanization affects parliamentary government in the Nordic countries. It is often claimed that there is a Nordic model of consensual parliamentary government (Persson and Wiberg 2011). Through comparative institutional and discourse analysis, we query to what extent the model is exclusive within the Nordic region (whether it includes all or only some of the Nordic states) and on the other hand, we query the model’s reputation in Europe. We assess how the Nordic parliamentary style of democratic governing is affected by Europeanization processes often associated with technocracy and executive dominance (Habermas 2012). Here we also consider to what extent effects will be shaped by differences in formal EU attachment.

A second theme focuses on the Nordic model in foreign and security policy. Focus is on an alleged Nordic ‘enlarged’ concept of security, emphasizing peacekeeping and conflict prevention rather than peace enforcement; as well as international mediation and multilateralism rather than bilateralism. How do differences in institutional affiliations, and in particular in the EU, affect this self-perception? This will be examined through analysis of security debates in the media. Further, through analyses of EU debates on the development of the EU’s security strategy we will establish if there is a specific Nordic understanding of security that is put forth in the Europeanized context. By examining justifications presented by Nordic political representatives, we analyze if there is a specific ‘Nordic’ conception of appropriate procedures and principles for policy making.

The final theme focuses on gender and takes as its point of departure that Europeanization is not only a top-down (or even horizontal) process where ‘European’ features are implanted in and transform the member and affiliated states. There is also obvious scope for a bottom-up process that entails a Nordic ‘uploading’ of model features to the European level (see Lister 2009). Nordic model features can become part of the Europeanization process. A kind of positive recursive process may be possible. That process will be more explicitly examined through addressing the following question: How are Nordic gender equality policies referred to, used, and assessed in EU expert discourses on gender equality? Do conceptions and framings vary among expert communities, and if so, what explains discourse variations? Key to the latter step would be to clarify the role of: a) expert communities’ national composition; b) their professional and disciplinary composition; and c) institutional affiliation; as well as d) the quality of their deliberations, to test out the relative explanatory merits of intergovernmentalism, sociology of professions, institutionalist theory and deliberative theory.

Research plans and project integration

EURONOR will be hosted at Arena, Centre for European Studies and led by senior researcher Espen D. H. Olsen. The project consists of researchers from highly competitive UiO entities, from three faculties. Several of EURONOR’s researchers have previously been involved in and led inter-disciplinary projects at UiO, and are now building on this in EURONOR. In EURONOR, they team up to start a new hub of research aiming to strengthen UiO’s position in the humanities and social sciences. As a multidisciplinary project emanating from law, social sciences and the humanities, then, EURONOR is well suited to pursue further research funding from several sources. Multi-disciplinarity is increasingly underlined in both national and European funding bodies. EURONOR will use the first part of the project period to concretize plans for applications based on EURONOR’s core tenets. Moreover, EURONOR aims to integrate plans for research applications within the broader remit of conferences, workshops and planned publications of the project. EURONOR will employ a postdoctoral researcher (to be placed at ILOS) as well as three adjunct professors. The employment of these positions will focus on facilitating EURONOR’s overall interdisciplinarity and as such will be central in pursuing external funding. ARENA and ILOS will provide collocation facilities for EURONOR participants in periods when close cooperation is needed.

Dissemination plans


EURONOR’s overall aim is to conduct high-quality research for publication in established peer-reviewed journals and university presses. To that end, dissemination is organized by linking events with expected research output in terms of publications. Publications will be initiated through the collaborative efforts of the project participants in project workshops and conferences where external experts from our international networks will be invited to give papers and comment on EURONOR’s research. In addition, each project participant will pursue individual and co-authored publications where this fits EURONOR’s overall aims of interdisciplinarity.

Plan for events, publications and research applications

In addition to the concrete plans for events, publications and possible research applications, EURONOR will continuously assess possibilities for funding applications in the annual Norwegian and Nordic calls for funding.



Research application

Workshop 1: North and South in contemporary European political and intellectual mindscape (Oct 2015) (funded through UIO Norden grant)

Parts of the workshop to be dedicated to discussing possibilities for publications

Parts of the workshop to be dedicated to discussing potential calls for research funding

Conference: Europeisering av norsk likestillingspolitikk (Nov 2015)



Starting conference: Norden in Europe: What and Why? (Apr 2016)

Conference proceedings – published on project website


Workshop 2: Images of the Nordic model/’Norden’: Discourse and lexis (Oct 2016)

Journal special issue based on papers from the workshop


Workshop 3: Questioning the Nordic Model: Rise of Populism (Feb 2017)


Norwegian Research Council – Toppforsk

Mid-term conference: Is There Such a Thing as a Nordic Model? European Experience(s) (Apr 2017)

Conference proceedings – published on project website

Norwegian Research Council, FRIPRO

Workshop 4: Europeanization in different spheres of Nordic law, culture, and politics (Oct 2017)

Journal special issue based on papers from the workshop

European Research Council – Horizon 2020

Teacher colloquium based on the project (Mar 2018)



Workshop 5: Influences of the Nordic model and ‘Norden’ (Apr 2018)

Edited book based on papers from the workshop


Concluding conference: Norden in Europe – Europe in Norden (October 2018)

Edited book with chapters from all sub-projects as well as external researchers

Possibly: Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)

A joint master subject taught by EURONOR researchers

Five master’s theses supported by EURONOR

Nordic Master Programme – application 2017

Public outreach (decision-makers, stakeholders, civil society and the public in general)

EURONOR aims for innovative and broad-ranging outreach to the general public and stakeholders. We will pursue a five-fold strategy in this regard. 1) A project website will be set up with easily accessible publications, results, and news, including, possibly, videos of main project events. 2) We will use existing channels at UiO, such as ‘Åpen dag’ addressed to potential applicants, and ‘Faglig Pedagogisk dag’ addressed to school teachers. 3) The project will initiate collaboration with NHO (Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise) and European countries’ chambers of commerce in Norway to exchange knowledge of Nordic images in Europe. 4) We will open the concluding conference to the public and arrange a colloquium for teachers in history, European languages and social science subjects. 5) Stakeholders in political institutions such as the Nordic Council and from Nordic political parties, civil servants, and representatives from research funding bodies will be invited for EURONOR’s main conferences as well as other events where this fits the program.


EURONOR’s key participants have extensive teaching experience. We will propose a cross-faculty teaching initiative for a master subject based on the core tenets of the project (to be administered by ILOS). The teaching initiative will be used as a starting point for a possible application for/participation in a Nordic Master Program through the funding scheme provided by the Nordic Council of Ministers.2 EURONOR will also provide funds for five master theses to be written under the auspices of the project. Theses with an interdisciplinary outlook will be of special interest.

2 http://www.norden.org/no/tema/udanning-og-forskning-i-norden/nordic-master-programme/om-nordic-master-programme

International cooperation

EURONOR is a truly international research project. It deals with trans-boundary phenomena, a transformed and deeply imbricated European political, social, economic and cultural landscape, and perceptions of ‘others’ in terms of societal models, culture, and politics. All sub-projects are interdisciplinary and have a strong comparative impetus that will prompt activating participants’ extensive international networks. A first international workshop, sponsored by ‘UiO Norden’ will be organized in Paris in October 2015, in cooperation between Peter Stadius (Research Director at the Centre for Nordic Studies at the University of Helsinki) and EURONOR. EURONOR will systematically continue to seek an international outlook. There are plans for giving a guest lecture series at the Nord Europa Institute at Humboldt University in Berlin.


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Published Feb. 17, 2016 12:31 PM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2016 12:31 PM