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The official bodies of Nordic cooperation are the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Their symbol is a swan with eight feathers, symbolising the five nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the three autonomous territories - the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland.

The Nordic Council
The Nordic Council was formed in 1952 and is a forum for cooperation between the Nordic parliaments. It has 87 members, representing the parliaments of the five countries and three autonomous territories. Council members are nominated by the political parties that they represent and elected by the parliaments. Government ministers will normally attend the sessions, but do not have the right to vote.

The rules for the work of the Council are stipulated in the so-called Helsinki Treaty from 1962. Here, the five Nordic countries took it upon themselves "to seek to preserve and further develop co-operation between our nations in the legal, cultural, social and financial areas as well as in matters relating to transport and protection of the environment". The agreement has been amended several times - among the amendments is an opening towards a binding commitment in issues of foreign affairs and security policy.

Since 1996, the Council has held annual ordinary sessions, which constitute the highest decision-making body of the organization. Between sessions, the Council is run by a presidium. Theme sessions on specific issues are also organized.

The Nordic Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers was formed in 1971 and is a forum for cooperation between the Nordic governments. The composition of the Council of Ministers varies depending on the nature of the issues being treated, e.g. culture, education, the environment... In other words, there could be said to exist several Councils of Ministers. Most Nordic ministers meet their colleagues twice a year, but the ministers of defence and foreign affairs get together independently of this framework.

The presidency of the Nordic Council and the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers rotate - each country holds the chairmanship for one year at a time, though never of both councils at the same time. Although the councils share several administrative departments, the two have separate central secretariats. The Nordic Council also has national secretariats in each of the Nordic parliaments, attached to the delegations.

Many people in the Nordic countries tend to regard Nordic cooperation as something mostly symbolic and all in all of little concern to them. However, a lot of money goes into this cooperation - and a lot of organizations, institutions and individuals have their projects financed by some of that money. The councils fund several exchange programmes and scholarships and also has programmes for project funding - preferably, of course, for projects involving Nordic cooperation. The councils also fund some 30 Nordic institutions throughout the region, working on a variety of fields, e.g. arts, medicine and the environment. Both councils are financed by the national parliaments, based on their share of the total gross national product of the countries.

Three awards are presented annually by the Nordic Council - one for nature&environment, one for music, and one for literature. The literary one in particular gets quite a lot of attention and is rather prestigious in the region.

Cooperation with the Baltic Region
In recent years, there has been some discussion whether the Baltic states should be included in the official Nordic cooperation, and the Nordic Council now claims to cooperate closely with the Baltic Assembly.

Source: mainly http://www.norden.org

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