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November 22, 2013 6:17 pm
Dear Prime Ministers Solberg of Norway, Reinfeldt of Sweden, Thorning-Schmidt of Demark, and Katainen of Finland.
For the past four days I’ve been on a snappy tour around your neighbourhood – Stockholm Monday, Oslo Tuesday, Copenhagen Wednesday and Helsinki Thursday and Friday. I know you are quite busy with leisurely julbord [Christmas smorgasbord lunches], lighting up proud Christmas trees in various town squares, sharpening your skates and generally wrapping up the year before heading off for the holidays. Even so, I’m hoping we might get a date in the diary to talk about a little idea I have.
As you’re generally a cheery lot (even you Finns), early adopters of new ideas and technology, and get on very well when compared to other sovereign adjacencies, I think you should get even cosier than you are at the moment. I know it’s more fashionable to be seen to be flexing your muscles and opting to go it alone, but you’re such a pragmatic lot that I’m sure you recognise there’s greater safety and opportunities for success in numbers. While the airline tie-up in the form of SAS is a shadow of its former self, part of my proposal calls for aviation to be left to the Finns and Norwegians – we’ll come back to this. Anyway, I’d like to fix a date and my very capable assistants Kristoffer (a dapper Dane) and Helen (part Latvian and spiritually Swedish) will be in touch to set up dates and a venue. I’m thinking we should sit together for a day or two at Ett Hem in Stockholm (by far the best city hotel in the region) and fire a few ideas around over a rolling series of sessions, accompanied by fine seasonal dishes and lashings of glögg. Before you start looking for excuses not to come, it might be worth considering all the reasons why you should pull up a chair round the fireplace. For starters, it’ll be entertaining and it’s important to take a bit of time out to get a clear view of where things are heading over the year(s) ahead. Here’s a very rough outline of some of the topics and proposals you might want to discuss:
Breaking the ice: this will be a mix and mingle session combined with discussion about the opportunities offered by faster trade routes across the top of the world. As there’s a time saving of up to two weeks by shipping goods over the top of the world, a key topic for discussion should be how to make cities that are in full daylight or full darkness for large chunks of the year more attractive places to live.
Breaking the ice – part two: all of you do more than your fair share of international diplomacy – particularly in hot parts of the world. How about creating an attractive mediation centre (perhaps combined with Santa’s Village – once you agree who officially owns Father Christmas) and invite heads of state, rebel leaders and assorted rabble-rousers to cool their heads in a well-designed environment that reveals the finer points of hospitality with mandatory rolls in the snow to keep everyone focused on resolving their differences.
Rediscover your inner-Viking: this part of the mini-summit will force everyone to take a candid look at the various Nordic social models in operation and see if there are lessons to be learned from their neighbours. For example, the Finns might want to ask the Swedes whether latte-pappas (fathers on six months paternity leave, who travel in reindeer-style herds, pushing prams while sipping very large lattes) are a force for good. Have Swedish men become too soft or should Finnish men consider abandoning their ice-fishing huts and start pushing those 4WD buggies with winter tyres?
Now serving the world: as there’s little point moaning about the Gulf states and their aggressive airlines, it’s time to fight them at their own game. Not only do you have luxury of shorter flying times across the top of the world, the Norwegians also have fuel – just like the UAE. It’s time to band together and create a new global supercarrier that maximises your advantages: geography, the fact that most of you already speak English better than the rest of the world and the fact that a disproportionately large number of you turn heads when you walk through airports.
You might need extra time in this session to figure out who’s going to host the main hub but I think the rapidly expanding Gardermoen airport in Oslo might be the way to go. As for who should run the new airline, the Finns get my vote for overall operations, with catering by the Danes, in-flight entertainment courtesy of the Swedes and the Norwegians at the pump.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
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