Halla Nolsøe Poulsen — Meeting Ambassador of Visit Faroe Islands Meetings since 2018 — has tried to make the best use of the opportunity that the shared Presidency of the Faroe Islands, Denmark and Greenland for the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2020, has brought along.
And then, following the success of securing 20 + meetings for her destination, the team had to face the challenge to re-organize all those meetings from April onward.
As a senior advisor in the Faroese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Culture, Halla Nolsøe Poulsen is overseeing the Nordic Council of Ministers’ inter-governmental projects to develop close collaboration between the members.
The 2020 shared Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers should shed a light on the active involvement of the Faroe Islands in the Nordic Council of Ministers and provide a unique opportunity to present the small nation to all the bigger players in the council.
How did you go about arranging the meetings to take place in the Faroe Islands?
“First we went to the political level to get a mandate to work towards a shared presidency. We got that since every party in parliament supports the ambition to take a more active role in the Nordic cooperation. Then we did a count based on the presidencies going back a few years
We found out that there are around 60 meetings taking place during a presidency, involving the ministers and top level civil servants in the ministries. Then we set as a marker that we would go for one third = 20 meetings taking place in the Faroe Islands.
All the 14 different co-operational groups have 2-4 meetings a year each, so we invited all the groups to come to the Faroe Islands for ONE of their meetings.
I think all of them accepted the invitation, so at the end of the day, we had set up 23 or 24 meetings and other kind of events. It is up to the different areas to decide where to meet, so it wasn’t ONE decision at one place in time, it just evolved to that result, which we are proud of. The Presidency rotates every year between the five Nordic countries. . Last time Denmark held the presidency in 2015, the Faroe Islands took a lead in the fisheries cooperationon a civil service level — whereas in 2020 the Faroes have the political lead in the same area and are in charge of one of the three presidency projects regarding green energy for remote areas.
Most of the other meetings have taken and will take place in Denmark, and some also in Greenland. The most important aspect of it was of course, that the Faroese government took on a cost of hosting the meetings, and we got a grant in the state budget of 2 million DKK.
Regarding venues, we have arranged meetings all over the country, from the municipal office of Gøta to the Nordic House and the new hotels in Torshavn“
When switching to video meetings the private economy was free to try out all available technologies and options in the market — for meetings of political importance it is not as easy to just use services which promise an easy, advanced, creative or intuitive approach. Security issues decided for the platforms to be used — which was ok, according to Halla, but involved some technical compromising — so it was not as perfect as aspired to. But that was not the only challenge in organizing this amount of meetings and events!
“It was clear from an early point in time that it wouldn’t be possible for the department of foreign affairs to coordinate the full range of events which the Presidency would amount to. We therefore made an agreement with NORA, the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation, an intergovernmental organization situated in the Faroes to be our external events manager. This made it easier to cope with the workload within the ministry. After the initial preparations and structural decisions, the more practical tasks were outsourced to them. When corona hit, we watched the developments carefully. We tried to hang on to the meeting plan for as long as possible, all in close cooperation with the venues.
We only cancelled the actual travelling at the latest possible moment and switched to virtual meetings. The Nordic Council of Ministers declared, that the cooperation would not halt because of corona, but would try to keep the work going with virtual meetings. We had about 6-7 meetings cancelled in April, May and June, and some big events are postponed till next year. We are hopeful though that the events planned for after summer will be able to proceed as planned.The biggest challenge I think was seeing all these preparations sort of “going down the drain” and dealing with the disappointment of it all. There is no harm done to me or my daily work assignments but having to cancel all those meticulously planned events was sad.
Having all the meetings through video has since turned out to be on the one side quite effective and easy, and on the other side, tough and challenging.”
How do top politicians accept virtual conferences?
“Everyone had a positive attitude and was glad that it worked out, so as a first such experience it was ok. The ministers have had more meetings than were planned, so it must have been allright”
Is it an alternative for the future?
“My guess is that we will see a combination. We have found out, that it CAN be a very convenient way of getting things done, the virtual version served the purpose well and can be super efficient — if quick decisions need to be taken. But in some areas you need to meet face to face and talk through difficult subjects, and get results that both/all sides are content with. Also, in these ministerial groups who meet maybe only once or twice a year, the small talk on the side of the actual meeting has a great value.That’s where you get to know the person behind the official statement and connect and build personal relationships.
On the positive side and as sustainability in all areas of collaboration is a main issue in all Nordic cooperation, fewer flights were necessary to attend the numerous meetings — and a part of the budget granted by the Faroese government to host the meetings in the islands was actually saved. The plan of the shared Presidency is to spend some of it on a big Corona Conference hopefully in November this year.”
Asked for her most exciting meeting organized so far, Halla says:
“That’s kind of ironic, because the meeting didn’t actually take place! (corona). It was supposed to have been a visit/meeting of all the 8 Nordic ministers of cooperation, last week. We had a great program lined up and would have been visiting some of the most beautiful places, plus exploring projects like the new subsea tunnel opening later this year. Also, we were meant to discussing important issues regarding the Nordic cooperation and the ambition to be the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030.
There have been other very exiting meetings in the past, but this was going to be the highlight of 1½ years of preparing and working hard to make this happen”.
Halla Nolsøe Poulsen has been appointed as Head of Representation to Iceland and will continue the important and excellent work of the Representation in place since 2007 as of September 1, 2020!
Congratulations on this achievement and promotion. Well deserved! Visit Faroe Islands Meetings is looking forward to all the meetings coming from this new position!
More information about the Nordic Council of Ministers
The Faroe Islands and their neighbor countries: NORA projects as an example for strong collaboration