The obituary of the liberal-democratic model has already been written, waiting to be published. The doomsayers have made their prediction about the end of the free and democratic world as we know it. The analogy of the "fall of the Roman Empire" is frequently used: America is of the past, Europe is doomed. In the face of an evil world of terrorism and mass migration, democracies are helpless and their days are counted.
Not so fast. "It ain't over till its over" says the great Yogi Berra. And it's far from over.This is the time of adaptation for democracies, the only truly modernizing concept, to the realities of the 21st century, which has hardly turned out to be the way we had imagined twenty five years ago. True, the fall of communism gave way to euphoria and even the best of the best of scholars, like Francis Fukuyama was not immune to it. It was a great moment in history, and we can all be excused for not expecting the rise of illiberal regimes, the backsliding of democracy, the rise of extremism on the right, the appearance of radical Islam in our midst. Who could ever have imagined 9.11 when we were busy tearing down the Berlin Wall?
Before we despair, we should look more carefully at the Nordic countries, to Denmark,Finland,Iceland,Norway and Sweden. For years now I have been referring to this very diverse group as the stem cells of western societies. Diverse and similar. Progressive, modernizing, but traditional at the same time. Countries where democracy has taken hold through a slow process of building pillars, of written and unwritten rules. Countries that have chosen to soften the sharp edges of capitalism, but have remained solidly devoted to market economy. Nordic societies are constantly in the process of rethinking their economic policies. They have invented the term "social-innovation" and "flexecurity". Countries that are the platform for some of the most cutting edge technologies. Ones that have put education, social- welfare at the forefront of creating equal opportunities for all their citizens. These are societies that care for and do much for the environment, but most of which have made a good energy mix a priority, to ensure a balance between preserving the planet and energy security.All that on a solidly democratic foundation.
They have also been enormously influential in global culture. From music to furniture design, from architecture to film and literature, the Nordic countries have had an imprint on our spiritual lives. Who can remain immune to the designs of Alvar Aalto,Arne Jacobsen, Olav Haug or to the novels of Stieg Larson, the music of Björk and ABBA, to "Broen", the TV series. The list is long. This all grew out of their distinct national tradition embracing the universal.
The five countries have travelled different roads to come to similar or even identical conclusions on how best to embark on perpetual modernization. They did not cut corners. That is not to say that their way of life is not being challenged at all. Extreme nationalist parties have sprung up in all of them. The present threats and challenges of the migration crisis has brought about disputes internally and between them in approach and attitudes. But none of these will result in a questioning or breakdown of democracy or their close cooperation.
As a very special community they now have a historic opportunity to show leadership in finding responses to the threats facing our liberal way of life. They must share their experiences with others and, as an "entity" thought not a block, must make their case, that turning away from our values of freedom and democracy is not the way ahead. Proudly display that they have a mindset to offer to others. Even Americans are well advised to watch.
While being aware of the threats to their security from Russia and terrorism, combining strong defense and safeguarding of the Nordic liberal way of life, of democracy and human rights, staying the course as modern societies, is their way of responding. By strengthening their resilience as democracies.
They have the moral authority to show that liberal-democracies don't collapse under pressure. As a result of indecision in the EU and under the pressure of immigration they too are all challenged by nationalist, extreme right forces, who ask the right questions but give wrong answers. With great confidence, I expect them to show that tolerance and resolve can go hand in hand. That at the end of the day, openness and security, protecting society, the demands for the respect for rule of law towards its own citizens and newcomers alike, can go hand in hand. That it is possible to embrace multiculturalism and national traditions at the same time.
In a turbulent world, the Nordics now have a responsibility to confirm that the failure of our democratic model is not an option. That would be a most powerful contribution to the future of the world, when the forces of modernity and those of yesteryear clash.
They should be encouraged to share their road to success. They should be leaders. They should tell the world that the liberal and democratic model is alive and well.