The Nordic States and Agenda-Setting in the European Union: How Do Small States Score?

Gunnhildur Lily Magnúsdóttir, Baldur Þórhallsson


This paper examines whether particular subjective features are better suited than objective feature, to study the ability of the Nordic EU member states to have a say within the environmental policy of the EU. The Nordic states will be placed within a conceptual framework intended to explain states’ ability to exercise influence internationally. The paper will argue that raditional quantitative measures normally defining size of states, such as the population, territorial size, GDP and military strength, do not give a clear picture of their influence within the EU. The paper argues that subjective features, which are concerned with how various domestic and external actors regard the Nordic states in environmental matters, have enabled the Nordic states to punch above their weight in EU environmental policy-making. Also, it is maintained here that features such as Nordic politicians’ ambitions and prioritizations and their ideas about EU decision-making processes may indicate their states’ ability to influence within the Union. Furthermore, we claim that states’ administrative competence and the degree of domestic cohesion, combined with the degree to which the state maintains an external united front are important indicators of their success in the EU.


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