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N° 43, 2022 – Nordic and Baltic societies in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic

deadline for proposals: 15 January 2022

A year and a half after the beginning of the health crisis in spring 2020, this special issue of the journal Nordiques will look at the upheavals, breakings and consequences that this global phenomenon has potentially generated/created in the Nordic and Baltic societies. How has the health crisis affected the countries of the Baltic region? What measures have the Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Latvian, Estonian or Lithuanian governments taken to deal with it? The international media have often referred to the exemplary management of this pandemic in Finland or, on the contrary, have been astonished by the so-called "permissive" strategy of the Swedish government in managing the pandemic.

One could observe that quite different approaches were adopted depending on the countries in the region: very liberal in Sweden or Norway, for example, it has been more restrictive in Finland, and even, at times, authoritarian in the Baltic States, with the Latvian and Estonian governments resorting on the 16th and the 20th March 2020, respectively, to Article 15 of the European Court of Human Rights in order to derogate from the Convention on Human Rights with regard to individual freedoms1 in case of a state of emergency. These differences undermine the idea of a Nordic model that would be applied in all the countries of the region and have sometimes increased tensions between neighbours. Moreover, has the context of this crisis not served as a pretext for extreme right-wing parties to try to pursue a xenophobic policy by restricting access to their country’s territory to foreign workers and students, as was the case with the conservative Estonian People’s Party, EKRE (in government until January 2021)?

Whether they are simple recommendations or more or less severe restrictions depending on the country, what do these strategies, in the face of the pandemic, tell us about the societies and regimes of the Nordic and Baltic countries? Can we speak of trust or, on the contrary, distrust, of societies with regard to their ruling elites? It would also be interesting to analyse from a sociological or philosophical approach how these societies have themselves experienced these different waves of COVID-19 and have adapted to the restrictions put in place. Self-isolation, retreat to Nature or attachment to remote working, has this crisis situation revealed certain specific features of the populations of the Nordic-Baltic region?

In addition, this dossier also seeks to examine the effects of the pandemic on the political, economic and social situation in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Can the COVID-19 crisis be analysed as revealing or accelerating certain national or regional fragilities and trends? Has it had an impact on the socio-economic situation of the countries in the region, consolidating existing patterns or reinforcing existing socio-economic inequalities?

  • 2 According to the report of the OECD : In the first wave of the health crisis, the Baltic and Nordic (...)

While the Baltic and Nordic countries seem to be get out from the crisis quite well in economic terms2, they are facing structural problems of varying nature: weak health systems (especially in Latvia), job insecurity (in Estonia), poverty (in Lithuania); in Sweden, the crisis has accelerated the reflection on reforms of care for the elderly and unemployment insurance.

It is questionable to what extent the prevailing neo-liberal doctrines will be permanently amended in favour of a return of the interventionist and regulatory state. On a broader political level, do the strengthening of the prerogatives of certain governments and the extension of exceptional measures change the parameters of the regimes?

In some cases, has the crisis not affected the minorities in the countries more? According to the Estonian Health Council, the main outbreaks in Estonia were in Eastern Virumaa, in the east of Estonia, in large industrial enterprises where the majority of the population are Russian speakers and where working remotely is not possible. Similarly, particularly high mortality rates have been observed among minorities of foreign origin in Sweden. Furthermore, in relation to socio-economic inequalities or lifestyle and beliefs, has the pandemic contributed to the reinforcement of existing divisions in societies and/or to the emergence of new ones - the ‘winners’ versus the ‘losers’ of the crisis, the part of society in line with health restrictions versus the anti-masks or vaccine sceptics’ movements, confrontation between two different information spaces (formal and informal)?

Finally, the health crisis also leads us to consider the issue of regional solidarity in times of crisis. While since the 1990s, actors in the Baltic Sea region have sought to increase cooperation, networking and interdependence between neighbours, has this beautiful unity been strengthened or weakened by the health crisis?

Can we speak of the "dissociation" of the Baltic area with the closure of certain national borders and/or the strengthening of certain poles or sub-regions (such as creation of the "travel bubble" between the three Baltic States)? With restrictions in place at some borders (Finland, Denmark or Latvia) making regular travel between neighbouring countries cumbersome and complicated especially for cross-border workers (the case of Estonians in Finland or Swedes in Denmark and Norway), the development of teleworking, could the health crisis have an effect in the region by weakening the share of cross-border workers and/or by limiting tourism?

Finally, what about the relationship with the rest of Europe and the EU in the context of the latter’s strong intervention in relaxing the constraints?

This multidisciplinary and comparative dossier invites authors to reflect on the social, political or economic effects/consequences of the pandemic on Nordic and Baltic societies. Contributions (in French or in English) with a particular focus on one country or a broader questioning on the region are expected.

Deadline for proposals (c. 200 words and a short presentation of the author): 15 January 2022 All submissions should be sent to katerina.kesa[a]inalco.fr

Information regarding the acceptance of a proposal: 31 January 2022.

First draft of the article (max. 40 000 characters): 02 May 2022.

Manuscripts will be submitted for double-blind review.

For guidelines on style, please see https://journals.openedition.org/nordiques/343

Notes

1 https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Guide_Art_15_FRA.pdf (consulted on 04/11/2021)

2 According to the report of the OECD : In the first wave of the health crisis, the Baltic and Nordic countries experienced a more moderate contraction than the other euro area countries ; GDP is expected to grow in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania between 3 % and 4 % on average between 2021-2022 [OECD Economic outlook, 2020].

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