By Sakke Teerikoski
For as long as history has been recorded, people have been fighting over lands and borders. Even today, border conflicts cause troublesome relationships between countries all over the world. Walls are being raised on borders between countries and border adjustments are made on unfriendly terms. However, there are some countries who like their neighbours so much that they even consider giving away a bit of land as a birthday gift.
This year, Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, and Norway has considered taking the concept of birthday gifts to new heights. High up in Lapland, on the border between Finland and Norway, the mountain Halti resides, with its peak on the Norwegian side of the border, and most of the slope on the Finnish side. This slope happens to be Finland’s highest point above sea level – right there on the border. The peak is only a few meters away, and it is precisely what many Norwegians consider to be the perfect birthday gift. By just adjusting the border by 40 meters, Norway could give Finland a new mountain peak and thereby a new highest point on the map!
This idea originally came from Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a geophysicist who did some work in the border area during the 1970s. He noticed how the border crossed the Halti mountain, leaving the mountain peak on the Norwegian side. For many years now, he has campaigned for giving the mountain peak away as a present for Finland’s 100th birthday. As the birthday came closer, his cause kept gaining support. The cause now even has a Facebook page, with over 16000 followers/members. Many politicians also voiced their support for gifting the mountain away, including local politicians in Kåfjord municipality, where the peak is located.
However, reality is more complicated than redrawing a few lines on the map. Norway’s constitution clearly states that the borders are unalterable. Last autumn, Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced that the gift would not happen due to legal difficulties, and that Norway would figure out another present for Finland’s anniversary. This has not stopped supporters from advocating the idea, though.
Oh well, Finland, I guess it is the thought that counts! At least this story can remain as a little example of how two countries who share a border can get along excellently; that while there are other countries who fight over borders, Norwegians would actually like to give away a tiny piece of land as a gift.
Finland’s 100th birthday is on the 6th of December 2017. On this day it will be 100 years since the declaration of independence was endorsed by the Finnish parliament in 1917. With this text, I wish to send warm congratulations to our Finnish neighbours on behalf of Uttryck Magazine and UF Uppsala.
Sakke Teerikoski is a long-time member of UF and is currently the secretary of the UFS board. When he’s not busy writing for Uttryck, he dwells in the complex realms of EU-bureaucracy and the technology of the future. Sakke is an engineer, currently based in Brussels.
Image: Rasmus Eriksson