Talk about being a good neighbor.
To celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, Norway is considering shifting its border to give Finland a mountain peak as a gift, according to the Independent. While not completely unprecedented in the history of nations, the gift — if and when it comes to fruition — would be an extraordinary show of camaraderie between the two Scandinavian nations, and will certainly set a new benchmark in diplomatic relations between countries in an age when land-grabbing accusations and territorial disputes often bring nations at war with each other.
Norway plans to shift its border by roughly 40 meters to make the arctic summit of the mountain Halti, which is currently on the Norwegian side of the border, officially become a part of Finland. If the whole of Halti does indeed become Finnish, its peak will be the highest in its new home, standing at 1,365m above sea level – around the same height as Ben Nevis.
Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, told the country’s national broadcaster NRK that making such a gift to a neighboring country would demand a lot of discussion and paperwork, but confirmed that his government is exploring the possibility.
“There are some formal challenges, and I have not at all decided if I will support this… But we are looking into it.”
The idea, as remarkable as it might sound to most of us, is not a new one. It was first conceived in 1972, when Norwegian Mapping Authority employee Bjørn Geirr Harsson, who had been flying above the Halti for a survey, had a brainwave and conceived the unusual proposition.
“I was taken aback by why on earth they had not received this peak,” Harsson had said last year, reports The New York Times.
“We would not have to give any part of Norway. It would barely be noticeable. And I am sure the Finns would greatly appreciate getting it.”
It is an idea which definitely makes sense. As the Telegraph reports, moving the border between the two Scandinavian countries just 490ft (150m) to the north and 650ft (200m) to the east would bring Finland a new highest mountain while losing Norway just 0.009 square miles.
Last year, Harsson’s son, who shares his father’s dream, launched an online campaign titled “Halti as an anniversary gift,” which has since received an overwhelming response from residents of both countries.
“Let us take Finland to new heights!” the campaign’s description states.
And now, the four-decade long dream seems to be finally within reaching distance as major leaders are writing to Oslo to convince the Norwegian leadership to gift Finland the new mountain peak. Svein Leiros, the mayor of Kåfjord, is a supporter of the plan, and has written to the Prime Minister along with several other politicians. In Leiros’ own words, the peak “would be a wonderful gift to our sister nation.”
But while the extraordinary proposal appears to be cheered by most residents of both countries, the indigenous people who live in the mountains — the Sami people — do not seem particularly thrilled by the idea. Aili Keskitalo, president of the Sami Parliament of Norway, said that the Sami people would prefer to have no borders at all.
“Halti is situated in a Sami area, used by Sami on both sides of the mountains. The border was not drawn by Sami, and the borders have caused us nothing but problems. From a Sami perspective, the idea that a mountain can be owned by a state seems strange. To us, it would be better if there was no border at all.”
And while that is a completely reasonable perspective, considering the border has added to the plight of the Sami people, the fact that a modern nation-state could actually gift a part of its land — no matter how small — to its neighbor is nonetheless a gesture which has to be appreciated.
Maybe more nations could take a cue from this example set by Norway — provided it comes to fruition.
[Image via Shutterstock]