Across Our Region: Top stories from the last seven days

The biggest stories, and other interesting news, from the eight Nordic and Baltic countries plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Across Our Region

Hej! Tere! Sveiki! Halló!

If you’re a regular News Now Finland reader then hopefully you’re well-versed in all the news that’s happening here at home. But do you know what’s going on across our region? What’s been hitting the headlines in Iceland or Lithuania? What are the top stories in Denmark or Estonia?

In our new regular Sunday morning feature we’re pulling together the most important stories – and some other interesting pieces of news – from the past week in seven Nordic and Baltic countries, plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Everything’s in one place, with links to more information and sources clearly marked, so you can be sure there’s no fake news. Enjoy scrolling through the stories on your phone or tablet every Sunday, and catching up with the news Across Our Region.

Hospitals in Estonia will need to start increasing the number of beds available for Covid-19 patients as the virus surges – and that means scheduled treatments will have to be delayed. “The infection rate is currently [R]1.2 and this is very high. And if today we have 200 people in hospitals, the number will be around 400 in a week” says Urmas Sule from the Health Board’s crisis department. [ERR]

Entrepreneurs at tech startups in Estonia – and many other people – are concerned about the rising of right-wing extremism in the Baltic nation, which they say is damaging the country’s international reputation. Initially the idea of having the far-right EKRE party in government was seen as a sign they might moderate some of their more radical ideas – however it seems to have only given them a platform and wider audience. “Estonia won’t be seen as a solid and constructive partner in Europe, if a government minister is known to mouth off every once in a while about an allied country’s leadership” Vello Andres Pettai, a political scientist at Tartu University, is quoted as saying. [Politico Europe]

Passenger number at Tallinn airport fell by 89% in November compared with the previous year. [ERR]

An Estonian diplomat took part in a party in Brussels that ended the career of an anti-LGBTQ Hungarian politician. The Estonian foreign ministry confirmed one of their diplomats also attended the same-sex event, described variously in Europe’s media as a “gangbang”, an “orgy” and a “sex party” which was raided by police because it broke public health laws during the pandemic. [Politico Europe] 

In Sweden the ongoing coronavirus crisis has eroded the public’s support for the government, and confidence in whether authorities can tackle the pandemic effectively. More than 7,000 people have died from coronavirus in Sweden, giving it one of the highest per capital death rates in Europe. [The Guardian]

An elderly woman in Stockholm was arrested on suspicion of imprisoning her son in their apartment earlier this week in a story that made headlines because of it’s grisly details of their grimy apartment and squalid living conditions. However the police released the woman saying there was no evidence she’d kept the 40-year old man locked up for three decades, and she was freed from custody. [BBC]

Is there a new lifestyle trend from Scandinavia that could become popular around the world? This week the New York Times claims that Danish ‘hygge’ is out, and Swedish ‘mys’ is in. However practically all commentators have noted that the American newspaper gets the idea of mys badly wrong, and say it’s basically the same thing as hygge anyway. Decide for yourself! [New York Times]

Russia became the first country in the world to start a mass Covid-19 vaccination programme this week using its own Sputnik V drug. The first rollout takes place in Moscow with healthcare workers, teachers and social workers in the first group to be offered the inoculation.  “Over the first five hours, 5,000 people signed up for the jab — teachers, doctors, social workers, those who are today risking their health and lives the most” says Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin[DW]

Meanwhile a state-run laboratory in Russia says the Sputnik V vaccine is more effective than western vaccines with interim results from phase 3 trials showing effectiveness “above 95 per cent.” [Financial Times]

Despite rolling out the vaccine to the public, Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t getting the injection just yet (even though his daughter apparently took it several months ago). The Kremlin said this week that Putin cannot get a vaccine that hasn’t yet finished its clinical trials. [CNN]

And the BBC looks at waning Russian influence in its own backyard, looking at the geopolitical fallout of the recent Armenia – Azerbaijan conflict. [BBC]

Denmark says it is ‘closing down the oil industry for good’ as it promises to cut 70% of emissions by 2030. “This obviously wasn’t an easy decision. We are the biggest oil producer in the EU. We have, since the 1970s, to a large extent financed our welfare state with oil money. So to say, ‘stop’, and to pay the cost for that, is a big deal for us” climate minister Dan Jørgensen said in an interview. It comes as the Danish government said this week it would end new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea. [Guardian]

Denmark is aiming to have 775,000 electric cars by 2030 – another step in the country’s bid to drastically slash its carbon emissions. Currently there are only around 20,000 electric cars on Danish roads, a small fraction of the 2.5 million cars in total. [Automotive News Europe]

Passengers arriving in Latvia from all EU countries must now self-isolate. There’s also a new recommendation for Latvian residents not to travel abroad and risk contracting coronavirus. [LSM – Latvian Public Broadcasting]

Researchers in Riga are developing technology that could help prevent asteroids hitting the Earth. A local company has won a contract from the European Space Agency to develop instruments that look at the possibility of deflecting the course of an asteroid before it gets too close to our planet. [Euronews]

Cinephiles are celebrating 100 years of Latvian moviemaking as the country’s National Film Centre has made a collection of classic Latvian films available to stream online free of charge, with subtitles in English and several other languages. [Emerging Europe]

The deputy governor of Norway‘s Central Bank has resigned because his application to get renewed security clearance was rejected, apparently because of his Chinese wife. Jon Nicolaisen said in a statement that the reason he was given for the security issue was that his wife is a Chinese citizen, who lives in China, where he supports her financially. [Reuters]

Norwegians – like all of us – are planning Christmas with a difference this year. While churches remain open, and some restrictions are loosened for two days over the festive period, there are restriction on parties and the foreign shopping trips that some Norwegians like to take at this time of year. [Forbes]

The government of Iceland laid out its plans to create Europe’s largest national park this week. Minister for the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson says the national park would be a “major boost fot the whole travel industry in Iceland, not least as we start to rebuild it in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.” The new park, if approved by Iceland’s parliament Alþingi, would be established in the country’s central highlands. [Iceland Monitor]

Public health officials in Iceland have introduced a new colour-coded warning system for coronavirus, explaining different restrictions and requirements depending on whether the country is in grey (the new normal), yellow (alert), orange (increased risk) or red (serious). [Iceland Review]

The government in Lithuania has introduced new coronavirus restrictions, including limiting the number of people who can meet to just two. It comes as the Baltic nation recorded the EU’s third highest 14-day cases of Covid-19. There’s also a new ban on indoor Christmas markets, and an extended nationwide lockdown until 17th December. [Baltic News Network]

Lithuania’s new Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė was sworn in this week. [Baltic Times]

BONUS: Faroe Islands: A new undersea tunnel, complete with a colourful roundabout, has been unveiled this week. The tunnel links the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy, and is 11km long. It will open to cars shortly before Christmas and cuts the travel time between  the capital Tórshavn and Runavík, from an hour and 14 minutes to just 16 minutes.