Moving Mountains: can Norway give Finland a peak?

Moving Mountains: can Norway give Finland a peak? Lothar Sowada
11 Oct
2016
Norway is looking to gift a mountain to Finland as a 100th birthday present. But is it legally feasible?

Deep within the remote and frozen Arctic circle landscape runs the border between Norway and Finland. The significance of exactly where this line lies is causing some frenzied debate between the two countries.

A campaign is currently underway within Norway to gift a very small portion of land – roughly 0.015sq km – to its Nordic neighbour, as a recognition of the centenary of the founding of the modern Finnish state. The purpose: to move the peak of Hálditšohkka, a spur on the side of Mount Halti (which straddles the border) into Finnish territory, making it Finland’s new highest point, a slight increase from 4,343ft (1,324m) to 4,367ft (1,331m). Norway would be unlikely to miss it; the country has between 230 and 300 mountain peaks above 6,562ft (2,000m) with its highest, Galdhøpiggen, reaching 8,100ft (2,469m).

‘It’s certainly a fascinating case,’ says Phil Steinberg, Director of IBRU, Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research. ‘In a way this is easy, because it’s not inhabited and it’s remote, so it doesn’t really affect anyone’s lives. It’s not really a symbolically important space to either country, nobody will really notice if Norway gives it up.’

In practice, it’s been quite common for territories to be moved, usually for political reasons. Borders get changed all the time

While the proposal was initially dismissed as a joke by the Norwegian government, the worldwide and domestic interest generated by the idea – heavily leveraging Norway’s reputation as a generous and benevolent country – led Prime Minister Erna Solberg to recently tell state broadcaster NRK that she was looking into the proposal. Nevertheless, there remain legal questions, including the part of Norway’s constitution which describes the Norwegian state as ‘inalienable’.

‘In terms of the altruism of it, I’m not aware of a case similar to this, where there’s a proposal to change a boundary for no good reason other than “Hey, why not?”,’ says Steinberg. ‘But in practice, it’s been quite common for territories to be moved, usually for political reasons. Borders get changed all the time. Boundaries can be demarcated through the middle point of a river, for instance, and rivers shift. In fact, Norway was given to Sweden by Denmark when Denmark lost the Napoleonic Wars, and the Shetland Islands were gifted to Scotland as part of a Norwegian dowry. So when you see that history, it’s not quite so outrageous an idea.’

This was published in the October 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…

Forests

After an ‘unprecedented’ surge northwards into New Jersey, New York…

Forests

The historic end of civil war in Colombia has had…

Mapping

Where in America can the country's various hate groups be…

Water

The southern US state is sinking twice as fast as…

Cities

An increase in visitors is putting severe strain on Iceland’s…

Cities

Air pollution campaigners hold a disco roadblock, but can it…

Cities

Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality…

Forests

HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity

Forests

The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…

Forests

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Cities

Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…

Mountains

Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?

Mapping

Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…