Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

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.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

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...

Forests

The first payment under the Redd+ scheme to conserve tropical…

Places

In the first of a series on geopolitical curiosities and…

Cities

A socioecological model is predicting the areas of major US…

Mapping

Following the collapse of the upstream tailings dam in Brumadinho,…

Mapping

The domestication of animals for food, secondary products, labour and…

Cities

Strap in for a newer, greener experience in virtual city…

Water

A major investment in data collection along the Nile could…

Forests

Several factors are contributing to extreme deforestation in Haiti, with…

Cities

Illegal wells are depleting groundwater basins beneath Tehran causing it…

Mapping

Mapping the trade war between the US and China and…

Mapping

Check out this superb selection of mapping books - ideal…

Water

Glacial melt is increasing  land instability in mountainous regions, with huge tsunamis…

Mapping

A large-scale terrain mapping project makes Antarctica the best-mapped continent…

Water

New research reveals that microplastics can survive in mosquitos from…

Cities

New research measures the ability of major cities to re-use…

Deserts

Biosphere 2 was one of the most ambitious experiments in…

Forests

High-quality, affordable drones can revolutionise the way that landscape and…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the impact of volcanoes on nearby human…

Mapping

A volunteer-led digital mapping project is at the heart of…