What do you give the country that has everything? The peak of a 4,500-foot mountain, naturally. As U.S. President Donald Trump continues to spew protectionist invective about walls both literal and figurative, the good people of Norway want to ring in Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia by giving it the top of Mount Halti, a feat of topography that would require the country to nudge its border 130 feet up the mountainside. Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a retired Norwegian geophysicist, arrived at the idea during gravity survey back in 1972. “I saw that the highest point in Finland was on a hillside and for Norway on a mountain, so I wrote a letter to the foreign ministry and proposed that a gift from the Norwegian people to Finland should be a mountaintop,” he said in Battle for Birthday Mountain, a new film about the proposed gift, and the legal and political debates it has generated in its wake.
“All over the world you find countries that fight or make war to enlarge their countries, but in this case Norway is willing to give away a small part without anyone asking for anything return,” Geirr Harsson said. “It is a gift from the heart of the Norwegians to Finland so we don’t expect anything back; we just want to give them something really nice when they celebrate 100 years as a free nation.”
Despite the idea’s widespread popularity—a Facebook group about the unusual present has rallied more than 17,000 likes—proponents of the idea face an uphill climb, so to speak.
Norway’s constitution, as Prime Minister Erna Solberg notes in the film, stipulates that the country should remain “indivisible and inalienable,” meaning it can’t go around parceling out parts of its territory.
“This creative proposal has received a very positive response from the public,” she said in October. “I welcome this and I see a clear sign that Norway and Finland have a close relationship,” adding that “the alteration of borders between countries causes too many judicial problems that could affect, for example, the Constitution.”
“We will think of another worthy gift to celebrate the occasion of [the] Finland centenary,” Solberg added.
Despite the rejection, Geirr Harsson is not giving up, and neither are his supporters.
“While we witness the rising tumult along international borders—from Ukraine and Russia, to the South China Sea, to Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico—the idea behind Birthday Mountain is a rare international gesture worth admiring,” David Freid, the film’s director, told The Local. “On the surface, this is a cute film about a very unique kind of gift between nations. But at its heart is something real and relevant.”
And Norway wouldn’t have to worry about regifting, either.
Via the Independent