Why Norway's birthday present for Finland may top them all

In honor of Finland's 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, neighboring Norway is considering gifting it with the Halti peak, making it Finland's highest point.

Mikko Stig/Lehtikuva/AP/File
A general view of the Halti mountain, on the Finnish and Norwegian borders, in Enontekio, Finland in August 2008. The Norwegian government is considering giving the Halti peak, which lies in Norway, to neighboring Finland in honor of its 100th anniversary of independence from Russia.

Your neighbor's birthday is coming up. Quick, what can you give them? How about a mountain, if you have one on hand – or at least its peak.

Norway’s government says that in honor of Finland’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, it’s considering a popular plan to move its own border, giving a mountain spur on the Halti fell to the Finns as a gift.

Much of the spur, called Hálditšohkka, is on the Finnish side of the border, but its 1,331-meter peak (4,367 feet) is in Norway. Moving the border about 130 feet up the mountainside would put Hálditšohkka's peak in Finland, and make the country’s highest point seven meters higher, The Guardian reports.

The idea first began with Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a retired geodesist (someone who studies the exact coordinates of points on Earth, and how they shift over time).

"If we look at Finland’s situation, the highest point in Finland is situated on a hillside, and the top of the hill is in Norway some 150 meters away from the border," he told Public Radio International (PRI) last year. "The Norwegian top is about 5 meters higher, so it’s not very much. Anyway, they have no highest mountain, they have a highest hillside."

Wouldn't it be nice for Finland to have one, though, he thought – particularly with 2017 approaching, when the country of 5 million will celebrate the 100th birthday. 

After a popular Facebook campaign, Norway’s prime minister is now considering it.

"There are a few formal difficulties and I have not yet made my final decision," Erna Solberg told NRK, Norway's national broadcaster. "But we are looking into it." 

For Mr. Harsson, who wrote to lawmakers to promote the idea, the move seems generous – but not a big sacrifice.

"The little triangle that Norway will give to Finland will just be 0.015 sq. kilometers, and that is so little it will not really change the official area of the two countries," he told PRI. 

Currently, Finland's highest point is another bit of Hálditšohkka, 1,324 meters above sea level. Norway's highest point, on the other hand, is 2,469 meters high. 

Some Norwegian politicians are enthusiastically embracing the proposal as a sign of friendship. Others, however, are pointing out some little dilemmas, such as Norway's constitution, which prohibits the state from surrendering any of its territory to another country, the chair of the parliamentary scrutiny committee told Norwegian media. 

The plan was "bewildering," and not to be taken seriously, Michael Tetzschner said. 

For many Norwegians, however, the idea is appealing – at least as just that, an idea. In this case, perhaps it is the thought that counts, and non-Norwegians seem impressed at its friendly gesture. 

"In a world when countries are trying to grab as much as possible from others, and we can show that we really offer a part of the country," Harsson told PRI, adding "I think they will really, really appreciate it." 

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