This is NUTS

Nomenclature des unités territoriales statistiques is NUTS. It is the geographical division of EU member states in three different levels. After NUTS 3 comes LAU – local administration units.

NUTS really is nuts. There is no system available to make the division among the member states similar. Each member state just does whatever they traditionally do, with a few twists here and there, for no apparent reason.

Traditionally, Sweden is divided into three parts: Götaland (Gothic Land) in the south, Svealand (Svea Land), Norrland (North Land). These three lands were divided a thousand years ago based on the peoples who lived in each part; Goths, Sveadjods, and Sami in the north. Of course, there has been a lot of mixing of people since then, and there is only a small remnant of sami people in the north. We had a lot of immigration too, from other nordic countries, from Belgium, and more recently from arab countries.

Counties (län, in Swedish) is a more recent invention. Each län had a police department, and each policeman was called a länsman. Landshövding was the chief of the län (which, ironically, has nothing to do with being the chief of a land). With a growing population, the counties were too large, so communes were instated to govern smaller regions. Then, some communes decided they had too few people to provide a stable economy, so they merged to larger communes.

Currently NUTS in Sweden

The first level of NUTS in Sweden is Sweden. In other words, EU provides a level of geographical division, and Sweden has elected to say nah, we don’t care to have the first level.

The second level of NUTS in Sweden is an arbitrary collection of counties. For example, there is West Sweden but there is no East Sweden. There is South Sweden, but there is no North Sweden. There is North Middle Sweden and East Middle Sweden, but both of those are south of the center of Sweden which is located in Middle Norrland (there is no South Norrland, by the way). There is an Upper Norrland, but not a Lower Norrland. Besides, why are all the other parts named “Something” Sweden, except for Norrland and Småland? Are the latter not supposed to be part of Sweden? Some parts of the borders are the same as has been used traditionally in Götaland, Svealand, and Norrland, but then the border is suddenly changed to something else like including another county or excepting another county. I cannot see a pattern to this madness, but perhaps the idea is to keep it similar in population numbers?

The third level of NUTS in Sweden is the same as counties, which is an old and traditional geographical division, but they have been renamed to be regions.

LAU in Sweden is like I said the communes.

NUTS in Europe

The first level of NUTS in other member states is most commonly referred to as states/lands or regions/macroregions. Do I need to state again how NUTS it is that Sweden decided to rename their counties into regions?

The second level of NUTS in other member states is most commonly referred to as regions, areas, or provinces.

The third level of NUTS in other member states is most commonly referred to as regions, counties, or provinces.

LAU in other member states is most commonly referred to as municipalities, or less commonly communes.

It is rather ironic that a system made to produce statistics cannot be built using statistics with an agreement on the most common denomination to be standard.

Goint NUTS in a new (better?) way

So let me come to the conclusion that I was waiting to get to and the whole purpose for me writing this to begin with. Here’s how I would do it, if I was given the chance.

NUTS 1 – Lands (or states if you prefer)




NUTS 2 – Landscapes

Landskap was a geographical division that was just as strong as counties when I was a kid. Since then it has been more or less erased in favor of counties. For example, there was Norrbottens landskap at the north of the Bothnian bay, the Västerbottens landskap to the west of the Bothnian bay. Medelpads landskap was the geographical center, or middle, of Sweden. Landskap is a division that makes sense, and follow the division of lands.

NUTS 3 – Counties

Counties renamed to regions are renamed again to counties. If it works for most other member states, it will work for us.

LAU – Communes

Communes are a good way of dealing with local issues. Some of the larger ones should be divided again, which should be easy enough since the large ones are usually a result of a previous merger of communes. Just undo the merger.

Goint NUTS in an even better (?) way

As a final conclusion, there is a different way of doing it that actually makes even more sense. It is entirely untraditional so it would probably be difficult to put into effect, since people hate change above almost anything else. That doesn’t make it a bad suggestion though.

NUTS 1 – Lands (or states if you prefer)




Adjust the borders to include the full extent of major watersheds. For example, the border between Norrland and Svealand is river Dalälven (the actual river). This should be changed so that the watershed of river Dalälven is included in either Norrland or Svealand (as opposed to being split in half).

NUTS 2 – Main watersheds

Main watersheds in Sweden stretch from the border of Norway to the Bothnian sea. Since the water use in the mountains will have an effect on those living close to the sea, it should be managed as one unit. Similarly, if people near the sea build a dam, people near the mountains will have less fish and nutrients coming up to their area. I just makes more sense to manage it as one unit since water is such a central natural resource in any type of management.

NUTS 3 – Counties

Make new counties based on the ones we have, but adjusted for main features of watersheds. The counties do represent some cultural differences, and it makes sense to keep them.

LAU – Communes

Similarly as counties, just adopt communes to follow watersheds more closely. The commune of Örnsköldsvik would be divided into Nätra, Mo, Husum, were Husum includes both Gideån, Husån, and Saluån watersheds and Mo includes both Moälven, Strömsån, and Idbyån watersheds. People in Nätra and Husum rarely agree fully with decisions made in Örnsköldsvik, which shows that there already exists some reasons to divide this commune so that the big city can’t just run over its smaller assimilates.

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