Continued investment in the high north crucial for Europe

Today political representatives from the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas in Finland, Sweden and Norway met with the European Commission to highlight the importance of continued investment in the regions.

- Our regions have sparse population, demographic challenges and long distances, but we also provide the EU with world-class knowledge and vital natural resources, says Esko Lotvonen, Region Mayor of Lapland County in Finland.

The delegation from the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas have attended the Cohesion Forum as well as met with Dirk Ahner, Director General for Regional Policy at the European Commission to discuss the future cohesion policy.

- Cohesion policy is an important tool for regional development. A forceful and ambitious cohesion policy can help the NSPA to fully realise the vast potential for further contributing to the EU added value, says Erik Bergkvist, Chair of the Regional Council of Västerbotten in Sweden.

- Important factors for a future strong export of vital natural resources are strong infrastructural connections to central markets and enhanced connectivity within the NSPA as well as between the NSPA and the surrounding world, Bergkvist continues.

Cohesion policy funding has been an important factor for investments targeted at strengthening the service sector and to develop the economies of the NSPA into even more diversified economies characterized by knowledge and innovations. The innovative capacity of the NSPA has been significantly strengthened by the EU Cohesion policy.

- Focusing investment on where economic growth best can be achieved has to be clearly understood as focusing development measures and reforms on the specific regional factors and activities that have the greatest potential for strengthening the development of the specific region, in all regions of the EU. To achieve this ambition, the instruments for development of the competitiveness and employment objective are vital, explains Thomas Andersson, Councillor of the Jämtland Council in Sweden.

- It is important to bear in mind that in regional policy one size does not fit all. Northern sparsely populated regions have a lot to offer and need custom measures for regional development to fulfill their potential and deliver added value to the EU, says Jussi Huttunen, Region Mayor of Pohjois-Savo.

- The involvement of the regional and local levels is essential for designing and implementing effective policies for sustainable growth in Europe. In order to establish multi level governance and to respect the principle of subsidiarity, partnership agreements must include three parties. Not only the commission and the member states, but also the regions, says Agneta Lipkin, County Councillor of Norrbotten County in Sweden and member of the Committee of the Regions Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy (COTER).

- The home of the indigenous Sami people, Sapmi, is an important part of the NSPA region. In order to create a positive development for the Sami, the NSPA need specific EU-programs aimed at promoting Sami entrepreneurship and culture, says Trud Berg, County Councillor of Nordland County in Norway.

The NSPA wants a framework that enables greater participation from the private sector, and in particular SME's, in development activities. Financial contributions from the private sector should be accepted as co-financing in EU funded development activities in all member states, although allowing for certain national flexibility regarding the accepted share of private co-funding.

Read the full NSPA-response to the Fifth Cohesion Report.

02 Feb 2011