The NSPA Forum in Sundsvall gathered around 60 participants to discuss the future cohesion policy and to adopt the NSPA position paper on the legislative package of cohesion policy 2014-2020.
The NSPA Forum in Sundsvall gathered around 60 participants to discuss the aspects of the future cohesion policy and to adopt opinions on the legislative package of cohesion policy 2014-2020.
Mr. Kari Aalto of the North Finland EU Office, introduced the Forum by giving a brief outlook on the background and work of the NSPA network.
Keynote speaker Ms. Charlina Vitcheva, Head of Directorate H, DG Regio introduced by giving some comments on the NSPA draft position paper and further presented the commission's proposal of the cohesion policy 2014-2020.
"One of the reasons why it is a pleasure to discuss with the northern regions is that you are always well aware of what is going on in Brussels. " Ms. Vitcheva said.
On the draft position, Ms. Vitcheva appreciated the NSPA's positive reflections on concentration on the Europe 2020 strategy and on synergies of policies.
"Your draft position paper is of high quality, I look forward to the discussions today" Ms. Vitcheva said.
On the issue of the proposed extra allocation to the NSPA regions, which in the proposal is a decrease in comparison to the current period, Ms. Vitcheva referred to the current debate on the overall budget where Sweden and Finland are amongst the member states that are working for a decrease of the EU budget, making it difficult to argue for a higher allocation of funds to the NSPA.
Ms. Vitcheva mentioned the importance of the work of the NSPA regions at the level of the European Parliament and with the member states in the Council and that the way to do it is to put forward good examples and the effectiveness of the funds in the NSPA areas.
Dr. Benito Giordano, expert in regional development of ADE Consultancy, presented a study on the relevance and effectiveness of support to regions with specific geographical features, ordered by the European Commission. The study looks at mountainous, island and sparsely populated areas and at the challenges and policy approaches present in these areas.
The study shows commonalities between these regions; remoteness from markets, services or clusters, territorial small size in terms of populations or scattered communities. A couple of conclusions from the study are that geographical specificities do matter and that the demographic change is a common challenge for all of these regions.
"The Nordic cases of the study shows that they have turned the corner in terms of seeing these challenges as opportunities rather than as handicaps." Dr. Giordano said.
Ms. Anna Carlsson, Swedish ministry of enterprise, energy and industry, gave the Swedish national perspective on the legislative proposal of the commission. The negotiations are still on-going but the local and regional stakeholders will be involved in the process.
"We strongly support some parts of the proposal, for example the concentration in line with the Europe 2020-strategy" Ms. Carlsson said.
Mr. Arve Skjerpen, Norwegian ministry for local and regional development, presented the Norwegian perspective on the proposal regarding the structural funds and on the issue of state aid.
"The government supports the NSPA position paper fully" Mr. Skjerpen said.
Norway is following the negotiations closely, especially via our Nordic cooperation. We are fully in favour of the thematic concentration. The parliament has asked Norway to form an alternative writing to the provision stating that regions that are not members of the EU cannot take part as lead partner in territorial cooperation.
"The commission representatives working with territorial cooperation support Norway in this issue. I am very optimistic", Mr. Skjerpen said.
The participants of the NSPA Forum also received a greeting from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, from Mr. Jens Nilsson and Ms. Riikka Manner, members of the European Parliament. Their common message was that the NSPA should continue the active work since this is the time to act at the level of the European Parliament.
"Do not hesitate to contact us - we appreciate your work" Ms. Manner said.
Watch the greeting from Ms. Manner and Mr. Nilsson here.
The afternoon was dedicated to group discussions on the draft position paper of the NSPA. Including comments and reflections from the speakers and from the workshop discussions, the NSPA Forum adopted the NSPA position on the legislative package on cohesion policy 2014-2020. The next NSPA Forum will be held in Oulu, Finland.