Tuesday, 5th June, the NSPA network organized a breakfast meeting in the European Parliament on how EU cohesion policy can realize the enormous potential and help overcome the obstacles faced in the NSPA. The meeting was hosted by Finnish MEP Riikka Manner (ALDE) and Swedish MEP Jens Nilsson (S&D) and attracted around 30 participants.
The legislative package on the cohesion policy 2014-2020 is currently being debated in the European Parliament. The sparsely populated areas have been allotted extra allocation of funding for the forthcoming budget period, proposed by the European Commission. The allocation is however a significant decrease compared to the current budget period. The breakfast meeting aimed to inform EU policy makers on the conditions, challenges and the potential of the NSPA and why sustained investments are crucial for the NSPA regions.
Swedish MEP Jens Nilsson (S&D), in the committee on regional development, gave a background to the NSPA regions and the cooperation within the NSPA network.
"The country borders do not really apply in the real north of Europe, we have a long tradition of cross border cooperation amongst the NSPA regions. The influence of the NSPA has increased over the years, especially the cooperation with the European commission. That is how we need to continue to work", Mr. Nilsson said.
NSPA representative Mr. Mikael Janson, North Sweden European Office, outlined the key challenges and obstacles but also the opportunities of the NSPA regions.
"There are sparsely populated areas in different parts of Europe but the NSPA is extremely sparsely populated, with around 5 inhabitants per km2, compared to EU average of 116 inhabitants per km2", Mr. Jansson said.
"However, obstacles can create opportunities, one example is that our regions are in the forefront when it comes to e-Health solutions", Mr. Janson continued.
Finnish MEP Riikka Manner, rapporteur on the regulation on the European Territorial Cooperation, gave an update on her work in the committee on regional development. In the current financial crisis, there are discussions on whether support for more developed regions, such as most parts of the NSPA, should be available or not.
"Most important is that the budget for the cohesion policy is assured, but this is up to the council and member states", Ms. Manner said.
The discussions on the legislative package on the cohesion policy and the budget 2014-2020 are ongoing in the European Parliament and in the council of ministers. The NSPA network continuously works to inform EU policy makers about the importance of EU cohesion policy and of continued investments in the NSPA regions.