The NSPA seminar during the Open Days 2012 attracted more than 150 participants, amongst others several representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament. Focusing on regional east-west cross border cooperation in the northernmost part of Europe, one of the conclusions of the seminar debate was the crucial importance of working across borders in the High North.
Mr. Kari Aalto, director of East and North Finland EU Office, introduced by welcoming the speakers, the moderator and the audience after which the moderator Mr. Jens Nilsson, MEP and former mayor of the city of Östersund in Jämtland, Sweden, gave a brief background to the work of the NSPA network.
Key note speaker Mr. Torgeir Larsen, state secretary of the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, gave Norway's perspective on sustainable development in the High North. Norway considers the region to be one of the best functioning areas in the world when it comes to sustainable development.
-The High North is one of the most dynamic regions in the world and things are changing and moving fast, Mr. Larsen said.
-The regions play a crucial role in shaping and paving the developments in the north, Mr. Larsen said.
The fact that the territory of Norway is seven times as much ocean than land area, the focus in a Norwegian perspective is the sea. With current developments the opening up of sea territory meaning more transport via the Northeast Passage is quite real.
-We are few, we need to cooperate over borders, across regions, to manage the risks, Mr. Larsen said.
Ms. Minna Piipponen, PhD, Head of Education, Karelian Institute , University of Eastern Finland, gave an insight in the northern and Russian dimension in cross-border cooperation in research. VERA centre for Russian and Border Studies focuses on three types of networks; international experts, university cooperation and knowledge spreading. Significant networking is required in order for new, often younger stakeholders, to find partners for cooperation.
-The challenge for the NSPA is to not be too inwards looking but to acknowledge the EU dimension, Piipponen said.
Mr. Andreas Lind, Swedish Lapland Chamber of Commerce, presented the opportunities and challenges of businesses in Swedish Lapland.
Cold weather, qualified labour and reliable circumstances gave Facebook reason to establish their servers in Luleå. By looking across borders we can develop the potential of trade. The biggest export markets are northern Norway and northern Finland.
-I would like to give the EU a big hand when it comes to handling the obstacles and removing trade barriers, Mr. Lind said.
The biggest challenges are the availability of skilled personnel and infrastructural issues, all transport routes are built in south north direction, there is a lack of east west bound communications and a lack of railroad capacity.
Ms. Alma Karabeg, SIVA International Management AS, presented the Business Safari concept; practical Business to Business activities between companies in northern Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. By mapping the needs of the businesses in Northern Norway, scouting Russian, Swedish and Finnish businesses by sector, new opportunities for business cooperation evolve.
-We do not need to invent the wheel again by starting new projects, instead we should increase the added value and the cooperation, Ms. Karabeg said.
Ms. Dorota Witoldsson, Programme Manager, Cross-Border Cooperation, DG Regio of the European Commission, highlighted the northern parts of the Baltic Sea as a stakeholder at a macro regional level. The aim of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy is to save the sea, connect the region and increase prosperity by establishing an integrated approach to identify needs, solutions and match them with available resources, mobilize projects, strengthen cooperation mechanisms.
Ms. Witoldson gave some good practice examples of implementation of the strategy, many within the NSPA area. Two examples are Bothnian Green Logistic Corridor, another one is Nordic Logistic Corridor.
Mr. Ramon Van Barneveld, Maritime policy, outermost regions and Arctic, DG Mare of the European Commission, briefly presented the joint communication on the Arctic Policy adopted on 26 June 2012. Conclusions from the Council on the communication are expected at the end of this year.
Mr. Matti Pennanen, Mayor of Oulu, North Finland, gave his perspective on the Barents region and future visions for a growing region in four different countries. In order to go from vision to reality the area needs more attention in policy making processes.
- Our part of Europe is often forgotten in EU policy documents. How to create awareness and transmit our message is a challenge, Mr. Pennanen said.
One of the questions from the audience was which can be the most important tool that the public sector can provide to support the local businesses.
Mr. Lind highlighted the need to find qualified labour, a great challenge is to secure workers in public sector in the future, as he sees a shift of qualified labor from public sector to well-paid jobs in private sector. Ms. Karabeg, found is important to develop tools that can be used in several different contexts.
Another question was raised directly to Mr. Colin Wolfe, Head of Unit DG Regio of the European Commission, sitting in the audience, on how the Arctic strategy could contain. Mr. Wolfe hopes to go from country specific approaches to a more holistic view.
The seminar was followed by a networking reception to provide participants and NSPA stakeholders an opportunity to meet in a relaxed atmosphere.
View the speakers' presentations:
From left: Mikael Janson North Sweden European Office, Åsunn Lyngedal North Norway European Office, Torgeir Larsen State Secretary Foreign Ministry of Norway, Kerstin Brandelius-Johansson Mid Sweden European Office, Kari Aalto North and East Finland EU Office.