NSPA representatives from Finland, Sweden and Norway met with the European Commission Directorate-General of Regional and Urban Policy, on the 28th of November, to discuss and give their position on the on-going negotiations on the EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework.
Ms. Satu Vehreävesa, Chair of the NSPA political representatives, opened the meeting by underlining that although the northern sparsely populated areas suffer from specific challenges, they are promising and with right incentives and support have the potential to bring added value for the whole of Europe.
Mr. Kari Aalto, the director of East and North Finland EU Offices, thanked DG Regio representatives for the years of fruitful collaboration. It has allowed the NSPA to be a part of the bigger picture; the regions welcome the objectives of the Europe 2020 and consider them the common goals for the NSPA as well. Before handing in the NSPA position paper to the Commission representatives, Mr. Aalto, highlighted some of the key points in the NSPA position:
- The extra allocation for the sparsely populated regions should be minimum the current index verified allocation ( ~39 euros/inhabitant/year) and reflect the actual needs and challenges in the NSPA.
- Sufficient resources for European territorial cooperation are vital to enable territorial, cross-border and macro regional cooperation which supports competitiveness of the whole of Europe.
- Regional aid is part of a sustainable policy for the NSPA and thus the main features of the Regional Aid Guidelines should be maintained in their current form.
"The NSPA is definitely in the heart of DG Regio", said Mr. Normunds Popens, Deputy Director-General of DG Regio.
The extensive cooperation has raised the Commission's awareness of the need to address the specific challenges of northern sparsely populated areas. As a result of this, for the coming programming period, the Commission has proposed a separate budget line for the extra allocation for the NSPA. In addition, the Commission mentions the NSPA in the position paper addressed to the Member States which acts as the basis for the negotiations on the Partnership Agreement. The informal dialogue on the Partnership Agreements has been started between the Commission and the member states of the EU. Mr. Popens reminded that it still to be seen how the NSPA specificities are addressed in the Partnership Agreements of Finland and Sweden. However, Finland and Sweden are expected to come back with concrete proposals on how the operational programmes will recognise the challenges and opportunities of the NSPA .
"Now is the time for this dialogue", Mr. Popens emphasized. He added that although formally the discussions take place between the state level and the Commission, DG Regio is ready to work with the NSPA and receive concrete suggestions on particular means how the challenges should be addressed.