Around 100 participants from the NSPA gathered in Umeå on the 24-25th of October for the NSPA Forum. The focus of the discussions were on the future of the NSPA network, how and by what measures can the NSPA network take the next step in its cooperation? Key note speakers included representatives from DG REGIO of the European Commission, European Parliament, authors of the Nordregio study on the NSPA, the OECD, as well as regional representatives from theNSPA.
Around 100 participants from the NSPA gathered in Umeå on the 24-25th of October for the NSPA Forum. The discussions were focused on the future of the NSPA network, how and by what measures can the NSPA network take the next step in its cooperation?
Key note speakers included representatives from DG REGIO, European Commission, European Parliament, authors of the Nordregio study on the NSPA, the OECD, as well as regional representatives of the NSPA.
The forum was organised in cooperation with Europaforum Northern Sweden that was held on the 23-24th of October. The afternoon of the 24th of October the Europaforum Northern Sweden, included a joint session with the NSPA Forum participants, starting out with some reflections from Swedish MEP Jens Nilsson, highlighting the history of the Europaforum and the NSPA network, and the importance to make the northernmost parts of Europe visible in the EU.
Satu Vehreävesa, Director of Regional development, Regional Council of North-Savo and spokesperson for the NSPA network followed up and introduced some of the characteristics of the NSPA putting forward both the challenges and the opportunities for the northernmost regions of Europe.
Dorota Zaliwska, head of unit DG REGIO, European Commission gave an introduction to EU cohesion policy in the light of the NSPA and the ongoing review of the European structural and investment funds. The partnership agreement is underway in member states, Sweden being among the member states where the process is well advanced. Dorota Zaliwska's advice to regions preparing the programs was to ask oneself where the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can add most value based on assessment of needs and development potential. Given the limited resources, what are the most pressing priorities for the region? The negotiations with Sweden are ongoing and a new draft partnership agreement for Sweden will be available during November.
Abel Schumann, Economist, Regional Development, the OECD, presented some reflections on the NSPA compared to other rural areas in the OECD countries.
In the evening reception, Erik Bergqvist, Chariman of the region of Västerbotten, welcomed all participants to Umeå and Jan Björinge, CEO of Umeå2014- European Capital of Culture, presented the long-term work with culture driven growth by the city of Umeå.
The forum continued on the 25th of October focusing on the work ahead.
Swedish MEP Jens Nilsson, introduced the morning session commenting on the NSPA in a European and national context, highlighting the importance of engaging in EU policy and continue the cooperation and make visible the NSPA in the EU.
Abel Schumann, OECD, presented some food for thought for the following working group sessions, giving some reflections on characteristics and facts of the NSPA compared to other remote or rural areas in OECD countries. In what fields can improved cooperation between regions lead to more effective governance?
-Since distances in and between the regions are much larger than in other rural or remote areas of other OECD countries, cross border cooperation is even more crucial in the NSPA, said Schumann.
Erik Gloersen, co-author of the Nordregio study on the NSPA (2009) gave a brief history of the NSPA network and the policy work around the study.
-The NSPA exists because of Europe. The vision is a European looking vision, said Gloersen.
Putting demographic trends under control is one of the core objectives for the entire NSPA. The policy road map focus has been to fully exploit the NSPA resources, via proactive policies for balanced and dynamic local communities. Branding (how citizens perceive their own region and how the region is perceived externally) is also a prominent feature of NSPA documentation. Key issues for taking the next step, according to Gloersen, are; how to create a better multi-level dialogue? What EU instruments can be mobilised?
Questions were raised concerning climate change, ageing population, as well as the need of perhaps focusing more on the soft values of the NSPA such as the human aspects and not only on the hard values. Living conditions for young people in rural areas was raised as one important focus.
A workshop session followed where participants discussed the following questions:
What are the common priorities and objectives of the regions in the NSPA?
Would a new study on the NSPA be of interest?
How do we take the next step in the cooperation of the NSPA network and its regions?
The next NSPA Forum will be held in Bodø, Norway in 2014.
More information about Europaforum Northern Sweden