On March 15 the NSPA steering committee met with the European Commission at DG Regio to discuss the ongoing OECD study. Representatives from the Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish NSPA took part.
Mikel Landabaso, Acting Director, Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development and Northern Europe, DG Regio, European Commission, and Dorota Zaliwska, Head of Unit, Denmark, Lithuania and Sweden, DG Regio, European Commission, along with other representatives from the Finnish unit at DG Regio and from INTERREG programmes, participated in the discussion on how the OECD study may contribute towards informing and adjusting the EU's cohesion policy.
Satu Vehreävesa, Chairwoman of the NSPA steering committee, opened the meeting by thanking all the members of the European Commission present for the invitation to DG Regio. On his part, Mikel Landabaso, who had recently participated at the Europaforum Norra Sverige seminar in Piteå, thanked the organisers warmly for the visit, whilst Dorota Zaliwska recalled her participation at the Europaforum Norra Sverige seminar in Umeå in 2013, where she was one the European Commission's main negotiators with Sweden before the current programming period.
Kari Aalto, Director of East & North Finland EU Office, introduced the NSPA-network, whilst Anders Josefsson, County Council of Norrbotten and Vice-Chairman of Europaforum Norra Sverige, highlighted the importance of the study for further improved cooperation in the NSPA region. Moreover, all participants emphasized the opportunity to use the study as a tool for regional development in the 14 NSPA regions.
Mikel Landabaso noted that the study was "really timely" as it coincided with the negotiations for the next programming period (2021-2027). The study will provide updated data, facts and analyses that can be used as information and arguments in demanding continued attention on the part of the European Commission to the needs of the northern regions, which are important for the EU as a whole.
During the meeting Mikael Janson, Director of North Sweden European Office, provided a review of the study design and stressed that the study will offer stronger arguments for supporting smart regions outside the major urban centres by providing well-grounded analysis and recommendations, while Zofia Tucinska, Director of Mid Sweden European Office, presented the next steps before the study is published around the end of the year.
The European Commission representatives agreed upon the potential of the study. They thereby expressed the wish to continue the dialogue with the NSPA in order to ensure that the findings of the study had real potential to result in concrete and effective improvement proposals for the future EU regional policy. Finally, the meeting was closed by Risto Poutiainen, Regional Council of North Karelia, who expressed appreciation for the valuable information provided during the meeting and thanked again the European Commission representatives for the interest they are showing in the OECD study.
The discussion has brought many interesting thoughts and suggestions onto the table, including various support possibilities from the EU to the future work of the NSPA.
Before the meeting with the European Commission, the NSPA steering committee gathered to plan the future initiatives, both at the local level and in Brussels. Next on the agenda is the NSPA seminar in Mikkeli, Finland, on June 9-10. The NSPA also plans to hold a seminar in cooperation with the OECD during the "Open Days" week, on October 10-13, on how to best promote innovation in rural areas.
The OECD study is expected to be completed in November.