Catalyst for the Kvarken Region
Many perhaps associate the Kvarken Council mainly with the Kvarken ferry traffic and the Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor project. Even though these two aspects have been the Kvarken Council’s focus for the past few years, the association also continuously participates in several other projects. Development Manager Ms Susanna Ehrs elaborates on the association’s function and tasks.
“The Kvarken Council is a Nordic cross-border cooperation forum for the three Regional Councils of Ostrobothnia as well as the Regional Council of Västerbotten and the Örnsköldsvik Municipality. It’s one of the official cross-border operators of the Nordic Council of Ministers,” Susanna explains.
The Kvarken Council was founded already in 1972 inspired e.g. by the ideological work of the associations Pohjola-Norden in Finland and Föreningen Norden in Sweden. The Kvarken Council has functioned as an association since 2008.
“Our responsibilities cover all cross-border operations in the Kvarken Region – in other words, we work with more than just one issue,” Susanna highlights. “Our neutrality is our strength on all levels ranging from politics to geography and other issues. We can say that we’re a catalyst for cross-border cooperation as regards the economic life, public sector, infrastructure, culture and education,” she adds.
The association functions first and foremost for the benefit of its members. Its main members are the three Regional Councils of Ostrobothnia, the cities of Vaasa, Seinäjoki, Kokkola and Pietarsaari in Finland, and Regionförbundet Västerbottens Län and the Örnsköldsvik Municipality in Sweden. Further, it has dozens of other members, such as municipalities, authorities and organizations.
Susanna describes the Kvarken Council as a very effective organization – its 2.6 permanent employees accomplish a great many things.
Susanna Ehrs has worked with Nordic cooperation for several years, and she has been with the Kvarken Council since 2009. She describes the Council as the official forum for all cross-border issues in the Kvarken Region.
“We provide a cooperation platform for all the parties in the region and belong to one of the most active operators amongst the twelve Nordic border commissions. We also partake in several European networks such as the European Straits Initiative (ESI), which gathers together all the European straits, e.g. the English Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Gulf of Finland. ESI is very impressed with our association because no other member has one like it,” Susanna reveals.
The Botnia-Atlantica programme forms the Kvarken Council’s most important project funding instrument, and Susanna works closely with its secretarial staff.
“Project applications and funding for cross-border projects are amongst my most important tasks. In addition, I keep in contact with other members and the Nordic Council of Ministers, and I also handle part of the Board work and the association’s basic administration in close cooperation with the Director.”
The Kvarken Council has several own projects and also functions as a key operator in projects administered by others. One example of such a project is the Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor, which has brought a great deal of visibility for the Kvarken Council in the past few y
“Our operations underwent a major change in 2011 when the region was confronted with a new situation: we were left without a ferry connection, the lifeline of the region. The ferry connection forms the basis of all cooperation, and the project that was launched to secure the connection has received enormous support from the economic life, the public sector and the grass-root level. Our daily work focuses on the securing of the ferry connection, and the mission is taken seriously on all levels. Giving up is not an option – we’ll continue our work until we find a long-term solution,” Susanna states.
The purpose of the Kvarken Council is to:
- Improve the cooperation and integration in the Kvarken Region.
- Lower and remove border obstacles.
- Utilize the region’s possibilities and advance its development.
Development Manager Susanna Ehrs, Communications Manager Johanna Häggman and Director Mathias Lindström deep in discussion at the Kvarken Council’s office in Pukinkulma, Vaasa.
Text and photo: Anna Sand