The past year has been characterized by both successes and misfortunes. After a good implementation of the Midway Alignment project, a new CEF application was submitted with the support of the Finnish and Swedish governments. We hoped to acquire EU support for the construction of a new, innovative and tailor-made ferry for the Kvarken route. Therefore, our disappointment was great when the application did not even proceed to the handling phase due to a technical defect. We had let ourselves be convinced that the defect could be handled in the application process, but this was not the case. However, this does not mean that the important project has come to a halt. The MA project is a strategic development project that extends far into the future and encompasses various parts. The work within the project will continue, and the two governments also continue to view the project in a positive light. The year 2017 will become an important year when we take the whole project to a new level, and we hope to be able to secure financing for at least a significant part of the project during the next year. Functional east-west connections are not only important for the region but also for the two states. As previously mentioned, we will continue with our work and maintain a strong faith in the future. We want to build for the future and invest in the Kvarken region’s know-how, growth potential and shared critical mass – not just content ourselves with “short-term survival”.
The Kvarken Council has both received and taken an important role as the leader and coordinator of the ferry process because the Council is a neutral organization, both nationally and politically. As a result, we have had an active role in the cross-border cooperation. Our most important task is to protect and develop the solidarity and unity in the region, which is why we have invested a great deal of time and resources in functional connections, a prerequisite for all other cooperation. With this in mind, we will create a new strategy for the Council in 2017 and, in parallel with this process, we will also review the structures for the cross-border work in the region within the context of the E12 project. How can we strengthen the region’s standing in relation to the capital regions and the rest of the world? This will be a key question in our coming work. But an important part of our work is also to support the development of eg the tourism industry in the region through the project Spotlight High-Low Coast.
The Kvarken Council is a very active and versatile association – despite its limited resources – and the association is often referred to as a role model for other European border regions. The association was even awarded the AEBR organization’s (Association of European Border Regions) prestigious award for “outstanding achievements in European cross-border cooperation”. Thanks to the good work by NLC-Ferry/Wasaline regarding the ferry traffic, the important cooperation and feeling of solidarity between the peoples in the Kvarken region have grown in the last few years. We have also witnessed great commitment for the ferry issue from the public sector, the economic life and the inhabitants on both sides of the Kvarken. It is very important for us to tend to this dedication carefully because it provides us with a stable foundation for future work.
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to our committed staff and Board, and I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a big thank you to the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Secretariat of the Botnia-Atlantica programme as their financing has actively enabled the continuation of the important Nordic cooperation within the framework of diverse cross-border cooperation projects.
Forwards – together!