30 / 01 / 2022

Director’s greeting – The future is here – and it’s ours

Greeting by Mathias Lindström.

The Kvarken Council’s first operating year as an EGTC is now behind us. During this first year, we’ve been able to state numerous times how the restructuring truly was the right decision and its timing excellent. The deepening of Nordic cooperation is more important than ever, especially in these worrying times with a horrifying war nearby. We’re facing a learning process in which the EGTC tool and its effects continue to seek their form, and we will endeavor to discover the most advantageous and smooth working methods that will benefit our member organizations and region in the best possible way.

Our new organizational form and the process up to its establishment have generated considerable interest both in the Nordic countries and Europe. The establishment process that resulted in our EGTC status on 31 December 2020 is already considered a best practice throughout the Nordic countries and Europe, but even the ongoing process will benefit organizations that decide to form an EGTC. We’re paving the way and breaking new ground for Nordic cooperation.

Our EGTC status reinforces European interest-representation that takes place via the Kvarken Council seeing as we’re now also an official partner in the EGTC Platform. We’ve also been invited and granted membership to the Scandria Alliance cooperation platform during our first operating year. In addition to this, the Kvarken Council is a member of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) and the European Straits Initiative (ESI). In other words, our preparedness for European interest-representation is high, and it has been further reinforced throughout the year.

In our first operating year as an EGTC, the number of members and interest in the membership have increased, which was also one of the objectives of the restructuring; to anchor Nordic cooperation more widely in the region at all levels. This effort, in combination with the looming end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the launch of the pride of Kvarken, the new Aurora Botnia ferry, have led to dramatically increased interest in Nordic cooperation in our region. At the same time, this sets out requirements on our organization, and we must meet the demands that have emerged in our region with guidance and support. Consequently, the hiring of new staff has proven timely, and the recruitment of a Development Manager on the Swedish side has filled a vacuum and a long-existing need. This is confirmed by the great reception of our new resource in the region, and we warmly welcome Veronica Berg to Kvarken cooperation.

Major business investments that are planned in the whole Kvarken region increase the need for cross-border cooperation. The Kvarken Council EGTC plays an important role in this because we can function as a platform for all measures that require cross-border coordination. The region’s investments fall within a big push in Europe for a green transition. With proper coordination, we can make our home, the Kvarken region, a world leader in this regard. This also coincides with the new Interreg Aurora programme, which will begin in 2022. The programme allows the Kvarken Council EGTC and its members to collaborate over a larger region. In fact, this work has already begun because we’re actively seeking new cooperation partners in Northern Sweden and Northern Finland. The new Aurora programme will become substantial, but we have a stable foundation and established cooperation within our EGTC. Therefore, we’re an attractive cooperation partner even within this programme.

The work process to produce our new strategy began in 2021, and the strategy heavily emphasizes active participation. All members have shown great interest in the process, and some non-members have even been granted an observer status to follow the process and gain insights into it. The new strategy is due to be completed in 2022.

The Kvarken Council and formal cooperation across the Kvarken celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022. The planning of Kvarkenfest – a major event with music, culture, and food from the region – was started well in advance in 2021. The festival stems from the Kvarken Council’s desire to celebrate its 50th anniversary together with the region’s inhabitants. The folk festival will be held on 18 June 2022 at Elisa Stadion in Vaasa, Finland. The region lacks a true folk festival that allows people to socialize and build up the contacts they lost during the pandemic and the Kvarken connection’s rocky years. We have excellent conditions for cooperation with the new ferry connection and the region’s major industrial investments, but contacts may be formed and strengthened only through encounters between people.

We have the potential to make our region the best in the world, whilst global events and the green transition give us an edge. The ferry is operational, east-west flight routes are coming, the EGTC instrument is in place, enormous industrial investments are underway, and we can offer safe and high-quality living environments close to nature and the sea as well as world-class education. All that remains is to bring this to the attention of those not living in the region – or even in the same country. We’re well-placed to tell the rest of the world about this, forming a positive challenge in the coming years. The Kvarken region has the will, ambition, and necessary tools in place, which makes us unique. Let’s get to work.

Forwards – together!

Mathias Lindström
Director, Kvarken Council EGTC