Kvarken Council’s present strategy for 2014–2016, with aim at 2020, will expire at the year-end and work with drafting a new strategy is under way, with Mr Olav Jern at the helm. Olav has, for most of his career, worked with Nordic co-operation, characterized by good and frequent contacts with the Kvarken Council and its members and, consequently, he was just the right man for the job.
To start from the beginning, we have to rewind to year 1976. Olav was then elected to Vaasa City Council, in a time when Nordic cooperation was intensive and highly prioritized in Finland.
– Through my work at the Provincial Federation of Swedish Ostrobothnia, the Provincial Government and later, as the Mayor of the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, it has just rolled on. When Kvarken Council was reorganized in its present form in 2007–2008, I took part in the negotiations and then sat in the Board of the Kvarken Council for many years, Olav explains.
He has now retired from working life but his long commitment for Kvarken Council continues. He participated in drafting the current strategy and it was natural to ask him to lead the process also this time.
The concrete work with the strategy started in September, and the aim is to have the new strategy up for approval in Kvarken Council’s general meeting in May 2018. The process starts with an analysis of the surrounding world. What has happened since 2014? What will influence development in the coming years?
– The issue of Kvarken traffic has had an immensely important position in our work, and the next step in this work will largely influence the contents of the following strategy, Olav says. For me personally Kvarken traffic has been on the agenda since 1999, and it has been fascinating to follow the Midway Alignment project. I am impressed by what has been achieved, he continues.
Functional communitions form the foundation for all other cross-border cooperation, and they are also one of the priorities in the new strategy. Another is the support from the Nordic Council of Ministers and its action in cross-border issues.
– There are still differences in legislation in our countries, giving rise to border barriers which would be important to address, Olav explains.
Thirdly, the strategy must pay attention to the European Union and its programmes of support after 2020.
– Many projects have got their financing via structural funds in the present period, and we do not know as yet what amount of funds there will be available during the next period and what will their terms be, e.g. geographical requirements.Further, there is the issue whether or not Kvarken Council should be given the EGTC status. The point with EGTC, European Grouping for Territorial Co-operation, is that it would give Kvarken Council a new independent judicial status. It would help facilitate cross-border co-operation within the region.
Naturally, the most important aspect in drafting the strategy is what the Kvarken Council members want and need.
– We know that issues related to Kvarken traffic and other forms of co-operation are well backed up and that there is a will to promote contacts between the peoples, but it is not enough. The members must also be prepared to put in money, Olav says.
During the autumn, he will discuss with the members to hear about their needs and wishes.
– I believe that the work will run smoothly – there is a strong interest in increasing cross-border co-operation and all the signs are positive, he concludes.
Text and photo: Anna Sand