The difficult year of 2020 is now behind us. Layoffs, empty order books, loneliness, social distancing, and the patchwork of remote working and remote teaching have become familiar to many. Even so, positive things have also taken place. We have a record number of investments underway in the Kvarken region – and even more coming up.
Nordic cooperation – What’s Happening?
The closing of borders has exposed the fragility of Nordic cooperation and integrated border areas. The role of borders, the lack of coordination between the Nordic countries, and the depth of the current collaboration became evident in the border areas during the pandemic; employees, families, friends, and businesses were affected by the sudden closing down of previously open borders. This has challenged the strength of current collaboration also within the Kvarken Council, although interactions have partly been maintained through digital tools. Nevertheless, launching new cooperation has proven especially challenging.
Fortunately, we can already see that the year 2020 has brought together many successful collaborations, such as a Nordic battery belt connecting the whole Kvarken region with our Norwegian friends in Nordland County. The topic of a fixed linked over the Kvarken emerged once again thanks to new construction techniques, calculations, contacts from investors and, most of all, new major investments and establishments all over the Kvarken region. Previous intensive work and the victorious safeguarding of the Kvarken connection plays a large and significant role in this context. The business life believes in the region, understands growth opportunities and, above all, recognizes the benefits resulting from the Kvarken connection and a strong willingness to cooperate. This has become evident on several occasions; already in 2018 when Wärtsilä and its former CEO Mr Jaakko Eskola revealed the reasons behind the placement of the Smart Technology Hub in Vaasa, when FREYR Battery’s CEO Mr Tom Jensen recently stated that our region’s deep cross-border cooperation played a role in their battery plant establishment in Mo i Rana, and when Rally Sweden’s CEO Mr Glenn Olsson explained why Umeå was chosen as the sport event’s new host city as of 2022. Umeå’s solid concept was further strengthened thanks to the strong region and the city’s proximity to Finland with the Umeå–Vaasa ferry.
Joakim Strand, Chairman of the Board, Kvarken Council EGTC
We are lucky to have many things to look forward to in the Kvarken region, but we also have cause to thoroughly examine Nordregio’s recently published recommendations on how trust in cross-border cooperation can be built amongst the region’s inhabitants after a time of obvious obstacles and borders in our border areas (http://pub.nordregio.org/pb-2021-3-covid-crossborder/#). Nordregio’s first point discusses reuniting the people and rebuilding trust. I believe that the new ferry affords us enormous potential for grassroots cooperation and that the Kvarken Council and its collaboration network needs to both plan and act to rebuild what we had and to further develop it. Initiatives from inhabitants, associations, and other groups are very welcome regarding this matter.
Fortunately, the Kvarken region’s inhabitants have something to look forward to – the planning of a jubilee year is in full swing, with the aim of celebrating the connection, the new ferry, the cooperation, future visions, culture, the business life, and grassroots cooperation. The celebrations will culminate in the Kvarkenfest folk festival on June 18th, 2022! Among other causes for celebration, we rejoice the end to the pandemic, the Kvarken Council’s new EGTC status, and the Council’s 50th anniversary. Everyone is welcome, both young and old, from the east and the west!
We have everything we need to work together and build an even stronger, more attractive, active, and safe region to live and work in. We are heading for better times in large and small alike.
I would like to thank the Kvarken Council’s determined staff and Board for their excellent cooperation as well as the region’s other cooperation partners, businesses, and organizations that have taken the Kvarken region one step closer to becoming the world’s best place to live and work in, both for individuals and businesses.
Chairman of the Board
Kvarken Council EGTC