24.02.2020

Press Release on Future INTERREG Programmes in the Nordic Countries

2020-02-24

The cross-border cooperation body Kvarken Council held its Board meeting in Vaasa, Finland, on 17 February 2020. The Kvarken Council is an official cross-border operator funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and it consists of Region Västerbotten and Örnsköldsvik Municipality in Sweden as well as three Regional Councils of Ostrobothnia and the cities of Vaasa, Seinäjoki, Kokkola and Jakobstad in Finland.

The Kvarken Council has discerned ambitions to dissolve the programme geographies of Interreg Nord and Interreg Botnia-Atlantica in the next programme period and to combine them into one large programme geography. The Kvarken Council’s Board and its members strongly oppose such a radical and inappropriate change of programme geographies in Northern Sweden, Finland and Norway.

This proposal is based on the orientation paper “Cross-Border Cooperation in the Baltic Sea” drafted by DG-Regio. The document is found to contain several direct errors and, furthermore, it does not identify any benefits arising from a larger programme geography.

The Kvarken Council’s Board states that it is regrettable and surprising that there have been no solution-oriented, multilateral talks on a regional or national level concerning the issue. Furthermore, the region, councils or the cross-border cooperation body have not been consulted on the matter. The document does not explore how the region’s existing networks, cooperation and structures will be affected. A larger geography also means significantly longer travel times for administrative officials to the new programme area’s peripheries.

The Botnia-Atlantica programme (BA) is based on a functional geography over the regions in Norway, Sweden and Finland that share the same history, language and culture and have a long tradition of cross-border cooperation. The political leadership has attached high priority to the east-west cooperation and wants the east-west dimension to continue as the programme’s central foundation. Several organizations have established strong partnerships and a broad consensus over the years, both of which have been pivotal for the implementation of the existing programme and the good, concrete results that have been achieved within the programme area. Major changes to the programme geography may damage the established structures and long-term strategic, cross-border cooperation of the BA and Nord programmes.

Therefore, the Kvarken Council expresses its support for a joint statement drafted by Region Västerbotten, the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia and the Regional Council of Central Ostrobothnia concerning the matter as well as refers to a letter sent by the former Ministers Sven-Erik Bucht and Mika Lintilä to the European Commission’s President Juncker, Vice-President Katainen, Vice-President Oettinger and Commissioner Cretu in June 2018. The letter details how the region’s cooperation has developed successfully over a long period of time and how the maritime regions have increasingly grown into a functional region with high cross-border exchange, the BA programme as an important instrument. The Kvarken Council also shares the European Commission’s answer to the Ministers stating that the BA programme is efficient, well-managed and well-functioning.

Against this background, the Kvarken Council wishes to highlight the strong support for a renewed BA programme with the existing programme geography during the next programme period 2021–2027. In addition, the Kvarken Council refers to the region’s previous joint position for a Botnia-Atlantica programme 2021–2027.

By direction,

Olav Jern
Senior Advisor
The Kvarken Council
Tel. +358 44 320 6567

Mathias Lindström
Director
The Kvarken Council
Tel. +358 50 918 6462

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