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Kvarken Council soon to become an EGTC

On 21 May 2018, the Kvarken Council annual general meeting has taken an historical decision: transforming the Council from a registered association to an European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC).

The EGTC is a European legal instrument for cooperation, which exists since 2006. The EGTC is an instrument specifically designed to support cooperation, most of the time cross-border cooperation, across Europe. Today, approximatively 55 EGTCs exist in the European Union and many new ones are being established. With the exception of the Swedish Region Skåne, which is a member of the Central European Transport Corridor EGTC, there is currently no EGTC in the Nordic countries of the European Union and the Kvarken Council would be the first one.

The Kvarken Council’s Board serves as the working committee for the EGTC process and the Council’s office, commissioned by the Board, has started work to transform the legal form of the Council from a registered association into an EGTC. In the course of this process, the Kvarken Council’s tasks will be analysed, based on the members’ requirements and wishes, and various models for the Council’s future work will be examined, e.g. in the form of committees.

Towards an enlargement of the partnership

Further, the office studies how the municipalities in the Kvarken region could be involved in the cross-border cooperation more efficiently. The new organisation also opens up the possibility to include members from Norway in the future. Mr. Olav Jern, Honorary regional mayor, has provided the office with a lot of help in this work.

Mr. Arne Langset, secretary-general of Indre Helgeland county in Norway, visited the Kvarken Council’s office to discuss the new cooperation structure and the future. Helgeland is one of the 3 counties of the Province of Nordland and, while it is home to one third of the population in the Province, its international industry cluster manufactures two thirds of the goods produced in northern Norway. The distance to the Nordic capitals of Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki is one thousand kilometres.

Mr. Langset pointed out that widening the horizon and including in the Kvarken region also Norway’s Helgeland, sharing the border with Sweden’s Västerbotten, gives a strategically important corridor with 600,000 inhabitants, strong industrial zone and great growth potential. According to Mr. Langset, the municipalities in Helgeland are interested in joining this new EGTC covering three countries:

Mo i Rana cooperates with Narvik Port and supports the inclusion of the port in the Core corridor via Haparanda in Sweden. We in Helgeland are divided in this matter as our goods will not be transported 500 km north and then rerouted towards the east or the south. We have a straight 500-km route to Umeå in Sweden and are there connected both to the east and to the south via the NLC terminal in Umeå. For us, the ports in the Kvarken Strait are the natural connections to the proposed extensions of the EU Core corridors of ScanMed and North Sea-Baltic.

Thanks to E12 cooperation, we already have an established common region and are able to join together three thriving, innovative and growing regions. Further, we have adopted as our starting-point a common cross-border traffic strategy across the countries. This is unique in the world and it is interesting to continue this development process into a common EGTC for the E12 area.”

 

Next steps

The Kvarken Council’s Board and office meet up regularly to discuss topical issues and to advance the EGTC process. A first information event has been held with the organisations which were chosen as observers for the EGTC process, viz. MidtSkandia cross-border committee and Blå Vägen association. The other Nordic cross-border committees and the Kvarken Council’s other cooperation partners also follow the process with keen interest.

The proposal for new Statutes for the Kvarken Council EGTC is planned to be ready to be presented to potential new members in January 2019. The ambition is that the Kvarken Council’s annual general meeting in May 2019 will be able to take the decision to establish the Kvarken Council EGTC.

As an EGTC, the Kvarken Council will carry more weight to coordinate the development in the region and to advance, together, issues of regional importance. Establishment as an EGTC will improve the visibility and impact of the Kvarken region’s important crossborder cooperation on the regional, national, Nordic and European Union levels.

The establishment of this EGTC in the Kvarken is the result of a long process, including exchanges with the EGTC of the international marine park of the Strait of Bonifacio as part of NOSTRA project developed within the European Straits Initiative.

 

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