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Fehmarn Belt cross-border cooperation highlighted at global research conference “Border Regions in Transition”

Published the 13 July 2016

The 15th conference on Border Regions in Transition (BRIT) took place from 17 to 20 May 2016 in Hamburg (Germany) and Sönderborg (Denmark). The BRIT conference, with more than 150 registered participants, is a leading forum for academics, policy-makers and practitioners interested in the social, political and economic relevance of border studies and  cross-border regional development. A good opportunity for Region Zealand to present the work undertaken in the Fehmarnbelt Committee!

The BRIT conference put spotlight on the changing significance of national borders and city-regions in a world where national borders are simultaneously opened and closed and the theories developed by border studies appear to be more fragile than ever before.

As the conference this year took place at the German-Danish land border, the programme included a study trip to historical attractions and cross-border institutions in the area. However, there are two German-Danish borders: the land-border and the maritime border of the 18 kilometer wide Fehmarn Belt between Region Zealand (Denmark) and Kreis Ostholstein (eastern part of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany). The cross-border cooperation of the Fehmarnbelt Committee is a good practice case of cross-border strait cooperation and Region Zealand was invited to present this case at the BRIT conference.

The work of the Femern Belt Committee and the importance of cross-border cooperation across straits were presented under the title “Strategic Region Building in the Fehmarnbelt Corridor”. It was the opportunity for Region Zealand to remind the audience with the main specificities of the Fehmarn Belt region and the challenges of maritime cross-border cooperation in this region.

The Fehmarnbelt Committee in a glance

 The Fehmarn Belt region on both sides of the belt is mainly a rural area with small towns. The Fehmarnbelt Committee was established in 2009 and has 24 members representing the municipalities and regions, business,  trade unions, tourism, culture, education, nature and environment. The aim is to support the development of the Fehmarnbelt Region to an integrated and competitive region. A vital trigger of development in the cross-border region is a treaty between Denmark and Germany on the construction of a fixed link across the belt. The construction of the link (a tunnel) is expected to start in 2018/2019 and the construction phase will last 8 years. The fixed link is a green solution which will shorten the distance between Scandinavia and Europe with 160 kilometer, as much of the traffic today passes through Jutland and cross the land-border to Germany.

As the Fehmarnbelt region is a rural area, there is a possibility that the cities of Copenhagen and Hamburg will get the most advantage of the tunnel. However, the Fehmarnbelt Committee sees the fixed link is an opportunity and work to take advantage of it. The main focuses of the Committee are:

Integrated labour market and mutual recognition of educations/skills

  • Political lobby activities at national level to reduce barriers to a cross-border labour market
  • Supporting development of cross-border employment services (Interreg projects)

People-to-people activities

  • Summer school for high school students
  • Sports day for primary schools
  • Development of Interreg project with funding opportunities for cultural micro projects

Platform for a joint local and regional Danish-German agenda for the fixed link                      

  • Sharing knowledge of the national agendas of the fixed link and hinterland connections
  • Representation of both nature conservation associations, trade unions and educational institutions

Cooperation with other cross-border initiatives  - raising the profile of the Fehmarnbelt Region

  • Supporting the European Straits Initiative by promoting the need of recognition of the particular characteristics of European straits within European policies
  • Both Region Zealand and the County of Ostholstein were partner of the Interreg IV C NOSTRA project (Network of Straits) 2011-2014
  • Femernbelt Development is a partner of the Interreg Europe project PASSAGE 2016-2020
  • Partner of the Fehmarnbelt Days (this year in Hamburg, September 20th -22nd)
  • Cooperation agreement with sister organisation at the land border
  • Delegations and study trips to Bruxelles, Brenner tunnel etc.

It is the second time that a partner of the European Straits Initiative has the opportunity to highlight specificities of straits during BRIT conferences. In 2014, BRIT conference was held in Arras (Pas-de-Calais), with a specific focus on Dover Strait and a presentation of the European Straits Initiative by Pas-de-Calais County Council.

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