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European straits' conference - Transport, a key issue

How to connect the two shores of a strait efficiently to allow an integrated development? This question was the opportunity to give an overview of three existing projects at different stages of implementation.

Mr Mathias Larsson, Vice President of the Kvarken Council, provided a highlight on the public ferry between the cities of Umeå (Sweden) and Vaasa (Finland). Facing great trouble to find a private company that would agree to operate the ferry after bankruptcy of the former ferry company, elected representatives of both shores of the strait have decided to unite their forces and to invest in thisessential ferry link, through a direct participation to the capital.  A very good idea, as it appears today. Ferry is a good business for the municipalities, explained Mr Larsson, highlighting the benefits of the ferry connection for the local economy in both cities. A conclusion that surely raised interest of participants in the room, such as Mr Maurizio Caldo, Vice Mayor of Pantelleria municipality on the strait of Tunisia and looking for opportunities to re-launch the former ferry link between his island and Tunisia mainland.

Two other illustrations came from tunnel projects in the Fehmarnbelt and in the Gulf of Finland. The idea of building a tunnel in the Fehmarnbelt strait is actually related to the decision of building the Øresund fixed link. As explained Stig Rømer Winther, director of Fehmarnbelt Development (Denmark), once the Øresund fixed link exists the Fehmarnbelt remains the only missing link for Sweden and Scandinavia connection with the continent, which is of great importance for Swedish companies’ development. Thus, a project of rail and road tunnel between Denmark and Germany was born. Many years later, construction works are expected to start in the fall this year on the Danish side. As a lesson from this experience, Mr Winther said: the EU needs to collect the learnings, so that we don’t have to start all over again at every mega project.

Building on this example, Mr Kaarel Kose, policy advisor at the Union of Harju County Municipalities (Estonia), explained that the project of tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki was born from exchanges with the Danish partners as part of the European Straits Initiative and the INTERREG IVC NOSTRA project. What appeared to be a crazy idea at first became a little bit more tangible and started to look as a realistic thing to do. FinEst Link project, funded by Interreg Central Baltic programme, has enabled to implement a feasibility study, which confirms that the next step can be taken. Ms Malla Paajanen, project manager at Helsinki Uusimaa Regional Council, testified that the project led to a serious discussion between the authorities, locally, nationally and at the EU level. We defined the first technical and economical concept and showed that it could be possible. Since then, the two Member States have taken the leadership of the project, together with the two capitals. There is also some interest from private investors. To be continued…


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