There is already a need for the northernmost regions of Sweden to start preparing for the EU’s future cohesion policy and the next period of the structural funds starting in 2021. In order to get the best preparation and showcase the potential for growth and development in northern Sweden, Europaforum Norra Sverige together with NSPA (Northern Sparsely Populated Areas) have decided to bring forward an OECD study.
The NSPA network consists of regions in north Norway, north and east Finland and representatives from the four northernmost counties of Sweden. The purpose of the network is working together to raise awareness of the NSPA in the EU institutions, to influence EU policy and to provide a platform for best practice. This time the cooperation will result in a study carried out by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), with the aim of providing up to date facts and new analysis which will form new arguments to give the EU continued incentives to invest in the NSPA regions. The OECD has a very high reputation and their reports often constitute a base for political strategies both on the European and the nation level. An OECD study of this kind – a so called territorial review – has the potential to provide useful data which can be used to form concrete propositions and prove that development and growth in the northern parts also bring added value for European growth.
The work on the report formally began on the 10th to 11th of March, when representatives from each of the 14 NSPA regions gathered in Brussels. During two busy days both internal meetings and external meetings with the OECD as well as the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG regio) were held.
The meeting with OECD included a brief presentation from Enrique Garcilazo (Head of Unit, Regional Development Policy Division of the OECD) regarding the usual working process for the OECD’s territorial reviews and a discussion on aspects that are new for this particular report. Garcilazo also mentioned the uniqueness of the NSPA report – which will cover many regions in three different countries that nevertheless are experiencing similar challenges – already are generating attention and curiosity throughout Europe, but also globally, for instance in countries like Canada and Australia.
The reason for NSPA’s meeting with DG Regio was to inform the European Commission about the study. Furthermore, the delegation wanted to investigate the DG’s interest in the study and its results, and also explore what role the Commission might play in the process of drafting the study. Overall, DG regio - represented by Nicola De Michelis (in charge of the development of EU’s cohesion policy) showed clear interest and put forward concrete proposals on how the Commission could be involved in the study as well as the working progress.
The next step in the working process is for each of the 14 regions to compose a background report which will be submitted to the OECD along with numerous regional data based on a questionnaire provided by the OECD. The background reports and data will be submitted during the month of May.
For further collection of information, the OECD will make three study missions in total – one mission to each of the three countries. During these missions, meetings will be held with local and regional actors as well as workshops with actors throughout the geographical area of NSPA. The first study mission is scheduled for Finland in the beginning of June this year.
The final report is planned to be launched sometime by the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.