On December 10–11, Northern Sweden gathered in Brussels with 50 regional representatives to participate in a meeting for Europe Forum Northern Sweden in the midst of the ongoing negotiations for the next program period for the EU "post-2020". The two days, organized by North Sweden invited a number of leading EU representatives including the head of the cabinet of Sweden's new EU commissioner.
Power collection for northern Sweden in the midst of EU negotiations
European Forum Northern Sweden, EFNS, is Norrbotten's, Västerbotten's, Västernorrlands and Jämtland Härjedalen's joint network for political influence efforts on EU issues. Each year, a larger forum is organized and between it, the Europe Forum's reporters from the four regions gather for discussions and adopt position papers on EU-related issues of importance for the region's development. In addition, an annual so-called extended reporting meeting is held with invited politicians and officials in addition to those included in the reporting groups. The expanded EFNS Reporting Forum has taken place in Brussels approximately every fourth in recent years.
This year's Brussels meeting involved the participation of representatives from the regions with politicians who have recently begun their four-year mandate in EFNS and a total of 50 politicians and officials. This is in addition to times when the EU is facing exciting changes with a new European Parliament, a new EU Commission which, after delays, took office just the week before, as well as ongoing intensive budget negotiations on the next long-term budget to actually rest at the turn of the year. To this may be mentioned challenges such as the UK's planned exit at the end of January. The EU offices for northern Sweden are also in the midst of a process of change in the process of establishing a unified office for the whole of northern Sweden at the turn of the year. During the days, the new office, under the working name North Sweden PLUS, took the opportunity to launch itself to a wider audience through an appreciated evening mingle with the participation of the Swedish choir in Brussels singing Christmas songs at Lucia theme for the participants from EFNS and invited guests.
It was a real gathering of power for northern Sweden to make its voice heard in the EU political center, in the midst of the ongoing negotiations, and to engage in direct dialogue with the actors in the midst of ongoing negotiations and processes. It was a packed program that also had to change as the majority of speakers and guests sat in these concurrent negotiations and in many cases just arrived in their new roles. The day after the EFNS, the big summit between EU heads of state and government, including the budget, would be held and the preparations and final negotiations before it was most intense.
Mammoth of a program with different perspectives on the negotiations
The speakers include, in addition to Northern Sweden's European Parliamentarian Erik Bergkvist from Västerbotten and former chairman of EFNS; Åsa Webber, the newly appointed Swedish EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson's closest associate in his new cabinet responsible for, among other things, the EU migration policy and in addition Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the chair of the European Committee of the Regions, which is one of the EU's advisory institutions to represent the regions interests, Janne Uusivirta, negotiator for Finland during the ongoing Finnish Presidency of the EU, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, EU's new Arctic Ambassador, Isabel Benjumea, Vice-President of the European Parliament's Regional Committee, Nikos Pantalo's expert on the European Commission's Directorate-General for Innovation Policy and Investment , Jeanette Lund, Industrial Policy Council and Mario Saric, Transport Council on Sweden's Permanent Representation to the EU, Jürgen Salay, Political Officer at the EU Commission's Directorate-General for Climate and Magnus Matisons, Project Manager at BioFuel Region in Västerbotten. The forum also adopted two positions on Northern Sweden's view of the future regional policy in the EU.
The forum was opened by newly appointed chairman Glenn Nordlund, Region Västernorrland, and was followed by Mikael Janson and Lotta Rönström from North Sweden and Mid Sweden who put the forum and Northern Sweden in a context for the ongoing negotiations and processes. Subsequently, Fabian Zuleeg from the leading Brussels think tank European Policy Center, EPC, gave a sweep of all the challenges the EU has to deal with and where everyone has to put their cloths to save the EU's foundations to unite Europe in a world where national self-interests more and more are standing in front of the common interests, which are basically the whole of the EU. Åsa Webber was then able to give an insight into the work of the all-new EU Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, who now has to deal with these challenges, not least the burning migration issue where proposals will be on the table as early as 2020.
In the ongoing discussions, the various issues that EFNS is working on will be raised. The pass was led by the staff of the upcoming North Sweden European Office and responsible reporters for each EFNS working group; In addition to the chairman Glenn Nordlund, Västernorrland, EFNS reporters such as Rickard Carstedt, Västerbotten, Thomas Andersson, Jämtland Härjedalen, Britta Flinkfelt, Norrbotten, and Robert Uitto, Jämtland Härjedalen. The various passports highlighted different EU perspectives and Northern Sweden's views on the ongoing discussions on the EU's future budget and orientation. The forum could be concluded by Elise Ryder Wikén for Jämtland Härjedalen invited to the next big European forum in Östersund April 2-3, which is also EFNS's 20th anniversary.
Discussions on the EU's long-term budget and regional policy
The EU's long-term budget was, of course, a hot topic under consideration. As negotiations on the content of the EU's next multi-annual budget for 2021-2027 are ongoing and will extend during the spring of 2020 under Romania's EU Presidency and not unlikely even during Germany's EU Presidency in the autumn of 2020, the EU regions are waiting for the outcome of how the distribution will look and what tools will be available for regional development within the regions and in cross-border cooperation with the support of the EU.
The positive for Northern Sweden is that the EU Commission has proposed that the special allocation, the so-called charity funds, which account for just over half of the regional support to the EFNS regions, be maintained and, not least, work can be attributed to EFNS through the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas network, NSPA , and the EU offices run in the EU. However, it is problematic that the scope of these EU funds is not entirely free, which reduces the regions' ability to use the money for targeted efforts in certain thematic areas such as transport and broadband expansion. For EFNS, there is a fear that the regional perspective will be reduced in favor of a national definition in the regulations for the allocation of funds in regional policy and EFNS therefore wants to see that the regions themselves have the opportunity to use the funds according to their needs and unique conditions.
New is, among other things, that the EU Commission proposes to introduce a redistribution mechanism that will favor regions with relatively poorer conditions to adapt in the climate change adaptation. At present, it is unclear how the fund should be designed and by what means, but the European Commission expects within 100 days to provide clearer guidelines on how the EU's new global investment strategy, the so-called European Green Given, should permeate all thematic areas and the EU. program, to be implemented. The very proposal for the EU's green change was presented in Brussels just as the rapporteur meeting was going on and the simultaneous UN climate negotiations COP25 in Madrid.
Regional development through innovation and smart specialization
Northern Sweden's innovation perspective is highlighted through the European Forum Northern Sweden, which actively drives issues in space, active aging, wind power, and the cascade principle for forest products. In discussions about Northern Sweden's contribution to the EU, the region's conditions were put forward which could contribute to Europe's innovation and growth during the coming program period. One example is that Northern Sweden, with Northvolt's battery factory in Skellefteå, will help the EU to self-supply in battery production and strengthen the Union industry.
Smart Specialization, which has helped to lift the region's role as a leading innovation player, will have more room and the proposed innovation and research program Horizon Europe looks to receive more funding than before in 2021-2027. This means that more collaboration and collaboration between politics, academia, and business at regional level is needed to build projects and development that can also seek support from the EU's research and innovation programs. This is based on interaction with a focus on which smart specialization provides regional competitive advantages at a European and global level in interaction with strong knowledge and business and development clusters and the capacity for industrial change in an ever-changing world.
Growth in our regions
As far as transport issues are concerned, the new regulation for the Connect Europe Facility, CEF, and the general direction previously adopted there, including with the extension of the corridor network of the Transeuropean Transport Network, TEN-T, will be included in accordance with the proposal of the European Commission, which is gratifying news for northern Sweden. It is also a result of Northern Sweden's idiosyncratic work on the EU arena and strategic efforts from the EU offices to the personal level in the EU corridors, and it gave the participants at EFNS an insight into the discussions about the importance of continued investments in infrastructure and beyond the North-south basin corridor, the Botanical Corridor, which is proposed to become an integral part of the EU's main Scandinavian-Mediterranean route, also the east-west crossroads.
Within the framework of the Arctic, Finland is striving for the EU to update its Arctic strategy from 2016, which will be a work that EFNS and the regions of NSPA must re-engage in, just as before and during the work on the current strategy, which thus got a much clearer focus on to develop the EU's own Arctic regions in northern Sweden and Finland, in addition to the major issues regarding climate change measures and a growing security policy interest linked to new transport routes and access to raw materials. Cooperation in the EU through its own regions in the north is even one of the tools for the EU to play a role and be able to contribute to peaceful development across the borders in the north. It is important that these perspectives also be included in an updated strategy.
In addition, there is great potential for the region's bioeconomy industry to assume leadership positions in the EU's joint climate work for the EU, but there are challenges. Within the framework of the forest, the region is facing headwinds from various member states and the EU as a whole about what one can use the forest for and not based on completely different ways of looking at forest and land with ignorance of northern Sweden's active forestry. This is something that EFNS, through the Brussels offices, has helped to gain greater insight into how the region's forestry is part of the solution and not the problem of climate change across the EU, but it is something that needs to be addressed even more forcefully and collectively in the legislative packages that is currently underway in the EU. It is otherwise problematic for northern Sweden who wants to maintain sustainable forestry. Not least interesting will be to see what role the forest will play in the so-called European green given that the European Commission will present in detail later this spring.
/Julia Hanson och Mikael Janson
Materials sent out for the extended rapporteur meeting in Brussels: