Curious on Kiruna: North Sweden’s networking event ahead of the Swedish Presidency
In the spring of 2023, Sweden holds the presidency of the Council of the EU and the inauguration will take place in Kiruna in northern Sweden – one of the most remote settlements of the EU. North Sweden European Office invited the EU journalists that are going to cover the European Commission's visit to Kiruna to a “Curious on Kiruna’’ event, with stakeholders from northern Sweden who them an introduction to northern Sweden and what the regions has to offer the green and digital transition. The event was a success with noteworthy media from all over Europe who wanted to know more about northern Sweden.
At the start of each presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Commission is invited to the host country for a meeting with its government to discuss relevant issues on the EU’s agenda. Usually, this meeting takes place in the capital, with few exceptions. Which makes the fact that the inauguration of the Swedish presidency will take place in Kiruna – one of the most remote settlements of the EU – rather unique.
An opportunity to warm up ahead of a cold trip to the European Arctic
To cover the European Commission’s trip to Kiruna and their meeting with the Swedish Government in Kiruna on the 12th and 13th of January, a big group of journalists from all over the EU are also invited to go on a press trip to Kiruna. North Sweden took the opportunity to invite these journalists for a networking event at Sweden’s Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.
Janus Brandin, Region Norrbotten, Ida Karikiainen, Swedish Member of Parliament, Anders Lindberg, LKAB mining company, Charlotta Kistow, Norra Skog forest owner association and Jonas Ekman, Luleå University of Technology, came down to Brussels to give the journalists some insight into all the exciting things happening in northern Sweden at the moment. The primary focus of the event was three thematic areas where northern Sweden excels; development of space technology, sustainable forestry and the green reindustrialisation.
Noteworthy media from all over Europe participated in the event, among others Der Spiegel, El Mundo, Le Soir, and EU Reporter.
The possibilities and challenges in northern Sweden from a regional perspective
The evening began with some introductory remarks regarding the possibilities and challenges in northern Sweden from a regional perspective. Mikael Janson, Director of North Sweden European Office, greeted everyone welcomed and said a few words about the significance of the inauguration being held in Kiruna:
- We are delighted that the Swedish Government chose Kiruna for the launch of the EU Presidency. A city in the periphery of Europe, but in the center of the EU’s green and digital transition.
In the coming years, over 100 billion euros will be invested in a broad range of green projects in northern Sweden. The list of green investments is long and includes a growing ecosystem of clean hydrogen, fossil-free steel production, climate-smart batteries, renewable energy, green datacenters, electrification of aviation and sustainable mining.
Janus Brandin, Director of Regional Development at Region Norrbotten, gave an overview of the possibilities and the exciting developments in northern Sweden:
- While I am speaking, history is being made. We are set out to decarbonising the impossible. When Ursula von der Leyen speaks about her ambitions for the European Green Deal, she urges us to look north. Because it is in the north that this is happening right now. What we are doing is executing the Green Deal. Region Norrbotten have welcomed international guests every week for the last two years, guests that come from all over the world to see what is happening in the north. So, it is not surprising that the Swedish Government has chosen Kiruna for the inaugural meeting.
Janus Brandin also spoke about one of the biggest challenges that northern Sweden is currently facing, the need for more inhabitants:
- We have enormous possibilities in northern Sweden. But there are also challenges. With all the expected green investments, it is estimated that 60 000 jobs will be created just in Region Norrbotten alone. We need to have a lot more inhabitants in the north to meet this enormous increase in demand for workforce and skills.
Ida Karkiainen, Member of the Swedish Parliament, based in northern Sweden, followed with a more personal account of the region and what it means to live there and the innovation capacity in Northern Sweden:
- It might be due to the mix of people and culture that we have in the north: the Sami, Tornedalingar, Swedes, Finns and Norwegians and to our long standing tradition of cross-border cooperation.
The green reindustrialisation
World leading electricity intensive industries in northern Sweden are utilising the stable supply of renewable energy in the north and investing heavily in novel technologies that are pioneering the green and digital transition. One of them is the mining company LKAB – Europe's largest iron ore producer.
Anders Lindberg, Group Media Relations Manager at LKAB, gave an overview of LKAB’s innovative technology:
- LKAB, together with the steel producer SSAB and the energy company Vattenfall have developed a technology where we utilise hydrogen gas to produce steel, replacing the use of coal – the Hybrit technology. Through this technique, we can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as the entirety of Sweden’s emissions.
Anders also explained how LKAB can contribute to European self-sufficiency of phosphor and rare earth elements:
- With a circular extraction of phosphorus and rare earth minerals as biproducts of iron ore mining, LKAB have the potential to completely replace European imports of phosphorus from Russia and to increase the extraction of rare earth elements, which are crucial for the green transition.
A mining town on the move
The city of Kiruna is being relocated due to the impact mining has on the area. A relocation that allows for the extraction of more metals and minerals and gives the municipality an unprecedented opportunity for urban transformation and a unique potential as a test bed to develop new sustainable solutions.
- It will be an exciting time for you to visit Kiruna and to see both the old and the new Kiruna, Anders Lindberg stated.
Karin Boman Röding, Head of Public Affairs at LKAB also attended the event.
The forest and an active forestry in a European circular bioeconomy
The Swedish forest is another important driving force behind the EU's green transformation. Seventy percent of Sweden's land area is covered by forest and Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of forest-based products. The Swedish forest sector delivers renewable energy, climate smart building techniques, textiles and paper products, creating the foundation for a long-term circular bioeconomy.
Charlotta Kistow, Vice-President of Norra Skog forest owner association, raised the importance of the small-scale forestry ownership that is carried from generation to generation in Sweden:
- Fifty percent of Sweden’s forests are owned and managed by small-scale entrepreneurs and forestry tops as individual small-scale entrepreneurship among Swedish women.
Charlotta also remarked on the importance of the forest for the Swedish lifestyle, and about the importance of the sustainable Swedish forestry:
- In our part of the world the forest and forestry represent a lifestyle. Active and sustainable forestry is something we value highly in Sweden. Our vision of a sustainable society will contribute to a climate-friendly transition that will provide new jobs and tax revenue.
Also present was Satu Aguilar, project manager at Norra Skog.
European access to space through northern Sweden
With its northern latitude, vast areas and low light pollution, northern Sweden is home to a significant space cluster. In this important space cluster Luleå University of Technology (LTU) and Kiruna Space Campus plays a key role within research and education.
Jonas Ekman, professor at LTU, gave a presentation of the Swedish space sector that has developed in northern Sweden.
- Why is a part of LTU based in the remote Kiruna? Precisely because it is remote, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic circle, with large areas and a very low level of light pollution, making it an ideal place for space science, space technology and aurora studies.
Jonas also spoke about the coming satellite launches in Kiruna:
- In Kiruna we also have the space base called Esrange. Starting in 2023, our partner Swedish Space Corporation will have the capacity for launching the new generation of small satellites. I believe that this will be an extremely important resource for the EU that currently lacks launching capacity from EU territory.
Thematic discussions in stations
After the intriguing presentations from northern Sweden, the discussions carried on in smaller groups to give the journalists the possibility to more in-depth conversations with the stakeholders from northern Sweden. The entire North Sweden office was also present at the different stations.
The guests were also provided with food and drinks from the region and the discussions carried on throughout the night, with questions like "How many layer of clothing will I need in Kiruna" to "What do the Swedes think of the presidency and the fact that the inauguration will be held in Kiruna?". All in all, the evening was a success and North Sweden European Office encouraged everyone to further dialoge in Kiruna and throughout the Swedish presidency.
Find the folder with information about northern Sweden with a specific focus on Kiruna that North Sweden European Office handed out during the event here.
Find more information about the space cluster in northern Sweden here.
Find more information about the sustainable Swedish forestry here.
Find more information about the green reindustralisation here.