Northern Dimension – dialogue and practical projects benefitting the people in the north

The Northern Dimension (ND) has come a long way since it was renewed eight years ago as a common policy of four partners: the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia. Over these years it has helped achieve a variety of important results.

To mention but a few, the condition of the Baltic Sea has improved considerably and the risk of nuclear hazards in the Barents region has been reduced by projects co-funded under the ND Environmental Partnership. Experts dealing with health policy have addressed crucial issues for the local populations such as dangerous communicable diseases within the ND Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being. Valuable tools for the transport authorities to support connectivity and trade in the region have been set up by the ND Partnership on Transport and Logistics. Policymakers have been linked with cultural operators and the creative sector under the ND Partnership on Culture. Academics and the business community are networking and providing useful input under the ND Institute and the Business Council. Regular ministerial meetings have given the necessary political guidance to ND cooperation.

The EU appreciates the ND as a pragmatic and flexible cooperation framework. Equality among the partners and the principle of co-financing — pooling resources together — have been the cornerstones of its success. Over the years, the EU has provided close to 100M€ project funding in support of the ND. The basic principle of the ND has been simple: defining together the key practical issues in the region and finding the most effective solutions to addressing them. From the EU point of view we have seen clear and concrete benefits to EU citizens in our northern regions, helpful tools for advancing EU policy interests in the region and a useful platform for dialogue and cooperation on common interests with our partners.

The EU is currently updating the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and developing further its Arctic policy with a new communication expected by the end of this year. At the same time, new EU funding programmes for the region in 2014-20 are being launched, including the Baltic Sea Region Programme, The Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, the ENI Regional East Programme and cross-border cooperation programmes in the region. ND and its sectorial partnerships have a useful role to play in both the Baltic Sea and European Arctic regions. This happens in good cooperation and coherence with the other key cooperation bodies in the region such as the four regional councils and HELCOM.

The general context of relations between the ND partners is clearly a factor that will affect the pace and extent of cooperation also at the regional level. The EU’s positions have been clearly communicated and much will depend on further developments. The ND and its partnerships will remain as an important vehicle for pursuing dialogue and constructive cooperation on practical issues in the region.

Richard Tibbels
Head of Division for Eastern Partnership, Regional Cooperation and OSCE
European External Action Service