The Northern Dimension (ND) is an important policy forum for dialogue and cooperation between its partners. This applies also to the regional level. ND partnerships offer possibilities for development in fields that have direct impacts at the regional level, for the people. Coming from – and also representing the Finnish side of – the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA), the ND sometimes seems a bit southern on its orientation. However, I’m glad to see that a lot of attention is put on the northern cooperation networks. Barents cooperation, for example, with a long and fruitful national and regional cooperation between the northern partners of the ND (Russia, Norway, Sweden and Finland), has potentially much to offer. Noting also the attention and activities in the Arctic area, there is huge potential that the ND can contribute significantly also to the development of the NSPA.
During the current political situation there have been some challenges to the cooperation. Starting of new projects seems to be difficult at the moment, but there have been important discussions over the continuation of the ND policy. The extension of the environmental partnership could be the most notable to mention.
Regardless of difficult political agenda, I would like to stress the importance of the ND and the role it plays in offering a platform for dialogue and cooperation in fields and topics that are commonly accepted as needed and important between the ND partners. These cooperation partnerships not only help the cross-border joint efforts for a better life in the northern parts of Europe, but they also represent and enhance the much needed contacts between the ND partners and their regions and local communities.
Arctic and northern discussion is getting more and more visibility even in global sphere. Thus, the continuation and further activation of the ND cooperation is very important. The partnerships have been, and will be in the future, crucial in fostering the cooperation in their respective fields. The ND partnerships could be of great help in achieving the benefits also to the regions. There is a need to solve logistical challenges in the north, improve energy efficiency, and reduce black carbon emissions, just to name some topics of relevance for the northernmost regions of Europe.
The actions on tackling and enhancing the regional needs on climate change, new energy systems, transport and logistics, trade and investment, research, health, cultural cooperation etc. could be a lot easier with the full support from the ND partnerships.
Director, East and North Finland EU Office, Brussels.