Three southern regions have decided to re-examine their role in the Arctic cooperation. On October 12, they arranged a conference on Southern Finland and sustainable Arctic cooperation.
Officially, Finland is an Arctic country in its entirety. In the southern parts of the country, Arctic questions can often seem remote and irrelevant.
The conference organisers are three regional councils located near the capital: Uusimaa, Häme and Päijät-Häme who hosts the event in Sibelius Hall in the city of Lahti. The Barents Regional Council and Barents Regional Committee also participate in the conference arrangements.
“The word Arctic keeps coming up in international cooperation and in various financing programs. We decided to set up an event to investigate what Arctic cooperation means, how we can participate and what the benefits are”, explains Marko Mälly, Senior advisor in International Affairs at the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme.
The conference program consists of keynote speeches on the ways Finland participates in Arctic cooperation on national and regional levels, and on the current business landscape in the north. Local and regional decision-makers discuss what Arctic issues mean on the strategy level and from the point of view of regional development.
Marko Mälly promises that critical voices will also be heard. Some of the speakers are experts who question the current cooperation practices.
In the afternoon, the focus is on practical examples of Arctic cooperation. Transport and logistics, sustainable use of the Arctic environment and financing for cross-border cooperation are the themes of mini-seminars where officials, researchers and company representatives tell about their own experiences in Arctic issues.
“Environmental technology is strong especially in Päijät-Häme, and sustainable cooperation respecting the Arctic environment is the starting point for the conference. Transport and logistics concern all of us, and of course financing is a crucial point. We learn about creative ways of financing eventual cooperation for example through Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, or through Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.”
Marko Mälly wants to show that there is a very tangible Arctic aspect to much of the business already carried out in Southern Finland – icebreakers, oil spill response or more durable welding products developed for Arctic conditions.
“I was surprised to find so many companies that have a long experience in Arctic cooperation; like many local actors here in the south, we had never realized it”, Marko Mälly confesses.