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Cross-border co-operation – still an undeveloped potential

In this issue of Nordregio News, we focus on cross-border co-operation and its impact on regional development in Nord-ic and European border regions. We have studied how cross-border co-operation is structured and managed, and whether its full potential for sustainable growth has been realized. The added value of cross-border co-operation can be defined and measured in various ways, including improvement of cross-border infrastructure and increasing flows of tourists.

The point of departure for this issue of Nordregio News involves the results of a European research project called EUBORDERREGIONS, where cross-border co-operation between EU member state regions and their neighbouring regions has been studied. In the first article, Added value of cross-border co-operation, Lisa Hörnström, Anna Berlina and Aslı Tepecik Diş, all from Nordregio, give a general in-troduction to cross-border co-operation in the EU and in the Nordic region. The co-operation between the Nordic countries is one of the most developed examples of cross-border co-operation and integra-tion between countries and people in Europe. The reasons for this are several. First, we have a long history of peace between our neigh-bouring countries. We also have a common cultural background and languages that are understandable to each other. Earlier studies have shown that cross-border co-operation can be a successful strategy in fighting negative consequences of urbanisation and centralisation, in-creasing trade and strengthening labour markets as well as improving access to welfare services in peripheral regions.

In the second article, The Swedish-Norwegian cross-border re-gion, Bjarge Schwenke Fors, a researcher at the Barents Institute in Kirkenes in the very northern part of Norway, introduces us to the Kiruna–Narvik region, a good example of this. In the border region there is far-reaching co-operation between the mining companies on the Swedish side and the deep sea port in Norway. Common efforts to increase tourism in the region are also under way. Clearly, the oppor-tunities are many, especially in border regions like this that have rela-tive parity regarding economy and development in general. The Kiru-na–Narvik region stands out in the EUBORDERREGIONS project for many reasons. The most unique feature of the region, compared with other regions along EU’s external borders, is the fact that this border is completely open. People can travel freely across the border and a visa is not required.

The third article, On the added value of cross-border co-opera-tion: The view from EUBORDERREGIONS, is a reflection on the EUBORDERREGIONS project as a whole and is written by James  Scott, a Professor of Geography at the Karelian Institute at the Uni-versity of Eastern Finland. The article highlights some of the findings from the project, including factors impeding cross-border co-opera-tion, such as lack of understanding between local actors and national decision makers as well as the fact that implementation remains patchy. The “research indicates that bordering processes serve as important sources of insight for policy-relevant research on spatial planning and regional development”, according to Scott, but there is still more to do in terms of implementation, development and understanding, in order to fully capitalise on the value added by cross-border co-operation.

Please enjoy reading this issue of Nordregio News!

Kjell Nilsson


and the Editorial Board

Return to Nordregio News Issue 1 2015.