You have been a contact person at the European Commission for Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme for almost three years: could you explain what your main tasks were?
Pekka Jounila: I have been responsible for the management of the administrative tasks in relation to the Baltic Sea Region Programme in the European Commission. That means participating in all tasks related to the Programme and its implementation: Monitoring Committees, events, annual implementation report analysis and, lately, also to the programming exercise. The latter has been the most important task at the moment.
We, in the European Commission, produced so-called orientation papers for transnational cooperation programmes for the first time for this programming round. This was very useful and I was quite pleased that our orientation papers were very well received by the stakeholders. Orientation papers are documents in which the Commission presents its own opinion on the main priorities of the future programmes, based on Commission’s priorities and policies, analysis of the previous programmes, their results, lessons learnt and territorial analysis of the programme area.
What are your personal highlights from this time you acted as the contact person for the Programme? What will you remember most?
My highlights are in general the Monitoring Committee meetings in different places around the Baltics. One event I especially want to highlight is the Programme’s Conference in 2019, where the Programme presented the main achievements so far. I was a conference rapporteur and had an active role in the event. It was a very well organised and successful conference. It provided an insight into the projects and a glimpse what these cooperation programmes can achieve. It was encouraging and motivational as several excellent projects were presented. Its memories are still strengthened in the current situation of COVID-19 related working environment, when we can’t have physical events. I hope we can return to this working mode sooner than later.
Is there any Interreg Baltic Sea Region funded project that is closer to you heart?
My first encounter with the Interreg Baltic Sea Region projects was already before my start as the programme manager for the programme (when I was the Desk Officer for Finland). I visited the CHEMSAR project with then Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Katainen and my Commissioner, Ms Crețu. We had an interesting presentation of the project in general and a nice demonstrational cruise in a rescue vessel OPV Uisko around Helsinki archipelago. This was a very informative and well-organized visit and the project presentation. Mr Katainen and Ms Crețu were very content with the visit and even the weather was perfect (as always in Finland). There are many very good projects in the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme, but this was my first encounter and, therefore, it has a special place in my memories. Just to make some promotion: I would underline the role of the RegioStars competition and encourage to participate to that. It is a good way to highlight the quality and results of your projects. I was very happy to see Interreg Baltic Sea Region project amongst the finalists this year.
We are in the preparation phase for the next programming period. How do you see the role of Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme 2021-2027 in the region?
Interreg Baltic Sea Region is a very important programme in the area. Cooperation within the region is an effective way to tackle the joint challenges and to use the opportunities in the region. Moreover, with my other hat as policy coordinator for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme provides funding for the EUSBSR projects and also for the governance of the Strategy. In my opinion, Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme is among the most important programmes in the area. It also enables participation of neighbouring countries to the practical cooperation in the region. This is very important.
Having all the insight into the Programme, are there any wishes or tips that you would like to pass on to the Joint Programming Committee, the Managing Authority/Joint Secretariat or the projects themselves?
In my opinion the Programme authorities, including the Joint Programming Committee as well as the Managing Authority/Joint Secretariat, have performed very well in the programming exercise. Their work has been efficient and professional. It takes into account the positions and opinions of all stakeholders: I am positively impressed. I would only say this: Keep up the good work!
Interview by Anna Galyga, Communication Officer, MA/JS