„We consider Finland to be an island, and thus it is clear that sea transport plays a major role when talking about Finland’s economy,“ stated Matti Lipsanen who represents Finnish regions at the Programme’s Monitoring Committee. „The discussion on reducing sulphur emissions of ships has had a heavy impact on Finnish politics. The InnoShip project has shown to the whole Baltic Sea Region that change is possible. In 2012, the Viking Line Group, based in Åland, Finland, received the first award for clean shipping.“
The InnoShip project, led by the Baltic Institute of Finland, included partners from all countries around the Baltic Sea. In total, € 2.5 million European funding from the Baltic Sea Region Programme were received which Matti Lipsanen considered well invested. The project produced basic information tools like environmental impact assessments and emission maps. More importantly, recommendations on how to reduce emissions from ships and at ports were taken on board by shipping companies like the Viking Line. The company has developed environmental activities that extend beyond what is stipulated by the rules in force for passenger services on the Baltic Sea.
Matti Lipsanen presented several examples to the Monitoring Committee on how results of Baltic Sea Region cooperation projects have influenced policy making at regional level. Based on the outcomes of the project „Baltic Climate Change“, a regional climate change strategy was developed in Finland. The project „Rail Baltica Growth Corridor“ has shown to the adjacent regions how to create economic growth along what had originally been planned to be a transport corridor. Finally, Matti Lipsanen recalled that cooperation brings best effects when being designed long-term and based on joint visions.
Ann Irene Sæternes, representing Norwegian regions at the Monitoring Committee, added that “cooperation creates important effects far beyond what figures can tell”. Public authorities benefit from mutual learning and effective international networks. Cooperation enables them to improve methods of delivering their services to the citizens. These effects were particularly important for public authorities at local and regional level.
As a good example for triggering public investments she presented the NECL II - Midnordic Green Transport Corridor project that was co-financed by Norwegian contributions through different cooperation programmes including the Baltic Sea Region Programme. Initiated by the project, the cross-border railroad Meråker Line from Trondheim, Norway to Storlien in Sweden will be electrified on the Norwegian side. By this the Meråker Line becomes important in the Midnordic transport system, both for freight and passenger traffic, and allows faster and more efficient freight transport.
Another good example was the Baltic Biogas Bus+ project. It brought about a pilot biogas bus for the region of Hordaland and a greening strategy for Oslo and Akershus’ public transport company. Both regions suffer from severe problems with air quality during winter times.
Matti and Ann Irene presented these achievements during the 15th meeting of the Monitoring Committee of the Baltic Sea Region Programme on 28 April 2015 in Stockholm. The Monitoring Committee members will continue collecting and presenting success stories of how cooperation impacts policy making at the following meetings within the framework of Interreg Baltic Sea Region.