New forum for regional cooperation: Potential for Barents Development Corridor initiative NiiKa discussed in Nurmes

Paneelikeskustelu

A group of regional planners, developers and administrators gathered 14.1.2016 in Hyvärilä, Nurmes to discuss development prospects of NiiKa Corridor Initiative – a development zone reaching geographically from Petrozavodsk to Oulu via Niirala, Joensuu, Kajaani and adjoining municipalities.

After the opening remarks and welcome by the chair of the meeting, Deputy Region Mayor of Regional Council of North Karelia Risto Poutiainen, the seminar continued with presentations from the designated regions. Planning Director Hannu Heikkinen and Regional Development Manager Paavo Keränen from the Regional Council of Kainuu expressed their views on the Development Corridor and forums of regional cooperation, and Manager of Cross-Border Cooperation Timo Leinonen from the Regional Council of North Karelia introduced current development views of the Republic of Karelia. Kimmo Vähäjylkkä from Sweco Oy ended the first half of the seminar by introducing the results of preliminary study about the potential, strengths and challenges of the NiiKa Development Corridor.

The preliminary study conducted by Sweco Oy revealed that the Development Corridor is characterized primarily by tourism, forest- and biotechnology -based economies and logistics. Also food and mining industry, cultural production and cooperation between the regions’ universities show great potential for development. Rather than being a passage for raw materials, the corridor distinguishes itself as a network of socio-economic connections. The impacts of the NiiKa are not limited to Finland and the Republic of Karelia. Rather, the corridor is seen as a potential gateway connecting the otherwise relatively remote regions with the big markets of St. Petersburg, Moscow and even China.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion with participants from Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Hanna Susitaival), regional development companies from Kainuu and Central Karelia (Tuomo Tahvanainen, Birgitta Väisänen), Natural Resources Institute Finland (Timo Karjalainen) and Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of North Savo (Raimo Kaikkonen). The audience participated in the discussion and gave feedback regarding the definition and impact area of the corridor. Good inclusion of North Ostrobothnia and the Republic of Karelia to the development plans as well as closer cooperation between the Finnish stakeholders were seen essential, and more tangible plans for the future actions related to the development corridor were called for in order to increase business sector’s involvement in the project.

The seminar gave a good impression on the future prospects of the Development Corridor NiiKa, which is seen as one of the potential ways to face economic and geographical challenges of the regions.