The Finnish Border Guard has put forward for consideration the idea to shorten the current opening hours of the border crossing points located in the area. The Niirala border crossing point, which is currently open round-the-clock, would be closing for the hours 23-07. The current opening hours of the Vartius border crossing point would be reduced with two hours, and the Kuusamo border crossing point would in the future be open only six days a week.
The proposals are related to the need to adjust the Border Guard budget with EUR 15 million and the need to increase human resources in the control of land borders.
Euregio Karelia has on 26th August 2016 delivered a joint statement justifying why shortening the opening hours of the border crossing points in the region shouldn’t be done.
The statement in its full length (Finnish)
Secretary General of Euregio Karelia
tel. 050 463 1424
UKK (Urho Kaleva Kekkonen) Society is based in Helsinki, but has operations throughout Finland. The purpose of the society is to uphold President Kekkonen’s life’s work and make it known. In July 2016 the UKK Society organized a seminar in Kuhmo, Kainuu, with the topic “UKK and Kainuu”. After the seminar, an official trip to Kostomuksha was carried out.
About 60 people participated the trip, mostly coming from the metropolitan Finland, led by the Secretary of State Paula Lehtomäki, who was born and raised in Kuhmo, accompanied for example by the former Permanent Secretary to the President, Juhani Perttunen.
The UKK Society group was hosted in Kainuu by the Regional Mayor Pentti Malinen, who had the opportunity to share news from Kainuu during the bus trip from Kajaani to Kuhmo. Chairman of the Board, Vesa Kaikkonen, brought the greetings from Kajaani city and the former municipal director of Suomussalmi and the former Regional Mayor of Kainuu, Timo Säkkinen, brought greetings from Suomussalmi. Regional Development Manager Paavo Keränen told the guests about Kainuu cross-border cooperation, construction of Kostomuksha and its impact on the Kainuu region. Chairman of the Regional Board, Timo Korhonen, also presented the greetings of Kainuu region at the Kuhmo seminar.
In Kostomuksha the guests were hosted by Head of the Republic of Karelia, Aleksander Hudilainen and Director of the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in Finland, Valery Shlyamin, together with Kostomuksha city management and business representatives. The event received good publicity in Karelia, on both TV and in magazines. Also the Finnish Broadcasting Company was present and reporting.
Also in Kostomuksha, a seminar on topical issues of cooperation took place. The memorial plate attached to the UKK-Kosygin monument was unveiled as the last programme of the trip. On the plate, there are the names of Finnish municipalities, companies and other stakeholders (altogether 16 names) having participated the financing of the monument, written in both Finnish and Russian languages.
Read more about UKK Society (in Finnish)
Regional Mayors Risto Poutiainen (North Karelia), Pentti Malinen (Kainuu) and Pauli Harju (Oulu Region), Deputy Minister for Economic Development of the Republic of Karelia Dmitry Kislov and members of Euregio Karelia secretariat visited the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in Finland Mr. Valery Shlyamin 5th of April 2106.
Mr. Valery Shlyamin has been working in the Trade Representation since 2003. The expert of Finnish-Russian trade relations is also one of the founders of Euregio Karelia. Before his post in Finland, he has worked closely on Finnish-Russian cooperation for instance as a Minister of External Relations and Minister of Economic Development of the Republic of Karelia. How does Mr. Shlyamin see Euregio Karelia from his current position?
“When Euregio Karelia was founded, Finnish and Russian actors wanted to see what we can achieve by developing close and neighborly relations”, Shlyamin said. He notes that idea of cross border cooperation in Euregio Karelia cannot be reduced to economic indicators, but is fundamentally about interaction between people and cultures of the region. As a regional forum, Euregio Karelia enables coordination of development plans on several levels and finding common interests. New forms of cooperation are also called in for in the changing world: instead of traditional door-to-door trading, we are now talking about modern business.
Trade between Finland and Russia has been faced with challenges in the recent years. Financial difficulties and sanctions have hit hard especially export markets for certain sectors. Nevertheless, the will for cooperation remains strong. According to Shlyamin, Russians are, among other things, very interested in technological partnership with Finnish companies. Hi-tech is a fast-growing sector in Russia, and opportunities for cooperation are found for example in pharmaceutical industry, chemistry and ICT. In Bloomberg Innovation Index Russia and Finland ranked 12th and 7th respectively.
Currently, economically important sectors of cooperation are for instance arctic technology, shipbuilding and energy. For increasing economic cooperation, further development of new business infrastructure is important.
Regional Council of Kainuu, Kainuu Entrepreneurs and the Finnish – Russian association’s branch of Northern Finland co-organised an International Business Forum in Kostomuksha on 14th of April 2016. Entrepreneurs and regional administrators had to the floor for introducing their services and plans concerning internationalization of business operations. The event aimed at developing SME cooperation, but it also offered valuable information about cross border cooperation programmes. Participants came from the Republic of Karelia, Kaliningrad, Arkhangelsk, Kainuu and North Karelia.
Dmitry Kislov from the Ministry of Economic Development of the Republic of Karelia and Paavo Keränen from the Regional Council of Kainuu referred to the preparation of Karelia CBC –programme in their speeches. If everything goes as planned, the programme authorities would like to see first calls for applications to open in October, and first projects launched during the first quarter of 2017. Therefore, it is well about the time to start thinking about project ideas and partners. Karelia CBC has four thematic objectives; Business SME development; Promotion of local culture and preservation of historical heritage; Environmental protection, climate change adaptation; and Promotion of border management and border security.
Chair of a SME Service Centre Aleksandr Popov and project manager of international cooperation Andrei Elizarov brought greetings from Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad is involved in projects for developing energy efficiency, clean technologies, utilization marine bio economy resources and participatory processes for city planning. Partners and examples are currently being looked for from Nordic countries. Participants of the Business Forum got invitations to seminar on urban planning and energy forum that are organized in Kaliningrad in June and September, respectively.
Jukka Norppa, CEO of Karelian Wood Company, talked about the possibilities Kostomuksha offers for Finnish forest industry. According to Mr. Norppa, the time is now good for investing in Russia: people are willing to cooperate, labour costs are relatively low and there is enough workforce, the supply of raw material is good and there is a relatively low extent of value added processing. Also the location of Kostomuksha is good for export: the distance to Oulu harbor is only 300 km. Naturally, there are also certain challenges related to doing business in Russia: the subcontractor supply chain is relatively weak, and the concept of social responsibility is different.
Many of the participating entrepreneurs expressed their willingness to internationalize their operations. Shipbuilding, metal recycling and wood processing were among the sectors where international partners are looked for. Representative for Entrepreneur’s Rights of the Republic of Karelia Elena Gnyotova encouraged entrepreneurs and told about services that are provided for local companies.
After the Business Forum the participants had a chance to visit the factories of FinTek, PKC Group and Karelian Wood Company.
On December 10th, 2015, the Board of Euregio Karelia held a meeting in Petrozavodsk. In 2015, the Board was chaired by the Mayor of the Northern Ostrobothnia Mr. Pauli Harju and the Minister of Economic Development of the Republic of Karelia Mr. Valentin Tshmil. General secretaries were Mr. Roman Gokkoev and Ms. Kira Romanova.
In his opening speech, Mr. Valentin Tshmil introduced the Target Program of economic development of the Republic of Karelia till 2020 adopted in June, in which two cornerstones for the development of the economic potential of Karelia were listed. Those were improvement of competitiveness of basic production facilities, including creation of new manufacturing companies and clusters; and ensuring functional infrastructure for social and economic development of the region. From the perspective of the Republic of Karelia, other important issues were as follows: improvement of the border area infrastructure, particularly in the Värtsilä border crossing point and railway station, as well as construction and development of the Syväoro border crossing point and customs terminal. Deputy Chairman of the Regional Council of the Northern Ostrobothnia Mr. Lyly Rajala informed in his political review, that in 2019 a reform of the regional government system would come into force in Finland.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included the adjustment of Russian state procurement legislation to the international standards, which opens new opportunities for the competition of Finnish stakeholders, implementation of the decisions made at the previous meeting, and implementation of the document Euregio Karelia Strategy till the Year 2020. Also, Karelia ENPI CBC 2007–2013 Program`s final results and the process of its completion, as well as the preparation of the new Karelia CBC 2014–2020 Program, were under discussion. Besides, the agenda included chairmanship objectives of the Kainuu Region in the Barents Regional Council for the period 2015-2017 and possible organization of Euregio Karelia seminar in Joensuu in autumn 2016.
The Secretariat of Euregio Karelia met four times during 2015. The topics discussed were preparation of a brochure based on the document Euregio Karelia Strategy till Year 2020, web pages update, and increasing of data exchange via the Euregio Karelia Facebook page. Additionally, the meetings were dedicated to the new CBC-Program and other topical issues related to cross-border cooperation.
The objectives outlined in the Euregio Karelia Strategy till Year 2020 have been implemented in the provinces. In Kainuu, the Russian expert group consisting of the representatives of business, regional government, education and culture sectors, works on the grounds of Russia Strategy of Kainuu 2020 – document prepared in 2014. The Russian group working in North Karelia coordinates cooperation with Russia and implements the smart specialization strategy in the Russian know-how area outlined in the regional strategic program.
In 2016, the Board of Euregio Karelia will be chaired by the Regional Council of the North Karelia, from the Finnish side, and by the Republic of Karelia, from the Russian side.
Projects and agreements
The daily bus service between Petrozavodsk and Joensuu, launched in August 2013, is the only cross-border public transport connection on the territory of Euregio Karelia. North Karelia and Kainuu have jointly launched the NiiKa exploratory project, which aims at creating a new development area to enable versatile economic activity and cooperation on the route Petrozavodsk-Niirala-Joensuu-Kajaani-Oulu. The project should be implemented in 2016 as a part of the broader Barents region cooperation, together with the representatives of the Republic of Karelia.
The secretaries of Euregio Karelia have participated in the work of the Program Committee during the preparation of the CBC-Program and delivered their ideas on the investment projects` list and the Programming document. The European Commission adopted the Programming document in December 2015. The main focuses of the program are small and medium business, culture, preservation of historical heritage, environmental protection, adaptation to climate changes, and efficient and secure borders.
Finland and Russia singed a new railway agreement in April 2015, and it is to be ratified in the Parliaments of both countries. After the entry into force, the agreement will contribute to the trade between the countries, but will not open the inner rail transportation market to business from the neighboring countries.
In the end of November, a new Ihala-Raivio state border road, significant in terms of cross-border cooperation, was opened in Lahdenpohja district of the Republic of Karelia. The road construction was financed by ENPI CBC Program.
Schengen visa information system VIS expanded to Russia. In this regard, since 14.09.2015 all visa applicants have started to provide fingerprints when applying for a visa. Number of border crossings have remained on average at the same level as in the previous year, but the share of Finnish border-crossers has increased.
Starting from 2015, passports of the Russian Federation citizens living in Finland can be delivered to their owners by post.
In 2015, numerous visits of authorities and other actors took place on both sides of the border. On June 6th, nine delegations from Finland participated in the 95-anniversary of the Republic of Karelia held in Sortavala. During the visits, negotiations about cooperation in such issues as town twinning, literature, tourism, and business were carried on. As for the amount of visitors, the biggest event of the year, with 340 participants, was the Finnish-Russian Cultural Forum, organized in Petrozavodsk in September. In November, the delegation from the Regional Council of North Karelia visited the Republic of Karelia in the context of development of transport connections and border crossing points. Additionally, the Regional Council of North Karelia represented Euregio Karelia on the events organized by the AEBR (Association of European Border Regions) in Brussels and Denmark.
In terms of the Barents cooperation, the most significant event was the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, held in Oulu in September. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also participated in the event as a chairman. At the same time, the chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council and Committee was handed over to Kainuu.
The Barents Forest Forum, organized in Joensuu, was one of the most significant events within Finland`s chairmanship in BEAC. The Forum was attended by more than 150 participants, of which about one third were from Russia. Special emphasis of the forum was wood construction and forest bioenergy.
Business and economy
In March 2015, Swedwood company sold its Kostamuksha plant to Pin Arctic Ltd from Kuopio. The sawmill employs 220 people. As a result of the bargain, the number of Finnish-owned manufacturing companies in Kostamuksha has doubled. Another Finnish company PKC Group, manufacturing wiring harness for cars, is still running in Kostamuksha.
Construction of the Pyhäjoki nuclear power plant has been launched. The Russian Rosatom was selected a supplier company, and in summer 2015 Rosatom`s main contractor from St-Petersburg Titan-2 started the work. The 4 km long road connecting the construction site and the road 8 was introduced in September. Local contractors were also involved in the project. Upfront investments, including dredging works, are estimated to be 500 million euros. The actual construction of the nuclear power plant will start in 2018.
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.
Barents cooperation is organized between the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Northwest Russia. Ministries of the participating countries and regional governments on the regional level participate in the cooperation. From the Euregio Karelia area, the regions of Kainuu and Northern Ostrobothnia as well as the Republic of Karelia are members of the Barents cooperation. At the moment, the region of Northern Karelia only has an observer status in Barents cooperation. However, one of the goals set for Euregio Karelia is for Northern Karelia to receive a full membership in the future.
The overall objective of Barents cooperation is to promote the sustainable development and the cooperation in the region. Barents cooperation brings a regional and practica point of view to the broader arctic cooperation and, at the same time, a broader point of view to regional development activities of the Barents area.
The meetings of Barents Regional Committee (RC) and Barents Regional Council (BRC) took place in Oulu on 13th – 14th October 2015, the regional chairmanship transferring from Archangelsk to Kainuu for the upcoming two-year period. The chairmanship of the intergovernmental cooperation transferred from Finland to Russia at the ministerial meeting of October 15th. Oulussa pidettiin 13.10.2015 Barentsin aluekomitean (RC) kokous ja 14.10.2015 Barentsin alueneuvoston (BRC) kokous, joissa molempien kokoonpanojen puheenjohtajuus siirrettiin Arkangelilta Kainuulle. Aluetason puheenjohtajuus on Kainuulla seuraavat kaksi vuotta. Valtiotason puheenjohtajuus puolestaan siirtyi Oulun ministerikokouksen yhteydessä Suomelta Venäjälle.
The goals of cooperation have been defined in the joint Barents Programme for years 2014-2018. During the chair period of Kainuu, six themes or areas of co-operation will be emphasized in the activities of the Regional Council. The aims of the areas of co-operation have been introduced in a document “Chairmanship Priorities of Kainuu Region 2015-2017 in the Barents Regional Council and the Regional Committee”. Barentsin yhteistoiminnan tavoitteet ja muodot on määritelty vuosille 2014 – 2018 Barentsin ohjelmassa. Kainuun puheenjohtajuuskaudella alueneuvoston toiminnassa korostuu erityisesti kuusi aihealuetta tai teemaa, joiden ajankohtaiset tavoitteet esitellään erillisessä asiakirjassa “Kainuun Liiton puheenjohtajuuskauden prioriteetit 2015- 2017 Barentsin alueneuvostossa ja aluekomiteassa”.
Chair of the Barents Regional Council during the Kainuu chair period will be MP and Chairman of the Kainuu Regional Board, Mr Timo Korhonen. The vice-chair will be Member of the Kainuu Regional Board Mr Raimo Piirainen. Chair of the Barents Regional Committee will be Regional Mayor of Kainuu, Mr Pentti Malinen. Vice-chair will be Planning Director Mr Hannu Heikkinen.
One of the goals of the Kainuu chair period is developing co-operation between CBC programmes as well as other instruments suitable for funding Barents cooperation. Other issues mentioned in the document area promoting the networking, project planning and utilization of the opportunities offered by the funding programmes and improving the flow of information to the regional committee, with the aim to prepare co-financed projects. Also reinforcing the visibility and recognition of Barents cooperation through local and national media as well as the social media is found important.
10th Barents Industrial Partnership (BIP) meeting to be held on 14-15 October 2015 in Oulu, Finland.
The meeting is one of the key events during the Finnish Presidency in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. The BIP meeting offers the companies and other Barents stakeholders a regular forum for discussions, networking and business.
The themes of the BIP meeting are:
– Arctic ICT and possibilities of digitalization
– Achieving More Together – Growth for Barents Tourism
– Prospects for financing in the Barents Area
More information on the BIP meeting is available here.
The summit of the regional councils of Eastern and Northern Finland was held on 25th and 26th August 2015 in Joensuu, Finland. The event was attended by approximately 200 participants who came from 8 Finnish regions. The programme of the event included, among others, panel discussions on government policies from the vantage point of the regions in Eastern and Northern Finland. In addition, issues relating to co-operation with Russia were covered. One of the speakers in the summit was Jussi Yli-Lahti, Councellor for Regional Development, who discussed the co-operation between the EU and Russia as well as the EU’s cross-border programmes.
Presentations held in the summit: http://pohjois-karjala.fi/seminaarit (only in Finnish)
The 2nd Barents Forest Forum will be held in Joensuu, in Eastern Finland, on 17.-18. September 2015.
The Forum acts as a cooperation platform for various forest sector stakeholders, and over hundred participants are expected to the event. This is one of the key events under the Finnish chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
Contributions from business, research and development, education and administration highlight the role of forest bioeconomy in the Northern Europe, in particular wood construction and forest energy as drivers of sustainable development.
Further information and programme available at: www.luke.fi/barentsff