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Luleå and Oulu further develop cross-border cooperation

Aerial views of Lulå and Oulu

Photo: Luleåfotograferna and Marko Kallio, Skyfox.

The cities of Luleå and Oulu express their commitment to collaborative development by re-signing the bilateral cooperation agreement.

Cross-border activities came dramatically to a halt in the spring of 2020, when national measures adopted for preventing the spread of Covid-19 created hard borders between communities that were used to a borderless life.

“It became evident that in order to recover and to build the long-term resilience of our regions, cross-border collaboration is very much needed,” says Päivi Laajala, the Mayor of Oulu.

Oulu and Luleå are founding members of the Bothnian Arc association, which covers the region with 710 000 people along the coastline from Kalajoki to Skellefteå in the North of Sweden and Finland. For almost 20 years, the association has facilitated and promoted cross-border co-operation to strengthen the region’s social and economic cohesion.

Strengths and challenges

Collaboration across the Finnish-Swedish border within the Bothnian Arc and between Oulu and Luleå, is highly dynamic. Bothnian Arc region is rich in natural resources and has a long tradition of large-scale extractive, manufacturing and processing industries. On the other hand, Oulu and Luleå are significant university cities and hubs for transport, trade, technology and creative industries.

“The collaboration is also motivated by common challenges, like ageing demography, sparse population and challenges in workforce competencies. Long distances and insufficient infrastructures for ICT connectivity and missing links in transport connections are some of the physical barriers for sustainable cross-border development. Infrastructure investments for supporting businesses are also needed,” states Päivi Laajala.

In February 2021 Oulu and Luleå expressed their long-term commitment to collaborative development by updating and re-signing the bilateral cooperation agreement.

“The agreement focuses on competitiveness and attractiveness, infrastructure as well as cultural exchange and promotion of language learning,” describes Carina Sammeli, the Chairman of the City Board of Luleå.

Networks and partnerships

A unique feature of the region is the broad range of cross-border networks and partnerships. Collaboration takes place in fields like ICT, energy production, biotechnology, circular economy, cleantech, mining, health, education, tourism and culture. Cross-border collaboration also extends to issues that are important for the Sámi people.

The EU-funded cross-border collaboration programs, such as Interreg, play a major role in supporting joint, long-term cross-border efforts and development. For example, University of Oulu and Luleå University of Technology are both among the largest beneficiaries in Interreg programme, many times in collaboration.

Oulu and Luleå are well-positioned to continue working together for smarter, greener, more connected and social Bothnian Arc region and Europe – together with their citizens, businesses and educational institutions.

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