EU Coordinator: Free movement in Europe is a gift that must be restored

15/04/2016

More than 120 participants from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland joined forces to discuss how to build connectivity across national borders and barriers. The time has come to think in bigger pictures – to zoom out on the map!

To open the conference, special guest speaker Pat Cox, European Coordinator for the TEN-T Scandinavian-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor, took the scene. He especially stressed two important issues regarding the true connectivity within the Scandinavian-Mediterranean corridor: The issues of multimodality and technical interoperability.

Regarding the Scandinavian-Mediterranean corridor itself, Pat Cox underlined the importance of the bottleneck of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. Together with the Brenner Base Tunnel, these two bottlenecks are “like a smile missing its two front teeth”, as the EU Coordinator remarked. He later noted, that we could rest assure that delays in the Fehmarnbelt Link do not mean that the EU does not prioritise the connection.

Europe under constraints
Pat Cox also touched upon an issue close to the heart of many of the participants: The constraints within the EU due to the historically large influx of refugees and “forces of disintegration” within the EU itself.
“Freedom and free circulation must be restored as soon as possible. We have given each other a great gift of free movement and flow in a European context. Only when it is constrained do we understand exactly how great that gift was,” the EU Coordinator commented.

Finally, Cox gave praise to the STRING Network by saying he wished he had “more STRINGs to his bow”, as the cross-regional and trilateral organisation was an important wheel in the larger scheme of the corridor idea.

Politicial perspectives
A powerful line-up of speakers and panel debaters included Lena Erixon, Director General of the Swedish Transport Administration. Lena Erixon listed four central issues, which the Transport Administration takes into account: Rethink; Optimise; Rebuild and Build New. In addition, it was important to think across different levels: From municipality level to national level and all the way to the EU TEN-T Corridor level.

State Secretary to the Swedish Ministry for Infrastructure, Erik Bromander, also touched upon the current refugee situation, called for a stronger cooperation, and shared sense of obligation across Europe. He regretted the current measures of control needed at the Swedish borders, especially the ones across the Öresund. He also reminded the participants of the importance of remembering sea transport and its possibilities for cargo and freight transport.

Minister for Justice, Culture and European Affairs for the state government of Schleswig-Holstein, Anke Spoorendonk, sent out a clear signal regarding the much talked about legislative and authoritative processes for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. The federal state has a very clear procedure that will have to be followed to the smallest detail. And no measures of lobbying and communication will speed up this process. Work is going ahead as quickly as possible, was the message.

Pågan, IKEA and Siemens
Both the large-scale baking goods company, Pågan, and heavyweight IKEA and Siemens Sweden joined in on the seminar. CEO of Pågan Tørk Eskild Furhauge felt very at home in the STRING setting, seeing as he was half German, half Danish and worked for a Swedish company established in Malmö. Furhauge was very clear in his approach: Pågen can deliver fresh bread to 30 million more consumers in Europe after the Fehmarn link has opened.
Michael Stjernquist, CEO of IKEA agreed. The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link will be an essential part of IKEA’s needed infrastructure to fulfil their goals for growth in Europe. Tina Karlberg of Siemens Sweden made it clear that there are additional means and goals to be reached through connectivity and seamless infrastructure: Decarbonisation, interoperability and last but not least less bureaucracy. Karlberg gave an example of how transporting large-scale freight – such as parts of windmills – across Sweden to Norway can mean excessive amounts of paperwork and coordination.

DID YOU MISS THE CONFERENCE IN STOCKHOLM?

You can watch the whole conference here – or catch a recap of all the Twitter activity here

 

 

Panel dicussion with European Coordinator for the TEN-T Scandinavian-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor. Pat Cox, State Secretary, Swedish Ministry for Infrastructure, Erik Bromander, Minister for Justice, Culture and European Affairs for the state government of Schleswig-Holstein, Anke Spoorendonk,  and member of the Regional Council for Region Zealand, Steen Bach Nielsen.

 

 

Attentive participants listening to the European Coordinator for the TEN-T Scandinavian-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor.

 

 

Chairman of STRING, Thomas Hansson of Region Skåne.

 

  Photo: Vinger Elliot Fotografi