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27 Publications

Unlocking the potential of silver economy in the Nordic Region

Silver economy – all economic activities linked to older age groups – has emerged as a response to population ageing in Europe in recent years. Many older people continue to make valuable economic and societal contributions after retirement, and older citizens can provide significant economic and societal benefits, particularly if they are healthy and active. This study examines policies and initiatives to promote the silver economy and the closely related concepts of healthy ageing, active ageing and age-friendliness. The report seeks to uncover what are the preconditions for expanding the Nordic silver economy, and how cross-border collaboration can help enhance the potential of the silver economy in border regions. The prerequisites for expanding the Nordic silver economy seem to be relatively good compared with many other European countries. The general trend also shows that employment rates are increasing among older age groups, which seems to be connected to the pension system reforms that have been implemented in several countries. Population ageing has gained increased policy attention in many Nordic regions and municipalities. This includes the border regions of Trøndelag (Norway) and Jämtland Härjedalen (Sweden), studied in this report, where numerous policy initiatives have been launched as a response to population ageing. Many of these initiatives can be seen as contributing to strengthening the silver economy, although the concept itself does not figure on the policy agendas in these regions. Report of the project ‘Unlocking the potential of silver economy in the Nordic Region’ carried out under the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development (2017–2020).

Closed borders and divided communities: status report and lessons from Covid-19 in cross-border areas

The situation that has unfolded due to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of Nordic co-operation. In this status report, we look at the situation in border communities following the closing of the border, and what this may tell us about the state of Nordic co-operation – Vision 2030 for which includes integration. This study employs an institutional perspective for studying Nordic co-operation, in order to help shed some light on changing intra-Nordic dynamics. It analyses cross-border co-operation and its role within Nordic co-operation, as well as considering it more generally as a component of multilevel governance structures. In their role as para-diplomatic organisations, cross-border committees are key to ensuring ongoing dialogue across municipalities on either side of the border, as well as facilitating the objectives of further regional and local integration between states across the Nordic Region and in the European Union (EU). The ability of border areas to exist side-by-side in an integrated, seamless way corresponds to the Nordic vision of being the most integrated region in the world. However, it is clear from this study that the role of Nordic co-operation is at a crossroads: which road it will take depends upon Nordic states’ willingness to use this platform strategically – either as a ‘must have’, or merely as a ‘nice to have’. The way border communities and cross-border collaboration is treated in a post-pandemic context will shed some light on the nature of resilience in Nordic co-operation. This report was carried out by the Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions 2017-2020 and was commissioned by the cross-border organisations Bothnian Arc and the Svinesund Committee.

TG2 Innovative and Resilient Regions – Roadshow report

This document reports on the Nordic TG2 Roadshow, which was commissioned by the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions. The Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017–2020 (TG2) was established by the Nordic Council of Ministers as a part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017–2020. The TG2 group was organised under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Committee of Civil Servants for Regional Affairs, and Nordregio has acted as Secretariat for the thematic groups. The Roadshow events of TG2 were attended by regional, national, Nordic, and international stakeholders in 2018–2020. The events provided insights into the latest knowledge on innovative and resilient regions, with a focus on smart specialisation, digitalisation, regional resilience, and skills policies. Moreover, many Roadshow events tackled the research themes from a cross-border perspective. The feedback from the regional Roadshow events suggests that dissemination of research results and constant dialogue with stakeholders are highly appreciated by the stakeholders. Moreover, the TG2 Roadshow programme was the opportunity to bring together a range of actors and, in doing so, initiate and support processes that may not have occurred otherwise.

Public service delivery in the Nordic Region: An exercise in collaborative governance

Nordic welfare states are world renowned for providing high quality public services. Nordic municipal and regional authorities, in particular, play a central role in the delivery of key public services in areas, such as, health, education, and social care. However, in recent years, public authorities have faced several challenges which have reduced capacity and resources, including long periods of austerity following the 2008 financial crash, rapid demographic changes caused by an ageing population, and the COVID-19 health crisis. In response to these challenges many public authorities have looked to inter-regional, inter-municipal and cross-border collaborations to improve the quality and effectiveness of public service delivery (OECD 2017; ESPON 2019). Indeed, collaborative public service delivery is becoming increasingly prominent in the Nordic Region due to a highly decentralized systems of governance (Nordregio 20015; Eythorsson 2018). This report highlights six best practice examples of collaborative public service delivery from across the Nordic Region, with a main geographical focus on remote rural areas. Nordic policymakers and other stakeholders can learn from a wide variety of experiences, which can inspire others to engage in collaborative governance initiatives. The report highlights the main drivers, challenges, enablers, benefits and replication potentials of Nordic collaboration. Lessons are drawn from both local community initiatives, inter-municipal, inter-regional and cross-border collaborations. Thematically, case studies cover key areas of public service provision, including healthcare, welfare/social care, education and transport. The report finds that Nordic collaboration between different levels of governance remains strong despite the disruptions caused by the current pandemic. New and innovative models of collaboration are constantly emerging thanks to technological developments that are helping to bring stakeholders together to solve common societal challenges. The high levels of cooperation outlined in this report indicate that collaborative governance is continually evolving within the Nordic context.

The Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017–2020 – final report

This report summarises the work and results of the Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions (TG2) in 2017–2020. The Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions 2017–2020 (TG2) was established by the Nordic Council of Ministers and is a part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017–2020. Three Nordic thematic groups were established for the four-year period: Innovative and resilient regions, Sustainable rural development, and Sustainable cities and urban development. The thematic groups have been organised under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Committee of Civil Servants for Regional Affairs, and Nordregio has acted as the secretariat for the thematic groups. The thematic group has not only produced high-quality research on innovative and resilient regions in the Nordic countries but also contributed to public policy with the latest knowledge on the creation and development of innovative and resilient regions across the Nordic countries, with focus on smart specialisation, digitalisation, regional resilience, and skills policies. TG2 has also contributed to research on innovative and resilient regions in the Nordic cross-border context.

Transport for Regional Integration – Insights from three Nordic cross-border regions

Acknowledging that cross-border transport infrastructure is paramount for the Nordic Region to reach the vision of becoming the most sustainable and integrated region by 2030 (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2020), this report discusses the challenges of planning and developing transport connections across national borders.  It draws on the outcome of studies of transport infrastructure in three cross border areas. The first case study discusses what could be the effects of the introduction of faster train service on the urban development of small and medium-sized (SMS) cities located along the Oslo -Stockholm corridor (Grunfelder et al., 2019). The second analyses the impact of the ferry link between Umeå and Vaasa has in the cross-border cooperation and integration of the Kvarken region (Stjernberg and Sigurjónsdóttir, 2020). The third explores the planning challenges and opportunities resulted from the different transit-oriented development strategies employed by four SMS-cities from Sweden and Denmark to handle their engagement in the railway system of Great Copenhagen Region (Grunfelder et al., 2020). The report concludes outlining the role of Nordic institutions to facilitate the work of the national transport authorities. Commission studies that investigate the value of cross-border links for the development of the countries and create forums to mediate discussions between stakeholders from different governance levels, are pinpointed as mean to overcoming obstacles and improving the integration of the Nordic Region.

Transit-oriented development in the Greater Copenhagen Region – Insights from small- and medium- sized cities

Cross-border cooperation has long been a strong element of the Nordic Region’s efforts to become better integrated, while simultaneously working towards shared ambitions in the areas of economic, environmental and social sustainability. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, challenges inevitably emerged as countries shut down borders. This effectively put cross-border cooperation into gridlock. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, however, the Greater Copenhagen Region (GCR) had been chosen to illustrate the potential challenges of planning and development in a Nordic cross-border context. This is the scope that this working paper is operating within.  The aim of this report is to provide a backdrop for future discussions about ways in which spatial and transportation planning, particularly in small- and medium-sized (SMS) cities, can ensure sustainable mobility solutions and enhance local and regional  integration, supporting regional development in Greater Copenhagen, and Nordic collaboration more broadly.  The research questions that have been explored are:  How can an enhanced understanding of transit-oriented development (TOD) characteristics and mobility planning in small- and medium-sized (SMS) cities contribute to a more integrated Greater Copenhagen Region?  What are the multi-functional roles and potentials for the development of areas surrounding railway stations in small- and medium-sized cities from a planning and design perspective? 

The Kvarken ferry link and its importance in cross-border cooperation and integration

This report shows that a reliable transport link has been central to maintaining and developing cross-border relations in the Kvarken region. Sea traffic has been the lifeline enabling cross-border interactions and exchanges throughout the centuries, and cross-border cooperation has remained largely dependent on the ferry connection until this day. Over the decades, the depth and breadth of cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish sides of Kvarken have followed changes in the ferry connection. From the 1970s onwards, passenger traffic over the Kvarken Strait increased significantly, and cross-border cooperation became more established and varied. However, the abolishment of tax-free sales on the Kvarken ferry in 1999 was, in many ways, a turning point that led to a significant decline in traffic and had a severe, negative effect on cross-border relations. The first decade of the 21st century has been described as a low point in cross-border cooperation across Kvarken, because the unstable and limited ferry connection between Vaasa and Umeå made it difficult to maintain and develop the economic, social, and cultural ties that had been established during previous decades. Following this period of decline, joint actions were taken by actors on the Finnish and Swedish sides of the Kvarken region to reinstate a new, stable ferry connection in 2012, highlighting the importance of this traffic link to both parties. The arguments for reinstating the ferry link focused not only on improving connectivity, but on providing a new basis for re-strengthening cross-border relations and developing stronger synergies across the region, which were considered to depend on a reliable traffic link allowing frequent travel. The reinstated ferry connection has had numerous direct and indirect effects on both sides of the Kvarken Strait, such as cooperation within research, education, healthcare, and tourism, as well as new forms of cooperation between businesses, all of which…

Is the coast clear? The role of digitalisation for enabling blue growth in the cross-border region of Svinesund

The study explores what role digitalisation plays in the context of business development and growth in the marine sector in the Svinesund area; the different challenges and opportunities that surface in this context; and what role the Svinesund mega-region may play for the future of blue growth. Digitalisation is impacting various facets of society and holds great potential in radically changing the ways businesses are operating. Despite these radical changes, little has been said about the impact of digitalisation on micro-, small and medium sized businesses within the marine sector. To close this gap, this complimentary report, Is the coast clear? The role of digitalisation for enabling blue growth in the cross-border region of Svinesund is a follow-up study of Randal and Berlina’s report Governing the digital transition in Nordic regions: The human element (2019). The latter report was written on behalf of the Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions 2017–2020, under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Committee of Civil Servants for Regional Affairs. The present, complimentary study on digitalisation and blue growth has been developed on behalf of the Nordic thematic working group’s member Svinesundskommittén (The Svinesund committee).  

Bringing attention back to the city centre – six Nordic examples

Many small and medium-sized Nordic cities are dealing with challenges related to the role and development of their city centres. They use strategies related to urban planning, governance and business development, to aim for greater compactness, attractiveness, economic development and sustainability. What can we learn from the Nordic countries’ different approaches to city-centre development? This policy brief summarises investigations in six small and medium-sized Nordic cities. The discourse and practice of contemporary urban planning focuses strongly on densification and the compact city as the ideal and model for sustainable development. In the Nordic countries as well as elsewhere in Europe, there is a pervasive urban norm associated with planning, development and lifestyles. According to this norm, the compact city, and life in this city, is sustainable, attractive and safe. In parallel with this, sprawling urbanism has come to symbolise the environmental, social and economic problems of contemporary cities. Added to this, the central part of a city is a limited space for which there are high expectations related to the urban norm, expectations that can be particularly challenging for smaller cities. Our studies indicate that appropriate city-centre development requires co-operation across sectors and actors, recognition of the regional role of the city core, and investment in both the city centre and its periphery to create a balance that attracts residents, visitors and consumers. The policy brief summarises a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. The Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Cities and Urban Development 2017–2020 aims to help improve national, regional, local and cross-border strategies for sustainable cities. This is done via research projects and other communicative activities, addressing the following themes from the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning: 1) social sustainability and gender equality; 2)…

An Institutionalist View on Experimentalist Governance: Local-level obstacles to policy-learning in European Union Cohesion Policy

The paper has the dual objective of contributing to theory development as well as to the debate about the added value of EU Cohesion Policy. Experimentalist governance theory suggests that a virtuous feedback loop between policy design and implementation can the input- and output-legitimacy of policy making. EU Cohesion Policy formally resembles this experimentalist setting, but persistent debates about its added value suggest that the virtuous loop is blocked. The paper uses new institutionalism theory to systematically identify theoretical explanations for this blockage. It argues that the experimentalist link between organizational structure, pooling of experiences, greater participation, and policy learning is highly precarious. First, the rational-choice perspective suggests that the link rests on the optimistic assumption of a common utility function among the participating actors. Moreover, the structural funds provide strong incentives for grant-seeking. Second, the discursive perspective shows that the identification of shared interests depends on highly demanding speech conditions. Third, the sociological perspective highlights that the evaluation of information is socially conditioned. Therefore, learning may be based on fallacious assumptions and lead to undesired results. The paper substantiates these insights with empirical evidence from one case of institutionalized cross-border cooperation in East Central Europe. This article is published by the European Journal of Spatial Development, which in turn is published by Nordregio and Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Perspectives on labour mobility in the Nordic-Baltic region

Mobility trends between the Baltic and Nordic states and different national policy approaches to the increased mobility in the macro-region. This publication is one outcome of a project on labour mobility between the Nordic-Baltic countries: “Enhanced Nordic-Baltic co-operation on challenges of labour mobility in the Nordic-Baltic region” that the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Lithuania led during 2014-2016 in co-operation with the the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Offices in Estonia and Latvia, and Nordregio in Sweden. The overall objective of the project was to facilitate understanding and strengthen co-operation within the Nordic-Baltic region on labour mobility and demographic development across Nordic and Baltic municipalities and regions. While the main interest in this publication as well as in the project behind it has been on labour mobility —with labour mobility being understood as cross-border movement of workers within the Nordic-Baltic region—this distinction of people moving for job purposes solely is, both in statistics and policies, not easily distinguished from those moving for other reasons,such as family reunification, opportunities to study abroad, etc. These categories are also fluid, since the prime reason for living away from one’s country of birth may change over time or even overlap with others from the outset. Another issue is that not all movements between two Member States are registered. People moving for a shorter time than the national requirements for registration in the population data bases are not included, nor are those working on a temporary basis in another country. A previous Nordic study on labour migration to the Nordic countries from the new Member States during the period 2004-2011 estimates that when including workers on temporary stay, the numbers should be almost doubled (Friberg & Eldring, 2013). Therefore, the presented data on Baltic migrants is to provide an overview of the trends of mobility…