The recently published final report of the ESPON RISE (Region Integrated Strategies in Europe) provides a toolkit and policy recommendations for the preparation of integrated regional development strategies. The project included case studies from four European regions: the Randstad (NL), West Midlands (UK), Västerbotten (SE), and Zealand (DK). Indeed as a Priority 2: Targeted Analysis Project the initial concept came from policy-makers within each of these regions. Interestingly, the report refers to the concept of extended policy territories which cover regional spaces which extend beyond the boundaries of administrative regions. These are illustrated from the perspective of Zealand Region (below) where overlapping policy territories at multiple scales are identified.
This concept of policy territories as employed here, corresponds to what we refer to as soft spaces in the current research project ‘Soft Spaces, Spatial Planning and Territorial Management in Europe’ led by HafenCity University Hamburg (see for also recent conference papers here). Soft spaces can provide new innovative opportunities for regional development and thinking ‘outside the box’, but in some cases also raise issues of democratic legitimacy and accountability.
Commencing operation in 2021, a new tunnel will provide the final piece in the jigsaw linking the city of Hamburg in Germany to Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden which together form the STRING region. This fixed link will complement the existing bridge crossing the Öresund strait between Denmark and Sweden which opened to traffic in July 2000.
The Fehmarn link, together with related investments in the connecting road and rail transport networks in both Denmark and Germany is of game-changing significance for the economic geography of Northern Europe bringing Scandinavia another step closer to the centre of Europe. Significant economic benefits are expected at the regional scale as new opportunities for cooperation, trade and tourism emerge. At the local level, however, negative impacts are anticipated as other trade and passenger routes become less competitive and potentially cease operation. The tunnel alone will not bring about economic, social or cultural integration.
Indeed a wide range of political and economic cooperation initiatives are already actively seeking to build the required ‘mental bridge’ and turn the Fehmarnbelt Region into a reality . The commitment of political, economic and administrative actors was demonstrated in force through a series of events held between 26th and 28th September in Lübeck and Hamburg. The so-called Fehmarnbelt Days included an official dinner where the European Commissioner for Transport was the guest of honour along with senior policy-makers from Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
Other events however had a more public focus with an ‘Idea Factory’ with over 300 participants and many opportunities for networking among businesspeople and development organisations. Perhaps the most important lesson from the Fehmarnbelt Days and the associated cooperation initiatives is that the prospect of the fixed link has already provided the impulse for closer cooperation in economic, cultural and social political spheres which indeed to a large extent does not depend on the tunnel itself.