iðnaðar- og viðskiptaráðherra.
Bláa Lóninu, 13.-14. september 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the first Northern Periphery Partenariat to be held here in Iceland. I especially want to welcome the 130 foreign guests from 7 countries that have come a long way to participate in this meeting, from the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, from Northwest Russia, from the Highlands and Islands in Scotland and our close neighbors in the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Iceland became a full member of the Northern Periphery Programme this summer, and it is an important element of a new Regional Development Plan that was approved by the Icelandic Parliament in May this year. We have great expectations about it's potential to influence regional development in Iceland.
In recent years the world has changed rapidly because of factors in technology, economy, politics and others. These changes can also be seen in increased globalization which has affected, the economy and culture on global, national and regional level at the same time – with both opportunities and threats - for business as well as people.
The key challenge is however to cope with these changes – there is no other option - and to take advantage of opportunities and strengths as well as create new ones for business, people and regions.
Globalization is a process which geographic distance becomes an increasingly less important factor in the establishment and maintenance of border-crossing economic, political and socio-cultural relations. Therefore it is much more important than ever to strengthen cooperation and cross-border co-operation, between municipalities, regions as well as countries – to be able to strengthen the economy, culture and the standard of living within regions and countries.
Information from OECD is also telling us that the regions which successfully face the challenges of globalization, are those who are best integrated into the world economy – based on domestic as well as international co-operation between regions and co-operation between regional authorities and companies, as well as clustering and networking between companies.
Without these new forms of governance, it seems more difficult for any region to successfully face the challenges of globalization. Globalization can therefore benefit both advanced and less advanced regions - it depends upon their capacity and willingness to adjust to new circumstances. For this reason the Northern Periphery programme is highly welcomed here in Iceland.
The strengths of regions in our countries are many like; culture, the sagas, skilled people, great natural resources and clean environments, etc. But at the same time our common challenges are many – like the cold climate, the sparse population, the long distances and therefore difficult transport conditions.
It is therefore important to exchange experiences in order to minimize our common challenges and to find ways to exploit our common opportunities and strengths.
Co-operation and partnerships between countries and regions is the overall aim of this programme - and I am confident that the work at this meeting during the next two days will bring us closer together and help us with our common tasks regarding regional development in the Northern Periphery.
The intention of the programme is to exchange knowledge and experience for example in business development, transportation, information technology and service provision, etc. These are all issues that are important for the future development of our regions and have been highlighted in our new Regional Development Plan for Iceland.
A key element of the programme is how it encourages the creation of partnerships – not only between regions and countries – but also between various sectors of society such as municipalities, academic institutions, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations and also private companies. This programme and activity will therefore add a new dynamic factor into the cooperation between our regions.
The possibility for local actors to participate in projects and exchange experiences with local actors from other Northern countries facing similar challenges is also of utmost importance.
Co-operation and partnerships with each other is important for all of us and it is therefore very important for you, the participants at this Partenariat, to join forces to find common tasks and initiate projects based upon common challenges facing the Northern Periphery.
Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to thank the Programme Monitoring Committee and the Programme Secretariat for holding this Partenariat here in Iceland, the programme is of great importance for us.
This is an important initiative on your behalf to help the West-Nordic countries to become more involved in the programme and to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.
Regional Policy is an important factor in our countries, and this program shows that there are "interesting new and modern management tools" in action, to deal more focused with opportunities and challenges which we are facing in our regions and countries. In institutions like OECD the regional policy is also getting more attention and is considered as important element in integrated economic policy for countries.
The co-operation within the programme will increase our strengths and competitiveness, making us better prepared to cope with the challenges we are facing – in rapidly changing world and globalization - and hopefully turn them into economic and cultural value for regions, countries, business and people.
The work here today and tomorrow will be an important and valuable addition to future co-operation between the Northern countries and I look forward to hearing about your activities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would again like to wish our foreign guests welcome to Iceland and wish them a pleasant stay. May you all have a fruitful meeting and I wish you all the best.