This report looks at some of the progress made in the Öresund collaboration since the building of the Öresund Bridge. The extent of exchange and collaboration in the Öresund region has increased drastically. The long-distance, primarily passing traffic has been redirected along a new path and has grown. The Öresund Bridge is a successful project in itself, both technically and financially, with a stable economic situation which in the long term will also generate a financial surplus. The Öresund collaboration thus shows positive signs in all material respects.
At the same time, there is a common view in the Öresund region that the collaboration should have progressed further. We perceive this as widespread frustration over the situation and in the development of the collaboration in the Öresund region. There is a question of whether something has been done wrong, if it’s possible to think and act differently, and how to proceed in the future. This is the focus of the analysis of the Öresund collaboration carried out by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in this project for Region Skåne.
We believe the frustration and impatience of many actors in the Öresund region is a result of the sometimes very high expectations, as well as the potential for further collaboration that can be seen but not realised. The Öresund Regional Development Strategy (ÖRUS), an initiative of the Öresund Committee and in many ways relevant also for Region Skåne, is promising in many ways. However, we feel that it also risks adding to the frustration by being ambitious whilst having a relatively constrained time schedule.
One of the more significant lessons learned from the project is that the future development should be based on and surrounded by visions which are clearly formed from prevailing institutional conditions (practices, culture, laws and rules, organisational forms) and should be weighed up in terms of which forms of collaboration are appropriate and realistic in different situations. Case-specific collaboration is the way forward which we propose.
It is generally counterproductive to place excessively high requirements and expectations on collaborations in which there is no realistic basis for collaboration among the concerned actors due to a lack of commitment and ownership on their part. It is also important to remember that cooperation and collaboration (or in the most developed situations, even integration) can come in different forms; from a relatively loose coexistence to situations in which differences are evened out or of such an insignificant scope that they in no way inhibit collaboration.
Here, it is important to remember that competition is one of the more developed forms of collaboration; perhaps even the ultimate sign that integration has come into being. Division of labour and specialisation are important elements of a region such as Öresund and perhaps primarily comes about in a truly competitive market model.
Here, the matter of differences being a better catalyst for integration and collaboration than similarities is an interesting part of understanding the dynamic process that is the Öresund collaboration. In situations whereby exchange rates, taxes, etc., deviate between Sweden and Denmark, the collaboration and exchange across Öresund increases, only to subside when the differences decrease.
The three different areas of collaboration that KTH has studied in more detail (education and research, industry collaboration and culture) demonstrate collaboration primarily in the form of loose structures. There are relatively few examples of integration in advanced stages; something which can change via a more concrete collaboration strategy, but which may also indicate that informal collaboration is a good model which partners often prefer.
We recommend a number of concrete measures that Region Skåne should be able to implement together with other actors in the Öresund region in order to develop the collaboration.
• Short term – efficiency here and now
In this timescale, efforts are primarily concentrated within the scope of the current conditions in terms of language, culture, legislation, etc. The main focus in this timescale should be the optimal use of existing resources. A great many collaborations can be considered based on these starting points, in both the public and private sectors, in order to take advantage of thus far unutilised opportunities for collaboration. This can be a matter of better planning and the utilisation of health and medical care, cultural institutions, education systems, research environments and transport infrastructure, but it may also be about improving the information provided to actors in the industry about opportunities for collaboration in the near future by e.g., helping to create social forums and networks.
We recommend as a further measure, as highlighted above, a survey of potential areas of collaboration within the areas that can be influenced in the short term. Put together a project group tasked with drawing up concrete proposals for collaboration between e.g., Copenhagen Municipality and Malmö City/Region Skåne. Collaboration in company form has proven to work in different contexts and may be worth testing in other areas.
• Medium term – creating good conditions
This level is about influencing both the formal structures in terms of legislation and formal regulations for tax, social insurance, pensions, etc. These areas have been studied in-depth by the partners of the Öresund collaboration and a number of reports have been compiled. Naturally, further investment in this area is required in order to attempt to bring about measures which facilitate collaboration and exchange across Öresund.
There is potential for this is connection with the upcoming election in Sweden, where Region Skåne should endeavour to make this a prioritised measure for improving both the growth potential and labour market conditions in the Öresund region.
Another measure would be to recommend that Sweden elect a state representative tasked with working specifically with these matters. The Swedish State should perhaps have a representation office in Malmö tasked with working towards a clear reduction of the institutional border obstacles.
A more radical measure would be for Region Skåne to issue a guarantee or “collaboration guarantee” which involves the region bearing the additional costs or covering any lost benefits in terms of the social security systems and taxes that citizens of Region Skåne can receive as a result of their choice to work in Denmark. The scope and legality of the recommendation must of course be carefully examined, as well as various aspects of legal security.
In the areas controlled by regional and local actors, the areas of education,research and transport infrastructure stand out as the most important in this timescale as well. The project “The Scandinavian 8 Million City”, which is currently underway and which is an endeavour to bring about a rail link between Oslo and Copenhagen and further connections in both directions, is a good example of this. The potential extension of the metro between Malmö and Copenhagen is another. One project that should be more clearly arranged in the regional strategy is the HH Tunnel (the plan for connecting Helsingborg and Elsinore/Helsingör with a fixed transport infrastructure link).
The two projects ESS and MAX IV provide what are probably the best opportunities for a more structurally established collaboration across Öresund within some areas of research. Here, Region Skåne should concentrate efforts on supporting and promoting different forms of collaboration. With its base in research, the project provides the opportunity for a great many associated activities within the labour market, services and accommodation.
• Long term – changing informal and cultural conditions
This is perhaps the most paradoxical of the three levels or timescales in the collaboration. On one hand, most are aware that language, culture and habits are relatively deeply rooted in Swedish and Danish society respectively. We often come back to the differences we perceive from both sides in collaboration and competition between our countries. And in general we are clear about these being conditions that will only change in the long term. On the other hand, these conditions are often emphasised as inhibitive and limiting in the collaboration across Öresund.
Levelling out these conditions will take time. Greater understanding of the culture that we wish to work with is however generally beneficial. Our view is that this occurs primarily via the everyday individual exchange which is based on commercial and interpersonal relationships. Measures which could be tried, however, are more active investments in linguistic comprehension between Swedish and Danish in school.
However, we find other measures such as attempting to coordinate cultural life between Malmö and Copenhagen by means of government action somewhat dubious. It is probably a better and more accessible road to invest in collaboration in culture that is based on “simpler” cost minimisation/efficiency in the short-term perspective than to attempt to circumnavigate these issues and go directly to an integration model.
Once again, it is likely that the hypothesis that differences spur on collaboration is a better model than attempting to organise collaboration in which there is a lack of logic for collaboration and incentive.
The findings of the report are based on a large number of interviews with actors in the Öresund region, as well as other material. A summary of the interviews is provided in an appendix to the report, which is available in Swedish.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , 70 p.