OECD Territorial Reviews: Northern Sparsely Populated Areas

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The northern sparsely populated areas (NSPA) of Finland, Norway and Sweden are becoming increasingly important to the geopolitical and economic interests of these countries and the European Union. These regions have unique geographical characteristics - low population density and a harsh climate - and face specific challenges due to an ageing population, long distances from markets, and high-cost land transport. However, high productivity growth is possible in low-density regions. This report sets out policy recommendations at cross-border, national and regional scales to enhance prosperity and well-being across the NSPA. This includes closer co-operation with national governments to address shared challenges and opportunities such as improving east-west transport connections and reducing occupational and skills barriers to labour mobility, and addressing barriers to business growth such as access to finance.



Assessment and Recommendations

The economic and geopolitical importance of the NSPA regions to the EU and member countries has been increasing due to a changing climate, access to hydrocarbon and mineral resources, and shifts in relations with the Russian Federation (hereafter ‘Russia’) and other Arctic countries. A changing climate is placing new pressures on ecosystems and traditional ways of life, and opening up new opportunities for resource extraction. The NSPA is Europe’s gateway to the Arctic and northern Russia, and is important for energy security, food production and technological innovation, which is increasing its geopolitical importance to member countries. This importance is recognised by the EU and the national governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden. The EU, Finland, Norway and Sweden have each released Arctic policies in recent years, which set out commitments for the sustainable development of the northern regions. As an existing (albeit weak) institution the NSPA is an important stakeholder in helping to achieve these strategic policy objectives.


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