Top international experts examine competitiveness of the Baltic Sea region in Helsinki Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) celebrates 30th anniversary
15 June 2006
Helsinki - The Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) is an international financing institution founded in 1976 and owned by eight countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden). From its headquarters in Finland it finances public and private projects in and outside its member countries. At the end of 2005, NIB’s loans outstanding amounted to almost EUR 12 billion. To celebrate its 30th anniversary the Bank organised a major international seminar in Helsinki on 14 June 2006.
The event hosted several eminent expert speakers and panellists who discussed the competitiveness of the Baltic Sea region.
Finland’s President Tarja Halonen pointed out that the Nordic countries were winners in globalisation. “We have the same objectives on competitiveness and growth potential. But to be winners in the global competition in the future, we need to increase our investments in human resources, lifelong learning and in research and development,” she said. Ms Halonen concluded her speech by thanking the NIB for the work done during the past 30 years and stressed its role as a catalyst in developing competitiveness of the Baltic Sea region in the future.
Ulla-Maj Wideroos, Finland’s Co-ordinate Minister of Finance, emphasised the challenges the Baltic Sea region may acknowledge in order to secure its further growth: “The competitive edge of the region is slipping compared to that of Central Europe and the rest of the world. We must complete the internal market, promote free competition and remove remaining trade barriers. There are still differences in legislation and standards, which may be harmful for a further integration and hampers an efficient use of workforce, innovation and strategic networks.”
In the presentation of a study on the state of the region, Christian Ketels, Principal Associate, Harvard Business School, stressed the heterogeneity of the “region by choice” and suggested to define a new challenge in order to remove these obstacles for better competitiveness of the Baltic Sea region. “We have to set a new strategic goal to be able to leverage regional cooperation in our quest for growth. We need to review our institutions, strengthen the visibility of the region and become more assertive in defining required changes in EU policy, take the lead on economic relations to Russia wherever possible. We need to launch a debate on the identity and brand of the Baltic Sea region,” said Dr Ketels.
The seminar hosted a panel of experts who addressed the issues raised by Dr Ketels. Siim Kallas, Vice President of the European Commission, suggested harmonising tax legislation. Lars Grönstedt, Chairman of Swedish Handelsbanken, stressed the importance of good living conditions, residential environment and education for the welfare of the region. He said the best labour and investments flowed towards those areas which people regarded as attractive places to live. Inge K Hansen, CEO of Norwegian Aker Kvaerner, believed that the need for capital and a highly skilled workforce were crucial issues for the development of the region. Tomas Dybye, CEO of Danish Maersk Nordic and Baltic, emphasised the importance of properly functioning infrastructure and logistics. He pinpointed harbours, roads and inefficient logistics as bottlenecks to economic effectiveness.
NIB will continue to focus on supporting corporate and national economic competitiveness within the Baltic Sea region as well as financing environmental projects. For example, energy, logistics and environmental technologies will be primary areas in the Bank’s operations.
For more information:
Communications Manager Jamima Löfström, tel. +358 40 581 7208 or e-mail email@example.com
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