Intryck från våra Peer Reviewers

Vi var väldigt glada över medverkan från våra peer reviewers i arbetet med analysen, som så villigt delade med sig av sina erfarenheter från respektive region.

  • Xavier Tiana Casablancas, Head of International Relations in Barcelona Metropolitan Government (AMB) & Secretary General of the MEDCITIES Network
  • Gil Kelley, Chief Planner, City of Vancouver
  • Johannes Gielge, Head of the Urban Research Section of the Urban Planning Department, City of Vienna

Vi blev lite nyfikna på deras intryck av vår Megaregion så vi ställde några frågor till dem:

What surprised you the most about our “megaregion”?
JG: Each part of the megaregion mainly referred to economic centres outside: Oslo looks to the oil industry at the atlantic coast, Göteborg to Stockholm, Skåne to Copenhagen… I had the impression that this kind of comparison with “big brothers” makes you feel a bit disadvantaged.

XTC: The Megaregion belongs to a territory that has the potential to grow with a coherent and well structured strategy. The role of the local and regional authorities is essential in this process. I’d like to mention the vision of some important stakeholders as the Port of Gothenburg. My previous knowledge of the area was the Greater Copenhagen or the cooperations around the Baltic. I was not aware of the will to develop a common strategy for the Western Scandinavia which is a great success.

2. According to you, which are (a) our greatest assets and/or potentials, and (b) challenges?

JG: May be the fact that your region lies in the centre of this triangle (of “big brothers”); the really disadvantaged regions are outside, e.g. in north Sweden or Jylland. However, the present status seems to be ambiguous – although your region is in the centre, its relation to the “big brothers” is rather felt as being a hinterland (drain of skilled labour force, relatively cheap housing marked…). The idea of the “Megaregion” is to bring its parts closer together in order to really become a centre. But it seemed to me that most representatives did not consider this as a priority.

XTC: The Megaregion has key assets as: An attractive territory for companies, tourism and students; Good transport connections of the big metropolitan areas; Good network of universities and research centers; low unemployment rate and job opportunities for high skilled professionals; Strong local and regional governments with financial resources; Vision to work internationally and specially in the EU arena. The most important challenges are: Integrating the full territory going from the Greater Copenhagen to Oslo in the strategy; More political commitment and the public support of the central governments and the key economic and social stakeholders; Developing the strategy with a vision and a brand and positioning it in the EU and global agenda; Showing that you have current examples of cooperation in the area; Citizens appropriation and support. However the Megaregion has some specific problems like the integration of migrants and refugees, the regional transport network, the lack of affordable housing or the increase of the employment rates in specific sectors like teachers, health or engineering.

3. Do you have some success factors in your own work with regional development that you recommend that we should try to apply?

JG: Facts are sometimes more effective than co-operation. E.g. if you look at the TEN corridors, you can see that Vienna is not a privileged node compared to Bratislava or Budapest. But there is a lot of rail investment in Austria (new Vienna main station, 4 tracks Vienna-Linz in service, tunnels at Semmering and Koralm to Italy under construction) – but quite few investment in Slovakia or Hungary. This may be more decisive than official concepts.

XTC: The development of a territorial brand or a vision is very important. Barcelona is an excellent example associated to a global brand belonging to football, tourism, innovation, Culture, Urbanization and city regeneration projects, cultural and natural heritage, quality of life, etc… The brand represents a city but also the big metropolitan region, municipalities and even the Catalonia region. Cooperation in the Mediterranean is a reality not always well structured. The Mediterranean has different networks of cooperation acting as good platforms for the development of the area. I would like to highlight networks as Medcities (network of 50 cities), CRPM – Intermediterranean Commission, (regions) Arco Latino (provinces), Unimed (Universities), Ascamme (Chambers of Commerce) that could be good examples to inspire the Megaregion.

4. Was there something you learned during your stay in our “megaregion” that you think might be a good idea to try to implement back home?

JG: I was impressed by the intensive co-operation at the “komunalförbund” and county level (Vestkom, Open Skåne, Oslo package).

XTC: The bottom-up process of developing a common strategy from the vision and shared work of the local and regional administrations adding other stakeholders.

5. Do you see any collaboration opportunities with some individuals or organisations you met during your stay here?

JG: Even if problems are similar, solutions usually cannot be transferred into another political and legal context. Therefore the benefit of collaboration between organisations is usually limited. However, exchange of ideas on a personal basis can be quite fruitful.

XTC: The Metropolitan government of Barcelona has already some cooperation with the metropolitan cities of the Megaregion. However they could be better developed. The European Metropolitan Authorities forum is a good platform for this cooperation. At the same time municipalities, universities, research centers, city planners and architects, SMEs, stakeholders from the cultural sector, etc. could benefit from these contacts. We are open to foster and promote them and the EU offers different opportunities to cofinance them.

6. What do you like most about being a peer reviewer in an OECD study?

JG: When you come back, you may have a slightly different view of the challenges of your own city.

XTC: It was my second participation as peer-reviewer after the one I had in the framework of the OECD Report for the Metropole of Rotterdam and The Hague in 2015. It is hard because you are meeting many people in a short period of time but it is a fascinating personal and professional experience where you learn a lot from the local partners and the other peer-reviewers. In a period of 3 days you need to understand the local situation, share your territorial and institutional experience and to adapt it to the needs of another reality. The preliminary reports and concept notes prepared by the local teams and the OECD are really helpful before the mission is taking place. You have the feeling that the local team, the OECD and the 3 peer-reviewers are acting as a real Team working for a common objective.