Minister Karen Ellemann,
Chairman Martin Damm
Lord Mayor Thomas Kastrup-Larsen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
it is an honour and a privilege having the opportunity to speak in front of this distinguished audience about urban-rural and bilateral relations. It is with great pleasure that I have come here today to meet with Hamburg’s neighbours and friends, especially as I live in Altona, a part of Hamburg, which used to be governed from Denmark for a long time. Please allow me some general remarks before speaking about Hamburg and its Metropolitan Region.
The urban-rural divide is one of the most popular prejudices of European politicians, journalists or civil servants and it is well cultivated by lobbyists. From its beginnings, the European Community has paved the way towards a dual track approach to its regional policy: the common agricultural policy agreed on in 1957 was meant to stabilise the farmers’ income. Nevertheless, it has been most effectively implanted into the minds as an initiative in support of poor rural areas and of farmers and their organisations calling for subsidies.
Urban issues have made their appearance on the European agenda much later on. And just as in the case of the common agricultural policy, Brussels – as well as Member States – tend to look at urban issues rather from the half-empty glass perspective: This means that urban policies are mostly “weakness-oriented” as the EU finances programs to cope with the social and environmental problems of cities. As a mayor of a big city, I am not criticising this, as you can imagine. These problems are real. However, hardly anybody sees urban and rural areas as an entity and hardly anybody is willing to strengthen cities in their function for the surrounding region and as far as their role as motors of European competitiveness is concerned.
A glance into history and into everyday practice shows that the so-called urban-rural divide has nothing to do with reality. For centuries urban and rural areas have existed in a kind of symbioses. To put it into a modern and very simplified formula: Food plus energy supply plus soft locational factors on the one hand, and market access, money, services and innovation on the other. Cooperation is and has almost always been a win-win business for both sides.
There are more reasons, why European and national politics have to take a holistic view on urban-rural issues:
In the 21st century the old and clear cut administrative borders between cities and surrounding areas do not exist anymore. Nowadays, to express it in planners’ terms, there are many “functional areas” reaching far beyond the city: the business region, the health area around a university hospital, the cultural catchment area, the shopping and day tripper area or the commuter region: Hamburg, for example, has an influx of about 350.000 commuters, and around 110.000 Hamburgians drive to their jobs in the neighbouring communities.
Until around 30 years ago, whenever “functional areas” and administrative city borders had fallen apart, cities used to incorporate surrounding communities, grow in size – and, in most cases, in income tax. In 1937 Hamburg profited in such a way by incorporating Altona. Today there is no chance anymore to change administrative borders. (By the way: In 1983 Antwerp was the last city managing to enlarge its territory by 7 neighbours.) Instead of “government” of a given territory, defining informal “governance” structures across borders is of the essence. This is the current approach to institutionalised cooperation. In fact, with “functional areas” reaching very far nowadays, it is possible to even develop cooperation across long distances: If you look at Jutland with 75% of Denmark’s industrial production, it is quite obvious that there must be a strong functional relationship with Hamburg and its port. I will come back to this in a minute.
In the whole of Europe, globalisation and the internet age have changed the urban-rural relationship patterns fundamentally. Any public authority is forced to optimise and display its locational factors in order to “stay on the map”. In their vast majority Europe’s cities are much smaller than their competitors in Asia or America – and so is Hamburg as a growing city with soon around 2 million inhabitants. Therefore most large cities, if not all of them have started a new form of intensive cooperation with their neighbours – be it cities or rural areas: They join forces.
Size matters in terms of global visibility, amount of consumers, qualified workforce, researchers, cluster policies or ability to innovate. Cities and their surrounding areas are setting up so-called “business regions” in Scandinavia or “metropolitan regions” in Germany and elsewhere. This is a European mega-trend.
At the same time this new form of cooperation happens to be another model of cohesion politics – not the well-known one with a transfer of European or national money to poorer regions, but a model of mutual benefit by project oriented cooperation of structurally weaker and stronger partners. The opportunities of this new approach have not yet been recognised and understood to the full extent, neither by the national nor by the European level. Nor is there enough support for cities, which, as a rule, lack the necessary financial means and the staff to actively and effectively run neighbourhood policies. Scientists predict that disparities will grow in Europe until 2050 and, furthermore, that the whole of Europe will be marginalised in the global environment: losing political importance and economic weight.
I strongly believe that urban-rural cooperation and neighbourhood policies – especially across national borders – contribute towards more cohesion in Europe and towards more competitiveness of our continent. In the European Union and its member states, the urban emancipation process has only started. The Dutch Presidency of the European Council is just making the Urban Agenda a major topic for the first time. The draft “Pact of Amsterdam – Establishing the EU Urban Agenda”, which is to be adopted at the informal meeting of ministers responsible for urban matters on 30th of May shows, however, that we still need some patience until Europe is ready to build on the strength of cities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I will now turn to Hamburg Metropolitan Region. Actors in and around Hamburg look back to more than 50 years of systematic urban-rural cooperation. Hamburg Metropolitan Region covers 26.000 km² with 5,1 million inhabitants. 4 German Federal States, 17 counties and 2 cities (Lübeck, Neumünster) are bound by a cooperation agreement. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s capital Schwerin is about to come on board and so is the business community of the whole region: Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Business Associations and the Trade Unions.
Although there are numerous bilateral and multilateral initiatives among the northern Federal States of Germany, Hamburg Metropolitan Region is the only platform for exchange and systematic project oriented cooperation of all levels of administration: Federal States, counties and towns (more than 1000 inhabitants). I myself meet with the county mayors on a regular basis and there is quite a number of permanent fora and working groups.
The cooperation in Hamburg Metropolitan Region is facilitated by a fund of at present around 3 million Euros to co-finance common projects. The fund has existed since 1960 and Hamburg pays 50%. As you can imagine, this is the center piece of the success story as almost all of the money is transferred to communities around Hamburg in order to strengthen the ties.
What kind of projects do we finance? Only those with added value for the region like park & ride infrastructure, electro mobility, tourism projects, cultural cooperation, joint marketing of real estate for investors, joint cluster policies – Hamburg has opened its cluster initiatives and profits on the other hand by gaining a larger critical mass by neighbourhood cooperation. Some initiatives were initiated within the framework of Hamburg Metropolitan Region, but are being run separately now, like the public transport association or the cluster Maritime Industry.
There is little time and I can only go into details concerning two initiatives which might be of interest especially for those of you who are organised within Greater Copenhagen:
In 2007 Hamburg opened its marketing company for the 17 counties and the 2 cities of the metropolitan region who have all become shareholders. And as 3 agencies are daughters of Hamburg Marketing: Hamburg Tourism, Hamburg Convention and Events as well as Hamburg Business Promotion, the region participates in major Hamburgian policies. Hamburg Marketing promotes the whole Metropolitan Region under the brand of Hamburg. This was a learning process for all partners and definitely still is. But everybody sees it as a win-win and a success story. If you wish to have an insight into our practice, we are happy to help.
The second initiative I want to mention concerns a tourism project. Along the Elbe River, upstream from Hamburg, there are two most beautiful UNESCO nature reserves and many historic towns and places worth visiting. However during the years of the two German states, cooperation across the river and from West to East stopped. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the German reunification 5 Federal States and 6 counties bordered the river Elbe and cooperation had to be learned again. It was Hamburg that invited all stakeholders to develop the River Elbe tourism together.
Urban and rural partners are profiting equally: The region is becoming more visible for holiday makers and thus jobs are being secured in a poorer part of Germany. For Hamburg this region functions as a soft locational factor to attract qualified workforce to northern Germany. And, moreover, the city profits from holiday makers who definitely come to Hamburg for shopping, whenever it is raining.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
5,1 million inhabitants in Hamburg Metropolitan Region is a decent size already, 1% of the EU population. However, at a global scale, this is small in terms of critical mass or ability to innovate. Size matters to investors and for innovation. Therefore more than 15 years ago, Hamburg has stretched out in order to link up with our next neighbours in Denmark. And together with partners from Schleswig-Holstein, Sealand, Denmark’s capital region and Skane we have set up a cross-border cooperation called STRING. The last 3 letters of the acronym mean: Inventing New Geography.
And this is what we are doing: creating a growing meta-regional cooperation with Greater Copenhagen including Malmö and Lund with their amazing research facilities. Copenhagen joined STRING in 2012. Two strong regions with around 10 million people and a growing number of ties concerning cluster and business cooperation, joint research – which will be boosted in the field of material science once XFEL and European Spallation Source ESS are operational.
Confidence building takes long – even among the beer drinking countries and neighbours. But we are making good progress. And my coalition Government has made this a priority in the coming years.
It is quite obvious that the Femern Belt crossing, the tunnel, will be of major importance to make this vision a reality. The whole region will profit enormously. And together we have the chance to attract investors who will be able to provide 10 million consumers with their products and services and whose companies can grow on the basis of solid economic structures, cross border cluster cooperation and our universities. In other words, the Femern Belt tunnel project is not just something only Denmark favours; it is equally important to Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein as well as to large parts of northern Germany and southern parts of Sweden.
We are not only oriented towards Copenhagen, however. As I said before, Jutland and Hamburg Metropolitan Region are united in a kind of functional region. We know that most people from Jutland use Hamburg for their weekend trips or to fly away on holiday. Germans love to spend their holidays in cosy Danish houses on Jutland’s shore. Many companies and our universities cooperate and there is some exchange in the field of culture especially with a view to Aarhus becoming Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2017. Therefore the 3 Danish regions of Jutland, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein are preparing an EU-INTERREG project which aims at developing political relations in the coming years as well as cooperation in the field of renewable energies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You might be aware that the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, presented on 4th of February Denmark’s new “Tyskland Strategi”. Denmark is going to intensify cooperation in the fields of small and medium enterprises, cultural exchange and the Minister wants to spread the knowledge of German. Hamburg welcomes this initiative wholeheartedly, and I personally am very happy that Kristian Jensen announced that the Danish Consulate General in Hamburg will be reopened. I am confident that the new Consul General will give full support to the development of our regional relations.
So far all Danish Governments have concentrated on immediate cross border INTERREG A-relations with Schleswig-Holstein. With a view to the challenges of globalisation I invite the current Danish Government as well as the cities and regions of Denmark to consider a much farther going approach to cooperation. If you look at the western Baltic region from Oslo and Gothenburg down south to Hamburg, you will see quite a number of regional initiatives: 4 INTERREG A regions (North Jutland-Oslo/Gothenburg; Greater Copenhagen; South Jutland-North Schleswig-Holstein and the Femern Belt region), 3 metropolitan regions (Oslo-Akershus; Greater Copenhagen and Hamburg Metropolitan Region). And there is the idea of the “8 Million City” from Copenhagen via Sweden up north to Oslo interlinked by a high speed train.
From the perspective of China or the U.S.A. the western Baltic is considered one region. I would therefore like to suggest reconsidering our very small scale structures. Hamburg could imagine that in the next EU funding period as from 2021 we would all share one INTERREG A region from Oslo down south to Hamburg. This will not mean kissing good-bye neighbourhood projects, but opening our minds for a larger perspective.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Minister Karen Ellemann and I will discuss one of these challenges for our two countries and for the whole of Europe – the refugee crisis. The re-introduction of temporary border controls between Germany, Denmark and Sweden last September has signified a departure from fundamental European principles. From our perspective, it is important to note that these measures are acceptable only because they are temporary.
By now, an agreement about the necessary steps that will allow for the discontinuation of border control measures within the EU has been reached in Brussels. However, moving forward we will have to work together to secure Europe’s external borders. Moreover, we must improve the condition of refugees in the neighbouring regions of conflict zones, by significantly increasing our efforts to deliver aid to those in need.
We must also acknowledge the important role that our cooperation with Turkey plays in regulating and steering the movement of migrants, especially if we aim to re-establish and protect the unrestricted movement of persons and goods within the Schengen area.
The last weeks have also shown all too clearly that it cannot be a feasible option to leave Greece alone in dealing with refugees arriving across the Mediterranean and that European solidarity must also be the guiding principle for our countries in the north of Europe. Such solidarity will also be the precondition for ensuring that border controls between European countries will not persist.
Allow me to close my remarks with an optimistic outlook on the future development of our relations. Over the last decade, cooperation between Hamburg and its Northern neighbours has intensified, and one may perhaps go as far as claiming that our regions have in many ways rediscovered one another. Denmark’s image in Germany, which until quite recently was perhaps most strongly associated with holiday homes on the west coast has undergone a drastic transformation. We deeply value our close cooperation, to which both sides contribute with their respective strengths and we are determined to continue in this line.