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Joy lives in North Karelia


Photo/Rauno Jussila: Koli National Park, situated in the middle of North Karelia, covers 30 square kilometres of forested hills on the western shore of Lake Pielinen.

– North Karelian people are joyful by nature; they are easy to get to know and to get along with. The saying “Joy lives in Karelia” describes our personality very well, says the Region Mayor Risto Poutiainen.

North Karelia shares 300 kilometres of common border with Russia. The region has vast areas of forests, lakes and natural resources. The capital of the region is Joensuu with around 75 000 inhabitants.

– North Karelia is a compact region and it is of adequate size. We also have a very good cooperation and a development-oriented atmosphere, which gives us the possibility to create smart and practical solutions – to almost any problems. We have a Nordic style modern society, but also space to live on and roam freely. Forests and lakes give us the quality of live.

The region is internationally well known for the high-level forest bioeconomy expertise and technology industries, such as Assa Abloy security locking and John Deere forestry tractor companies.

As in Barents generally, the long distances are a challenge also for North Karelia.

– Sparse population and long distances make it difficult to maintain services in some parts of the region. The other big challenges for us are demographics and a too big unemployment rate.

Photo/Rauno Jussila: John Deere is one of the biggest employers in Joensuu.

‘North Karelia has done itself justice in the cooperation with the Barents region’

North Karelia is part of Euregio Karelia, where the regions of North Ostrobothnia and Kainuu and the Republic of Karelia work together. North Karelia has been an observer in the regional Barents cooperation for a long time and has actively taken part in Regional Council and Regional Committee meetings as well the meetings of working groups, like the regional working group on transport and logistics.

The region applied for membership in Barents cooperation already in 1997, 2001 and 2008, got observer status in 2008 and finally full membership of the Regional Council in 2017.

– The membership means a lot to North Karelia, because we think that we are part of the Barents family. We want to participate and bring our expertise to forest bioeconomy, renewable energy and tourism development in the Barents region. We are also interested in working in the committees of education and research and culture.

– Our enterprises see a lot of potential in the Barents region for increasing their international business. North Karelian companies and research and education institutions that are active in these fields are world-renowned. With the expertise that can be found in the region, North Karelia could significantly contribute to improving the competitiveness and vitality of the Barents region. We have also been very active in working with the European Union in several fields.

Photo/Rauno Jussila

Risto Poutiainen hopes that through Barents-cooperation the regions could better solve the common challenges that the Barents Region and North Karelia are both facing with regard to e.g. Arctic climate, sparse population, long distances and demographics.

– What is of utmost importance for us is to take part in the development of the transport connections, especially air and rail and road connections. The Petrozavodsk – Niirala/ Värtsilä – Kajaani transport corridor is our priority, and it has already been included in the Barents transport plan.

The Karelia and Kolarctic CBC programmes continue to be the central funding instruments for cooperation in the Barents region. Before the year 2017 the North Karelia has been the only region that has not been a member of the Barents Regional Council.

– We think that North Karelia as a neighbor of the Republic of Karelia and Kainuu is a natural part of the Barents region. And, as one of the Council members said in the meeting, North Karelia has done itself justice in the cooperation with Barents region. We are thankful that all the regions welcomed us to the Barents region.

Risto Poutiainen DSC_5144_300.jpg
Photo/Regional Council of North Karelia:
Risto Poutiainen

Map of the Barents Region

Interview: Johanna Westerlund

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