Some 15 years ago, the Crown Prince of Denmark and the Crown Princess of Sweden – cousins by the way – met on the new bridge and started a new era for Copenhagen and Malmö. Separated since 1659 nationality-wise, the two cities were now united again.
However, integrating the two cities is not an easy task. Centuries of separation have developed cultural and political differences that are not easily overcome.
Pride yields to progress
The biggest sticking point is pride. Malmö /Lund has always been sceptical of attempts to integrate, mindful that their capital Stockholm does not want to play second fiddle to Copenhagen, which in turn has its own dominance in Denmark to consider. But there are now signs that common sense is taking over; word has it that Greater Copenhagen is the new magic word.
Malmö/Lund has of late seen a decline in industry. Ericsson and Sony Mobile have announced layoffs in the thousands. An area interest group, the Medicon Valley Alliance, recognises that growth is concentrated on the Danish side. Something has to be done.
But already there are signs of a resurgence, like in the case of the ESS (European Spallation Source). Some 17 countries are building a facility that will engage thousands of scientists in Copenhagen and Lund. They have chosen ‘Greater Copenhagen’ because it is a region with 4 million people. It is the home of 11 universities. It has, right in the middle, an international airport and other infrastructure facilities. It has a long welfare tradition, environmental responsibility, cultural diversity and 21 Michelin star restaurants.
Endorsed by politicians
The mayor of Helsingborg, Peter Danielsson, gave his support to the initiative as it was debated at an Øresund conference with all its stakeholders present. Copenhagen mayor Frank Jensen too endorsed the idea that the Swedish side should join the 46 communities in Denmark that are now marketing the Greater Copenhagen brand.
The next step is to establish an investor portal to attract investors to GC and a welcome body to receive foreign delegations – all under the framework of Copenhagen Capacity, which just received a contract worth 130 million kroner over four years to create 4,000 new jobs in the Greater Copenhagen
Speak a common language
To enable the region to compete with other international strongholds for the attraction of talent and capital, this is a remarkable step forward. The likes of Osaka, Boston and San Francisco can be matched in the future.
We urge the parties not to stop here. They have to work on common standards regarding education, tax, health and not least communication. They should give serious thought to making English the official second language in Greater Copenhagen. It is already unofficially the lingua franca for industry, research and commerce. In an area spread over two countries, one would expect the residents to speak a common language – so let’s just do it!
It will only further enhance its competitive drive as Greater Copenhagen seeks inclusion among the world’s leading regions by 2020.