Øresund integration continues to fall

The Nordic Council has identified 33 barriers to strengthened co-operation and free movement of people and goods across the waters between Sweden and Denmark

Although still going strong, integration between eastern Denmark and southern Sweden declined for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to Øresundskomiteen, a organisation working to promote greater co-operation in the so-called Øresund region.

The five-category integration index released by Øresundskomiteen last week showed that while integration of transport and communication, business and culture remained strong, it was integration of the housing and labour markets that had suffered in recent years.

“It is positive that integration of the Øresund region is twice as strong as was the case before the Øresund Bridge opened [in 2000], but it is unsatisfactory that integration has declined over the past four years,” Øresundskomiteen wrote. “And although the financial crisis is partly responsible, it is not wholly to blame.”

The issue of Øresund integration was discussed last Friday at Denmark’s annual Folkemødet political meeting on the island of Bornholm.

At a seminar hosted by ferry operators Scandlines titled ‘Who the hell wants to integrate?’ a number of high-profile organisations in the region took part in a debate in an effort to come to terms with the declining integration.

Henrik Rørbæk, the head of Scandlines, was well aware of the challenges to regional integration.

“I am a prime example of the difficulty of integration. I have social security numbers in two countries, there are opaque pension conditions and there are lots of hindrances when, for example, I need a new car,” Rørbæk said. “There are barriers that make it difficult to work and live on separate sides of Øresund.”

Leif Jakobsson, a member of Sweden’s parliament, agreed there were too many challenges involved with commuting between countries.

“We know that if we can create one labour market instead of two, then we have much to gain. But we have not come close to making the most of integration,” Jakobsson said. “Just a few years ago, lots of Danes moved to Scania, but that’s not the case anymore since it is no longer feasible. That also hurts the integration of the Øresund region.”

The Nordic Council in a recent report identified 33 barriers to strengthened co-operation and free movement of people and goods in the Øresund region.

“One of the barriers is border issues. For example, cows and chickens from Bornholm are not permitted to be butchered in Scania and must be transported all the way to mainland Denmark,” MP Bertil Haarder (Venstre), president of the Nordic Council and a former minister for Nordic co-operation, said.

Read the Øresundskomiteen's findings (in Danish only).