Finland cannot thrive without eastern Finland – Six central cities join forces to promote vitality

9.6.2020 - 14:20

Joint statement of the central cities of eastern Finland (Joensuu, Kajaani, Kouvola, Kuopio, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli) concerning regional development

Central cities play a key role in the development of eastern Finland 

The development trend of eastern Finland is currently twofold: the population is declining, but business life and especially the export industry are gaining momentum. This momentum is so strong that the area is facing significant challenges in labour availability, which in turn restricts business development and the creation of new jobs.  

Eastern Finland is home to 930 000 inhabitants in total – half of whom live in these central cities. The demographic development and the future of eastern Finland as a whole depends largely on these cities.  

The central cities of eastern Finland call for immediate action by the government to improve the accessibility and labour availability of the region

Reversing the trend in eastern Finland is necessary for the entire national economy. Eastern Finland holds a lot of potential: expertise, diverse business activities and raw material reserves. Previous measures to enhance the vitality of the region have been inadequate and minor compared to e.g. projects undertaken in the western parts of Finland. The partnership between the state and the central cities to promote vitality and competitiveness should be developed, and strong, joint measures should be implemented to reverse the negative trend. 

Improvement of transport connections unites the interests of eastern Finland 

Transport connections in eastern Finland have fallen behind the development in the rest of the country. Government efforts to develop transport connections in eastern Finland create conditions conducive to improving the vitality and attractiveness of the region. The main arterial roads in eastern Finland should be made part of the EU TEN-T Core Network so that the financial instruments of the EU could also be used for transport-related investments. 

Improvement of regional accessibility is an issue that has been strongly upheld also by business organizations and representatives of key companies.  

Planning of the high-speed eastern rail connection from Helsinki via Porvoo and Kouvola to St. Petersburg must continue. The goal should be a three-hour service from Kuopio and Joensuu to Helsinki. Shorter travel times would place eastern Finland almost on the same footing as western Finland. The management of the central cities expresses its readiness to take part in the eastern rail project using a corporate model together with the government. 

In terms of road transport, the cities consider the improvement of the standard and safety of national roads 5 and 6 as key objectives, while improvement of the so-called bottleneck portions of these roads is seen as most urgent. The government should make a long-term commitment in its 12-year transport system plan to the development of road connections (arterial and transverse connections) which are essential to business life in eastern Finland and tourism in the lake district.   

Jobs are available – where to find talent 

The development of accessibility has a major impact on the attractiveness of the region and thereby labour availability, but at the same time, other measures are also needed. Eastern Finland as a whole has long suffered from a severe mismatch of skills and jobs as well as structural unemployment. There is a shortage of highly specialized experts. The government should significantly increase the resources allocated to the promotion of employment, higher education and vocational education and training and also remove obstacles which hinder student and labour immigration. 

More information is available from the Mayors of the participating cities:  

  • City of Joensuu, Mayor Kari Karjalainen, +358 400 827 357
  • City of Kajaani, Mayor Jari Tolonen, +358 44 710 0303 
  • City of Kouvola, Deputy Mayor Tuukka Forsell, +358 20 615 9333
  • City of Kuopio, Mayor Jarmo Pirhonen, +358 44 718 2790 
  • City of Lappeenranta, Mayor Kimmo Jarva, +358 5 616 2001
  • City of Mikkeli, Mayor Timo Halonen, +358 40 557 8077 
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