A springboard to Europe
Getting from Ostrobothnia to Europe may very well be easier than one might think. Thanks to the West Finland European Office (WFEO), Ostrobothnia, along with three other West Finland regions, has a joint representation in Brussels. WFEO aims to influence European stakeholders and carries out various assignments, project development support and their information dispersion.
“We act as a direct link to the European Union. We follow EU decision making and strive to influence it in line with thematic regional goals,” says Emilia Pernaa, Director of West Finland European Office.
Established in 1995, the office was set up to create and maintain contacts with EU institutions and other relevant stakeholders. According to Pernaa, persistent work and an active presence are required to achieve results.
“Everything is reliant on relationships and networks. We have to be on the spot to influence and bring the voice of Ostrobothnia to where things happen. Brussels has become a natural meeting place for lobbyists around the EU institutions,” says Pernaa.
According to her, the results of the work have already become visible, and Ostrobothnia is now well known. The area has obtained a strong brand, especially through its expertise in the energy technology field.
“Awareness of the energy sector also increases interest in other areas of expertise in the region. People we meet often ask what else is made in Ostrobothnia, whereupon we can also lobby for other skills of the region,” says Pernaa.
Although the European office can act as a good springboard towards the EU, Pernaa points out that their activities are based on the needs and initiative of active players in western Finland.
“Visibility and activity are prerequisites for maintaining a strong profile in the EU context. This mission constantly requires new enthusiasm and potential actors. For example, WFEO can be contacted when there is a need for new EU partnerships. Being an active player within the European networks for research and innovation is of crucial importance in the very competitive field of European research funding. When we succeed there, we can jointly ensure the Ostrobothnian brand in the future as well,” states Pernaa.