Appel has no doubts. Many global businesses will seriously consider relocating their headquarters to the STRING region between Hamburg and Øresund once the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link becomes a reality.
‘It is obvious,” says Appel “we already have a good infrastructure with well-developed roads, railways and ports, whose quality will be improved along with the Fixed Link. We have two major airports in Hamburg and Copenhagen; with the latter growing into a hub for tourists and business travellers coming to the STRING region. We also have a well-educated labour force, as well as top quality research and educational institutions. Additionally, there is increased potential for sectors such as clean tech, medicine, as well as transport and logistics, all of which are already global and cross border.”
Appel argues that the STRING region needs to be viewed from a European as well as a global perspective. It is not only about the Copenhagen area anymore, nor Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein or Zealand.
“It is not just about rail track and concrete for the tunnel construction itself. For me it is an absolute necessity to develop the STRING region in the light of the Fixed Link, unless we want the region to fall behind in the race for global development. We need sustainable growth, built on the strengths and competences that we have in the region,” says Appel
“We really do have to think outside the box, if we are serious about creating a cross-border European region that can act as a role model for the rest of Europe.”
“We also have to find a way to break down the practical barriers that continue to hinder integration. There really isn’t any way around that because we want people to be able to move from Hamburg to Copenhagen, from Kiel to Malmö – from Plön to Lund, even – without restriction. I am talking about strategies like introducing green card solutions to attract a specialised work force; one that allows businesses to flourish.”
“It is important that civil servants, along with regional and European politicians, really work to make sure that tax and social services systems are compatible. To make it easier to adjust to new surroundings and life,,it is essential that the public sector provides a one-stop-shop for information on areas to live and work,” says Appel, referring to the establishment of ‘International House’ in Copenhagen.
“We have to be good at maximising the use of new, environmentally friendly technologies to promote mobility and flexibility, which are really the foundations of sustainable growth.”
“This is why it is so important to make sure that things like access to fossil free fuels becomes more widespread. Installing more charging stations for electricity, hydrogen and natural gas for vehicles achieves this and creates jobs. – not just in and around the cities but in the regions between,” says Appel.
The debate on whether the regions between the Hamburg and Copenhagen metropolises are really benefitting from collaboration is ongoing. Part of this debate concerns the kind of image we project by, for example, making Lolland out to be an area without growth and with grave social problems.
“You can choose to focus too much on these problems. You can also choose not to let them dominate the public debate,” says Appel, who is a firm believer in the steady development and success of the more rural areas. “But the politicians and local businesses have to want it.”
“House prices in Copenhagen and Hamburg are through the roof. But no one says that we all have to flock to the big cities. We are seeing more and more families with children re-locating to the countryside – but this requires easy access to things like high-speed rail, making it possible to commute to the city in a quick and socially responsible manner. A prerequisite for this is that we consider carefully the location of train stations and how best to access them in a quick and reliable way,” says Appel.
When we have successfully guided development in this direction, we are likely to also see the growth and development of new sectors, small and large, across the whole region.”
“The key to this development lies with the politicians and with businesses. They are the ones who create the framework and the necessary conditions for growth,” concludes Appel.