9 Oct 2012

Commencing operation in 2021, a new tunnel will provide the final piece in the jigsaw linking the city of Hamburg in Germany to Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden which together form the STRING region. This fixed link will complement the existing bridge crossing the Öresund strait between Denmark and Sweden which opened to traffic in July 2000. 

The Fehmarn link, together with related investments in the connecting road and rail transport networks in both Denmark and Germany is of game-changing significance for the economic geography of Northern Europe bringing Scandinavia another step closer to the centre of Europe. Significant economic benefits are expected at the regional scale as new opportunities for cooperation, trade and tourism emerge. At the local level, however, negative impacts are anticipated as other trade and passenger routes become less competitive and potentially cease operation. The tunnel alone will not bring about economic, social or cultural integration.

The Fehmarnbelt Region (courtesy of STRING)

Indeed a wide range of political and economic cooperation initiatives are already actively seeking to build the required ‘mental bridge’ and turn the Fehmarnbelt Region into a reality . The commitment of political, economic and administrative actors was demonstrated in force through a series of events held between 26th and 28th September in Lübeck and Hamburg. The so-called Fehmarnbelt Days included an official dinner where the European Commissioner for Transport was the guest of honour along with senior policy-makers from Germany, Denmark and Sweden.

Other events however had a more public focus with an ‘Idea Factory’ with over 300 participants and many opportunities for networking among businesspeople and development organisations. Perhaps the most important lesson from the Fehmarnbelt Days and the associated cooperation initiatives is that the prospect of the fixed link has already provided the impulse for closer cooperation in economic, cultural and social political spheres which indeed to a large extent does not depend on the tunnel itself.