South-East Finland – Russia CBC 2014-2020
Tuula’s career in international projects and programmes started back in 1995, only few months after Finland joined the European Union. This lengthy experience gives valuable knowledge in the CBC Programme team, including know-how both from financial and operational work with projects’ and programmes’ implementation. Current tasks as the administration officer consist of planning and follow-up of Programme’s technical assistance use, travel and event arrangements, archiving and administrative work in the Managing Authority’s office in Lappeenranta, Finland. Also, support and cooperation with the staff in St. Petersburg Branch Office are part of her weekly routines.
Evolving cross-border cooperation
Collaboration between Finland and Russia, having circa 1 300 kilometres of joint border, started in a consistent manner in 1992 by the Agreement on neighbouring areas cooperation between Finland and Russia. From the Russian side the cooperation included the regions of Murmansk, Republic of Karelia, St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. During around 20 years, Finland allocated in total ca. €330 Mio for development projects, which contributed to the socio-economic growth of the border regions and the reform of governmental and legal acts (https://um.fi/suomen-ja-venajan-yhteistyo, in Finnish). From this progress, we still follow the cooperation path, but have evolved into joint financing instruments like ENPI 2007-2013 and ENI 2014-2020 Programmes where European Union, Finland and Russia all invest together and expect jointly beneficial results from over 120 projects in case of South-East Finland – Russia Programmes. One interesting question is, how has the cooperation changed over the past years, and decades?
” In the long run, I would say that we’ve had some progress in decreasing bureaucracy and in reaching truly joint structures, for example in selecting projects for funding. Also, the administration of the financing instruments has entered closer to the people and project actors living in the border regions and away from unnecessary strict control of central levels and Brussels” says Tuula Heino, Administration officer of the South-East Finland – Russia CBC Programme Managing Authority, and considers this as a right direction fostering efficient implementation of the programmes and reaching good results.
Building and holding-on to the mutual trust has not always being easy during the times of cooperation, and like everything in society, also the cross-border actions have to adapt its ways with many changing factors in the global environment. People working in the Programme’s administration see the value of well-functioning joint tool very clearly, while witnessing positive outcomes in funded projects and joint partnerships on a daily basis. Therefore, and with good energy, we also work for the future Programme 2021-2027, which will mark third round of joint funding and implementation.
Covid-19 pandemic as a learning process
As an obvious outcome, the business travelling and organising events has also stopped about a year ago due to pandemic and the restrictions caused by it. This has had direct impacts to Tuula’s work as a staff member responsible for travel and event arrangements. Cooperation as a true essence of cross-border programmes had to find new tools to keep the wheels rolling. Tuula participated with the rest of the CBC team to the assessment of Covid-19 impacts in the South-East Finland – Russia CBC projects, and her thoughts are also encouraging: “Despite of the difficulties, people working in CBC projects are really flexible and innovative, and have managed to get things done even in such challenging circumstances”. We, working in the Programme administration, shall take all this and everything we’ve seen as a learning process for the future.
… and other good practices.
While mentioning the CBC projects, it’s also worth underlining the benefits of the cooperation between the programmes. The current ENI CBC 2014-2020 family include programmes from the North to South points of EU’s external border. For those implemented with Russia, so-called Northern Cluster (coordinated by the TESIM project) was set up some years ago to facilitate finding answers to joint questions, and to common development processes. ”Since the number of people working in these external border programmes is relatively small, this kind of network is truly useful. It brings opportunities to share good practices and find common solutions in a very concrete level”, states Tuula and recalls several joint gatherings with the CBC colleagues, both on-site and on-line. She also points out the value of face-to-face interaction between people; “Even the on-line tools have proven to be very efficient, they cannot replace physical meetings with people”.
And now, as a universal fact, nothing lasts forever and Tuula Heino has started to pore over a new chapter in her life. Having her professional working career officially at its ending phase, she has made a decision to retire before launching of the next programme. As an active person enjoying outdoors and camping around the beautiful Lake Saimaa, cycling, knitting, reading and good food, Tuula is excited and looks forward years as an elderly citizen. By this article, she wants to pass her positive mind-set on to the younger colleagues, with an advice to search for a reasonable level of personal selfishness and to look also other values in life, beside the work and career. Cherish the time with your love-ones!
Editor: Sari Loisa