Driving force and key actors for the Helsinki-Tallinn cross-border area

The main rationale for establishing a Helsinki-Tallinn cross-border area is to address the challenges associated with increased cross-border mobility of freight and people. The improvement of transport infrastructure within, around and between the two capital regions is the primary focus of public sector attention. This concerns both local linkages within the cross-border area and the role of the area as a hub in broader transport flows within the Baltic Sea region.

Overcoming peripherality, through greater critical mass, is another important objective. Policy efforts to take advantage of complementarities in the cross-border area do not target knowledge assets but rather a division of labour according to price differentials. While the idea of science twin-cities has been raised since the early times of cross-border co-operation, it has not yet been operationalised. The two high-level Wise Men reports on Finnish-Estonian co-operation from 2003 and 2008 provided several recommendations pertaining to the development of cross-border research and education. Joint branding is another opportunity, but not one currently as high on the collaboration agenda.

There are several barriers to cross-border co-operation. Major firms and higher education institutions tend to view co-operation opportunities on a broader international scale rather than consider nearby cross-border opportunities. Public funding sources, such as the EU Framework Programme, requires multilateral over bilateral collaboration. The current use of EU Structural Funds on both sides only encourages local activities. The lack of a clear identification of collaboration potential across the gulf is another barrier for firms and other actors to enter into cross-border partnerships.

Table 6.5. Snapshot of the rationale and relevance for cross-border collaboration:

Helsinki-T allinn



Relevance for cross-border co-operation (strong, moderate, weak, not present)

Economies of scale

Combine resources for efficiency of investment, larger labour markets or access to wider business and knowledge networks to increase critical mass; often used to overcome peripherality


Political recognition

Increase the recognition and strengths of areas that are far from capitals to better negotiate and compete for resources from higher levels of government

Not present


Build on diversity of assets in terms of research, technology and economic base, as well as supply chain linkages



Increase internal recognition of the cross-border area as well as its external attractiveness to firms and skilled labour


Border issues

Address the day-to-day challenges and opportunities associated with flows of people, goods and services (including public services) across the border


Note: The assessment of relevance relates to the actual relevance in current cross-border collaboration, not necessarily to the potential relevance.

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