A process of local government restructuring is underway in Finland. Responsibilities are being passed horizontally from small municipalities to major municipalities as Finland works to reduce the number of local authorities in the country. The process began in 2005 with the introduction of the Project to Restructure Local Government and Services (PARAS).
In the last seven years the number of municipalities in Finland has fallen by one quarter.
The largest merger by the turn of the year happened in the northern town of Oulu, where four neighboring municipalities became part of Oulu, making the city’s population swell from 144,000 to more than 185,000.
On New Year’s Eve Some 10,000 spectators gathered in the Raksila stadium to celebrate Oulu’s re-birth as Finland’s fifth largest city, YLE reports.
Oulu is also the fifth largest city in the Barents region, surpassed by the Russian towns of Arkhangelsk (356,000), Murmansk (307,000), Petrozavodsk (263,000) and Syktyvkar (235,000).
Oulu is known as a major high-tech center with one of Finland’s largest universities.
Oulu is also known as the home town of the Air Guitar World Championship and the men’ choir Mieskuoro Huutajat (Screaming Men).
The Murmansk Economic Zone was presented as a miracle cure for regional development and as key facility for the Shtokman project. Today, five years on, regional authorities put their faith in the fish industry.
Renowned Norwegian actress Gørild Mauseth is in the leading role when actors and producers from the Gorky Dramatic Theatre in Vladivostok come to Harstad to present a unique version of Tolsoy’s classic play Anna Karenina.
Nuclear safety projects in the Murmansk region wouldn’t be the same without her contribution. Finnish European Parliament Member Heidi Hautala is today one of 89 Europeans barred from Russia in response to EU sanctions over Crimea and Ukraine.
Wistleblower Edward Snowden is winner of this year’s recognized Bjørnson Award, but Norwegian authorities are unlikely to guarantee his safe travel to the award ceremony. The former CIA employee should instead be handed over the award in Pechenga, the Russian borderlands to Norway, a Norwegian university lecturer suggests.