Today, more than ever before the concept of Europe is at the centre of the debate. Day after day we witness confrontations between those wanting greater integration and those seeking more autonomy. In short, are we better off together or going it alone?
An interesting experiment is provided by two large cities of northern Europe – Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and Sweden’s Malmö – that are now connected by Europe’s longest suspension bridge. It’s not just a geographical fact because the two urban areas, united by the bridge, have also transformed themselves into a thriving multi-national metropolis.
As an article on Monocle recounted, everything began in the 1990s when a severe crisis in the shipbuilding industry brought the city of Malmö to its knees. In order to find a way out of the crisis, the city invested in the creation of a port, in collaboration with Copenhagen. This was followed by the opening of the Oresund bridge, a miracle of engineering designed to link the two cities, drastically improving the lives of their inhabitants. For example, the opening of this link allowed many Danish citizens to continue working in Copenhagen whilst living in Malmö, which was cheaper. Swedish workers, for their part, had ample opportunities of finding work on the opposite bank of the Oresund strait.
Why is this story of interest? Because Denmark and Sweden have exploited their diversities with success. They brought together their respective situations, which are different from an economic and cultural perspective, to create a third, with a potential that is far greater than the sum of the two parts. They have done so without endless disputes and mutual vetoes, driven on by a need but also by courage, giving up something in order to gain so much more.
Is this a lesson that can be applied elsewhere? In moments of difficulty everyone – individuals, companies and countries – naturally tend to close in on themselves. So what if the solution were instead one of mutual trust and opening up to the outside?