Pyry Niemi, Chair of the Nordic Council’s Committee for Growth and Development, opens up about the importance of cross-border payments for regional integration in the Nordics.
Swedish MP Pyry Niemi is no stranger to the importance of Nordic integration. In many ways, his life embodies the concept.
Born in Finland, Niemi moved to Sweden when he was five years old.
“I’ve grown up with the idea of free movement across the Nordics. Moving across borders should be as easy as possible,” he says.
Niemi started his career as a teacher before moving into the private sector where he held a number of management roles. Along the way, he got involved in local politics before entering Swedish parliament in 2010.
A few years later, in 2014, he joined the Swedish delegation to the Nordic Council, a body created in 1952 to facilitate interparliamentary cooperation among the Nordic Countries.
Niemi characterizes the Nordic Council as a “forerunner” in real regional cooperation and development that in many ways served as a model for the European Union.
“One of the pillars of Nordic cooperation has always been integration and mobility between countries in the region,” Niemi explains, pointing to the Nordic Passport Union which allowed for passport-free travel between Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland starting in 1952.
Since first joining the Nordic Council, Niemi has been Chair of the Committee for Growth and Development. There he has responsibility for promoting regional cooperation on issues ranging from labour and trade to transport and IT policies, as well as the financial sector.
“We try to be progressive in finding new solutions,” he explains. “Over the years we’ve invited different companies like P27 to provide more in-depth knowledge in specific areas.”
P27 appeared on Niemi’s radar in connection with the Committee’s work on developing NOBID, a joint Nordic-Baltic project to ensure citizens from across the region could access public services in different countries using a common digital ID, similar to BankID in Sweden and Norway or NemID in Denmark.
“P27 seemed very interesting in this context as I see a lot of benefits from these kinds of seamless transaction possibilities. Including payments could create another level of flexibility,” he says.
Niemi believes that looking for connections between NOBID and P27 was “in everyone’s interest” as both would help promote regional integration by facilitating trade and mobility between countries in the region.
“Having an integrated digital payment infrastructure will open up so many new possibilities,” he explains.
Niemi believes a platform like P27 that can potentially enable cross-border, real-time payments in the Nordics will bring sizable benefits to businesses and citizens across the region.
“Common platforms accessible to all Nordic citizens and businesses will make everyone’s daily lives much easier,” he explains.
“The P27 model can be part of that. It will be helpful for everyone and make daily life easier. Things are much less complex if you have just one standard.”
Cross-border commuting, intra-Nordic tourism, as well as trade and e-commerce between businesses in different Nordic countries will all be made easier with a common payments platform like P27, he adds.
As a result, he sees P27 and other innovations that remove obstacles to trade and mobility in the region as important initiatives for supporting the Nordic Council’s goal of ensuring the Nordic region becomes the world’s “most sustainable and integrated region” by 2030.
Niemi confirmed the Nordic Council’s embrace of P27’s role helping reach that vision in a letter to Nordic finance ministers in December 2020 in which they urged governments to support the initiative.
“The Committee is of the opinion that the [P27] initiative supports the vision of the Nordic region as the most integrated region in the world, that it has great potential and deserves attention and support from the respective authorities, governments and Nordic as well as European organizations,” the letter reads.
While the 2030 goal remains important, the Council’s and Niemi’s top priority at the moment is reopening borders and reinvigorating Nordic cooperation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Niemi admits the pandemic has “created obstacles” but believes the region’s decades’ long tradition of cooperation will emerge intact and that P27 will be a part of it.
“I think P27’s solution will be one part of this Nordic integration,” he adds.
“So, I’m very excited to see how it will progress in the coming years.
NOTE: The official launch of P27 services is subject to regulatory approvals and therefore P27 will not conduct any business activities until required regulatory approvals are obtained.