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Danes and Swedes fume over mobile 'bridge toll'

The Great Divide

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Danes and Swedes living in the Øresund region are gnashing their teeth because mobile phone companies charge a 'bridge toll' for crossing the Sound of Øresund separating Denmark and Sweden.

3.6 million people live in an area that generates a quarter of the combined GDP of Sweden and Denmark, and many Danes and Swedes commute from one big city (Copenhagen) to the other (Malmö). Many Danes are choosing to live in Skåne on the Swedish side due to affordable property prices, while Swedes are taking advantage of the wider job opportunities in Denmark. According to recent figures, more than 7,000 Swedes and Danes currently commute across the bridge every day. Approximately 3,400 foreign owned companies have chosen to locate in the region and more than 137,000 students attend courses at 14 universities.

A couple of years ago Denmark and Sweden decided to build a 16km-long bridge tunnel in the strait that separates the Danish island Zealand from the south Swedish province Scania. The Øresund Sound separated the two countries since the last ice age, but the new link has boosted trade and jobs in the region.

But there is one big gripe: customers of telecom companies pay up to 1000 per cent extra for using their mobile phones when they commute from country to the other, despite the fact that the same companies operate on both sides of the strait. The roaming tariffs are seen as on the biggest obstacles in the way of increased integration and cooperation between eastern Denmark and southern Sweden, the Øresund Institute warned this week. Few companies are willing to introduce a special 'region tariff', creating yet again a great divide in an area that is destined to become one.

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