Brussels, 30 September 2008
Commissioner Danuta Hübner and Swedish
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt launch debate on EU strategy for Baltic Sea
Danuta Hübner, the European Commissioner
responsible for regional policy, and the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik
Reinfeldt, will launch a debate today on the EU's future strategy for the Baltic
Sea Region. Commissioner Hübner and Premier Reinfeldt will open a
stakeholder conference in Stockholm, attended by representatives of Member
States, NGOs, local authorities and financing institutions, with the aim of
laying the foundations for a stronger and more coordinated Baltic Sea
"The Baltic Sea is threatened. Without action, this great sea, famous for
trade, for history and for leisure, risks rapidly turning into an ecological
disaster zone. The development of the entire Baltic region is also at risk,
despite the opportunities created by the Internal Market. A vibrant Baltic
region is vitally important for the EU and we need to work together, with Member
States and other stakeholders, to tackle common challenges and deliver results
that benefit all. The future EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea will be central to
addressing today's challenges and making the most of the opportunities,"
said Commissioner Hübner.
The Strategy will focus on four main objectives:
- to improve the environmental state of the Baltic Sea Region, which is
the largest brackish water system in the world. Protection of the rich
biodiversity and development of risk prevention will be among the
- to make the Baltic Sea Region more prosperous by supporting balanced
economic development: promoting innovation through small and medium
enterprises; helping the region to fully implement EU legislation, especially
single market rules. These are just some possible ways forward.
- to make the region more accessible and attractive, for its
inhabitants, for its labour force and for tourists. The region needs better
transport links and to improve an energy security with interconnected
electricity grids and gas pipelines.
- to make the region safer and more secure, for instance by reinforcing
cooperation between Member States through EUROPOL, the European Police Office.
Attention will also be paid to the creation of a clearer Baltic Sea
Region identity, following the example of the Mediterranean. The strategy will
moreover be a practical way to cooperate with Russia, the only non-EU state
bordering the Baltic Sea. Other non-EU countries have also expressed their
interest in the strategy.
Why does Europe need a common strategy on the Baltic Sea region?
- Since the 2004 enlargement, eight of the nine countries bordering the Baltic
Sea are members of the European Union (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland). It has almost become an internal EU sea.
These countries share a common cultural heritage as well as legislation. They
also have common challenges to address.
- There are wide differences in economic development between the EU Member
States bordering the area. The region represents 23% of the EU population (106
million inhabitants), whereas its aggregated GDP is 16%. The Baltic region is
also facing major challenges including demographic change (population ageing),
growth of organized crime, pollution (oil tanker accidents, nutrients from
agriculture, urban wastewater). Marine life is dying out throughout the Baltic
Sea and that could cause the entire ecosystem to collapse for lack of
- Many studies, reports and action plans for the Baltic have been produced
over the years, but very few cover the entire region and all the policy fields
having an impact on its future development.
- Given the high number of EU programmes already operating in the Baltic Sea
region, there is a need for more coordination. In 2007-2013, € 55 billion
will be invested in the region by the EU through Cohesion policy programmes
In December 2007, the Member States asked the European Commission to prepare
an "EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region" by June 2009.
The consultation process launched by today's conference will lead to a
proposal for an EU strategy in the form of a Commission Communication in June
2009. This will be accompanied by an action plan identifying key actors,
financial instruments to be used for implementation and a timeframe for
completion. The adoption of the Strategy by the Member States will be one of the
priorities of the Swedish Presidency in the second half of 2009.
The next Baltic Sea Region conferences/debates will take place in Gdansk (13
Nov), Copenhagen (1-2 Dec), Helsinki (9 Dec) and Rostock (5-6 Feb 2009).
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