Brussels, 3 November 2008
Baltic Sea Region Strategy: Commission
launches online public consultation
Danuta Hübner, the European Commissioner for
regional policy, will today announce the launch of a major on-line consultation
on the EU's future strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Member States, regional
and local authorities, NGOs, inter-governmental bodies and the general public
are invited to put forward their views on the strategy between now and 31
December 2008. The main aims of the strategy are to improve the environmental
state of the Baltic Sea, to support balanced economic development in the region,
and to make it more accessible and secure.
Commissioner Hübner said: “Since the 2004 enlargement of the
European Union, the Baltic has practically become an internal EU sea. We want to
develop the Baltic area into a key region in Europe and world-wide, making it
clean and liveable, attractive and safe. To make this strategy a success, we
need to work together with Member States, with regions and cities, the private
sector, interest groups, and the public. We want as many people as possible
onboard and that is why we are launching this online consultation. We need your
ideas, your energy, your knowledge and your expertise to help us deliver the
best results, for the benefit of all."
Issues addressed in the consultation
The consultation seeks feedback on the four main proposed objectives of the
- To make the region more environmentally sustainable: High levels of
pollution are affecting water, soils, air and biodiversity. The Baltic Sea has
been damaged by eutrophication (oxygen deficiency), over-fishing, hazardous
substances and invasive species. The region also faces problems in relation to
nuclear waste management and risk prevention.
- To make the region more prosperous: To increase and maintain its
competitiveness, the eight Member States bordering the Baltic (Sweden, Denmark,
Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) need to interact better
with each other, with the rest of the EU and in the global marketplace.
Innovation should be promoted through small and medium enterprises and EU
legislation needs to be fully implemented, especially single market rules.
- To make the region more accessible and attractive. The region is
handicapped by long distances, internally and with the rest of Europe.
Incompatible transport systems are also a problem. By 2020, Baltic freight
transport is anticipated to rise between 60 and 80%, with a significant increase
in traffic expected in particular from Russia, Central Asia and the Far East:
this situation needs to be addressed urgently. Robust and efficient supply of
energy is another priority issue, especially in view of current volatility in
energy prices. National electricity grids and gas pipelines need to be better
- To make the region safe and secure: The strategy will focus on the
prevention of organised crime (human trafficking, illicit drugs, cyber crime
etc.), corruption, and the fight against racism and xenophobia. It envisages
better cooperation between police forces, as well as promotion of public health
and crisis management. The safety of economic activities such as maritime
transport and the protection of critical infrastructure (transport, energy and
information networks) is another priority.
Member States asked the European Commission to prepare an "EU strategy for
the Baltic Sea Region" at the European Council in December 2007.
Commissioner Hübner and the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt,
held the first of a series of conference-debates on the future strategy in
Stockholm on 30 September (IP/08/1430).
Further debates, organised as part of the consultation process, will take place
in Gdansk (13 November), Copenhagen (1-2 December), Helsinki (9 December) and
Rostock (5-6 February 2009). The consultation, which is also open to non-EU
Member States such as the Russian Federation, Iceland and Norway, will lead to a
Commission Communication, formally proposing the strategy, in June 2009.
The Communication will be accompanied by an action plan identifying key actors,
financial instruments for implementation and a timeframe for completion. The
adoption of the strategy will be one of the priorities of the Swedish Presidency
in the second half of 2009.
The consultation is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/consultation/baltic/consultation_en.htm