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Baltic Sea Region Strategy: Commission launches online public consultation

European Commission - IP/08/1619   03/11/2008

Other available languages: FR DE DA SV FI ET LT LV PL

IP/08/1619

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 strategy:

  • 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 interconnected.
  • 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.

Background

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


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