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Brussels, 10 th February 2010

Commissioner Hahn attends the Baltic Sea Action Summit in Helsinki

Johannes Hahn, the new European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will today address the Baltic Sea Action Summit in Helsinki. Convened by Finnish President Tarja Halonen, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) "Baltic Sea Action Group", this high-level event will bring together several EU Heads of State or Government, as well the Russian and Norwegian Prime Ministers. The purpose is to encourage key stakeholders – governments, business leaders, and NGOs - to make concrete commitments to save the Baltic Sea from further deterioration. In October 2009, EU Member States agreed on a comprehensive European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region with the aim of better coordinating their efforts.

Other key participants taking part in the Summit include the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf, the Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Latvian President Valda Zatlera, the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Speaking ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn said: "The success of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region cannot be taken for granted. It will require hard work and sustained commitment at every level across the wider region. We count on all stakeholders on the ground to boost the region's competitiveness and to cooperate in tackling the challenges in the field of environment. I also look forward to working with our Russian and Norwegian partners on areas of common interest and concern."

Following the major enlargement of the EU in 2004, eight of the nine countries bordering the Baltic Sea are members of the European Union (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland). The four cornerstones of the strategy set out to address the challenges facing the region are:

  • to improve the environment in the Baltic Sea Region. The state of the sea is deteriorating due to excessive discharges of nitrates and phosphates and biodiversity is under threat;

  • to increase prosperity through more balanced economic development by, for instance, promoting innovation through small and medium enterprises;

  • to make the region more accessible and attractive through improving transport links and energy security;

  • to make the region safer and more secure, by, for instance, combating cross-border crime and improving maritime surveillance.

Time for action

The EU Baltic Sea Strategy was adopted by the Member States in October 2009. It is accompanied by an action plan identifying 80 flagship projects each with a designated lead partner, and a timeframe for completion. Issues to be tackled range from eliminating the discharge of sewage from ships, to creating marine protected areas, setting-up a fund for innovation and research, or better connecting Warsaw to Tallinn via the Rail Baltica.

All invitees of the Helsinki Summit, representatives from governments, regions, cities, NGOs, businesses will make their own commitment to action, which can be financial or non-financial in nature as long as it contributes to the recovery of the Baltic Sea. So far, over 110 commitments have been generated from organisations including IBM, Lloyd’s, Siemens, St. Petersburg wastewater treatment plant, the Swedish Shipowners Association, and the port of Klaipeda (Lithuania) amongst others.


The European Commission will organise annual "stakeholder conferences" which will provide an opportunity to communicate and evaluate results of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and also to share new ideas and needs. The next conference will be held in Tallinn on 14-15 October this year.

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