Brussels, 11 November 2013
Baltic Annual Forum: picking up the pace in Europe's first macro region
Four years after its launch as the EU's first macro region, representatives from the 8 EU countries involved, are gathering in Vilnius today alongside Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn for the Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Also joining them will be representatives from Russia and Norway.
Key players will discuss how to take the strategy forward and build on what has already been achieved. In particular the focus will be on how tackling the environmental challenges in the region can deliver benefits in terms of growth and jobs.
The achievements of the Baltic Strategy and of the macro regional approach were recently confirmed by EU countries at their General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels in October. More than 100 flagship projects, dealing with issues like pollution of the Baltic Sea, missing transport links and sustainable farming methods, have been set up in the context of the strategy.
But confirming the Commission's own evaluation of the macro regional strategies, member states also consider more can be done through better governance. They have called for a review of how the Baltic and the Danube Strategy are managed with a view to improving on their successes. This review, spearheaded in the Council by the Lithuanian presidency, will be launched in the Baltic region at this week's Forum and delivered by the end of next year.
The participants in the gathering will also discuss how to make sure that the strategy is firmly entrenched in 2014-2020 EU programming so resources are there to fund future projects.
Speaking ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn said, "The Baltic Strategy has pioneered an approach to cooperation as Europe's first macro region which others are watching closely both in and out of Europe. We are already achieving a great deal through countries and regions working together to identify common interests, problems and solutions that cannot be so effectively dealt with purely at national or local level."
He added, "But we need to speed up the tempo of our cooperation. It is time for members of the Strategy to act more like captains not passengers of this strategy - and for the countries and regions bordering the Baltic Sea to step up and mobilise available European Funds as well as national, regional, and private resources to influence the direction of the macro region. "
The event, which is hosted jointly by the European Commission with the Lithuanian Presidency in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and "INTERACT" Point Turku, brings together over 700 people from all the countries around the Baltic Sea. These represent the governmental sector, business, civil society and regional organisations.
The EUSBSR, which was approved by the European Council in 2009, provides an integrated framework to address several specific challenges difficult to address alone. Some 85 million inhabitants (17% of the EU population) live in this macro-region and eight EU countries (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) as well as Russia and Norway have joined forces to tackle specific challenges in the area.
Last month members of the Danube strategy also discussed the forthcoming governance review which will be led in that region by Austria.
Next year, at the request of the European Council, the Commision will come forward with proposals for an Adriatic and Ionian macro region involving 4 EU and 4 non EU countries.
Examples of projects in the Baltic Strategy:
CHEMSEA – (Chemical Munitions Search & Assessment) aims to assess the environmental risk related to dumped chemical munitions, by updating the maps of Gotland Deep Dumping ground and the munitions dispersed on the Baltic Seafloor, assessing the risk for benthic biota and fish and modelling the dispersion of contaminated sediments. Another major task is to create administrative tools to manage the dump sites, and to update and merge national guidelines and regulations on dumped munitions. Lead: Institute of Oceanology PAS, Sopot, Poland, with the involvement of 10 Institutions from Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. Deadline: June 2014.
BSR Stars is aiming to boost regional competitiveness and growth by fostering transnational linkages in research and innovation to tackle common challenges in such areas as health, energy and sustainable transport. The project is led by VINNOVA (Sweden) and Ministry of Economy (Lithuania).
Baltic Deal which works with farmers across the Region to support farmers to reduce nutrient losses from farms, with maintained production and competiveness. The Federation of Swedish Farmers are leading the project along with the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre
The “Efficient, Safe and Sustainable Traffic at Sea (EfficienSea)” focused on making the Baltic Sea Region a pilot region for e-navigation, developing and testing infrastructure and services for e-Navigation, and sharing good practice widely. The Danish Maritime Authority is the lead partner.