Brussels, 2 June 2014
Growing closer to confront common challenges: 5th Annual Forum of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy
Tackling challenges from competitiveness to climate change and from energy to education, countries around the Baltic Sea are stepping up their cooperation as the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) moves into its fifth year.
EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn will attend the Annual Forum on the EUSBSR and the 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit, which take place in Turku, Finland on 3-4 June. Many leaders, high-level politicians and experts, as well as key business figures are set to participate, including: Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, Estonian Prime Minister, Taavi Roivas, Finnish Ministers Jan Vapaavuori for Economic Affairs, Alexander Stubb for European Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Ville Niinistö for the Environment, Mayor of Turku Aleksi Randell and Marcin Kubiak, Polish Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Development. Business representatives to attend are Siemens Finland CEO, Janne Öhman, Bayer Nordic CEO, Oliver Rittgen, Christian Ketels, Harvard Business School, Nordea Chief Economist, Helge Pedersen, and BDF Chair, Lene Espersen.
The Forum will be attended by over 1,000 representatives from the private sector, regional businesses, civil society, academia and media in the Baltic Sea Region, including from Russia, Norway and Iceland. The Forum will look to further improve co-operation within the Macro-Region under the theme “Growing Together - For a prosperous, inclusive and connected Baltic Sea Region.”
Eight EU Member States (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) covering 17% of the EU population have been cooperating for half a decade now through the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Tackling common challenges such as environmental protection and competitiveness as well as energy security, the Strategy's framework has already led to many successful initiatives and projects. Among them - the Chemsea project addressing the dangers from chemical munitions left in the Baltic, or the common efforts to exploit the renewable energy source of biogas. Such initiatives are making this Macro-Region a model for the rest of Europe.
The EUSBSR Forum will also emphasise the need for even greater political commitment and focused action from member countries. This was highlighted in last month's Commission report on the governance structure of EU Macro-Regional Strategies.
Speaking ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn said: "The Baltic Sea Strategy is bringing together partners in some of the closest cooperation ever seen on our continent. Before the accession of the Baltic states and Poland to the EU just ten years ago, this kind of cooperation which combines and integrates topics as diverse as the environmental challenges in the Baltic Sea, the completion of missing transport links and cooperation on cutting edge research and innovation would have been much more difficult to achieve. We are already seeing encouraging results - the fruit of this cooperation."
Commissioner Hahn added: "It is now time to ensure that this ground breaking Macro-region is equipped to take decisions on its own future and operate efficiently in the longer term. We need to see more ownership by the region itself, and leadership from each of the governments involved, so that we can promote growth, tackle urgent environmental challenges and deliver more tangible and visible results."
The event, organized by the European Commission and Baltic Development Forum and co‑hosted by the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the City of Turku is part of the 'Baltic Sea Days 2014' series of events, and is the biggest conference of the year devoted to Baltic Sea issues in the Baltic Sea region.
A series of press conferences and events are organised during the 2-day event, including project of Turku Science Park.
The EUSBSR, which was approved by the European Council in 2009, provides an integrated framework to address problems difficult to deal with alone. Some 85 million people live in this Macro-Region which comprises eight EU countries (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland). They have joined with Russia Norway and Iceland to tackle specific challenges in the area. This was the EU's first Macro‑Regional Strategy. It was followed by the Danube Strategy, launched in 2011. At the request of Member States, Commissioner Hahn will, later this month, formally propose a new Macro-Regional Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian region and one is expected for the Alps next year.
Examples of projects/initiatives in the Baltic Strategy:
CHEMSEA – (Chemical Munitions Search & Assessment) The CHEMSEA project seeks to map out dumping sites of chemical munitions in the Baltic Sea and assess the environmental risks associated, The initiative also develops guidelines in order to reduce potential threats to the environment and fishermen and to prepare a region-wide contingency plan to deal with cases of leakage.
BSR Stars ‘Demola’ is a collaborative open innovation platform where talented university students co-create new solutions to real-life problems with companies. .The project helps to prevent students from ‘dropping out’ of universities Launched in Tampere (Finland) in 2008, ‘Demola’ has now been exported within the Baltic Sea region (to Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden) and beyond (to Hungary, Slovenia). Key facts on the 7 Demola centres here.
The StarDust project 2010-2013 sprung from the "BSR Stars" project. At the core of the project were five transnational innovation partnerships: Active for Life, Clean Water, Comfort in Living, MarChain and Mobile Vikings. Each partnership brought together researchers, clusters, SME networks and public actors from different countries – combining different perspectives. areas of expertise and different types of results.
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.
The LNG Baltic Sea Ports project aims to bring the region into line with new sulphur content limits in marine fuels sailing in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel and to foster a harmonised approach towards Liquefied natural gas (LNG) filling infrastructure in the area as it is seen as one of key solutions to meet the new requirements...
The Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) is trying to establish an integrated, well‑functioning market for energy by implementing infrastructure projects and identifying missing infrastructures in electricity and gas, and coordinating the various actors concerned. This should include better coordination of national energy strategies, and measures to promote diversity of supply and better functioning of the energy market.