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SPEECH/ 10/23

Johannes Hahn

Commissioner for Regional Policy

Working towards a greener and cleaner Baltic Sea region

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Baltic Sea Action Summit

Helsinki, 10 th February 2010

Your Majesty, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and privilege for me to be here in Helsinki today on my first day in office as the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, addressing the urgent challenge of the Baltic Sea environment. President Barroso has asked me to pass on his great regret at being unable to participate personally and has also asked me make clear that the European Commission shares your concerns about the critical condition of the Sea and warmly welcomes initiatives like the Baltic Sea Action Summit. In this regard, I would particularly like to thank Finland and the Baltic Sea Action Group for organising this event.

One of my key priorities in my new role will be to ensure that the EU's cohesion policy is closely aligned with the forthcoming Europe 2020 Strategy which will provide the overall framework for the economic, social and environmental development of the European Union for the next decade. Cohesion policy will be one of the main delivery tools for Europe 2020 as it provides:

  • an integrated framework for investment;

  • an effective delivery system; and

  • ownership on the ground.

Given the current economic conditions, delivering the Europe 2020 Strategy will be a challenging task for the European Union. And yet, we already have something very concrete to build on. What we have is the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, endorsed by the European Council last October. This Baltic Sea Strategy can be seen as a mirror for the work we are to undertake at Union level. The joint work over the last two years has already provided the Baltic Sea Region with an integrated framework for investment; a delivery system; and genuine ownership on the ground. In this context, you have already laid the trail for others to follow.

As you will know, the critical situation of the Baltic Sea environment lies at the very heart of the Baltic Sea Strategy. We have a central environmental dimension addressing the issues of eutrophication, hazardous substances and biodiversity, fully supporting the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

Three months into the implementation phase of the Baltic Sea Strategy results are starting to show. All 15 priorities set out in the Strategy are launching their work. We are witnessing domestic reorganisation in the Member States to optimise delivery on the Strategy's content. We have a range of stakeholders in the region preparing new projects to help achieve the goals of the Strategy. And last but not least, we are already beginning to see concrete results in several of the 80 identified projects, for example on Clean Shipping.

The Strategy is coordinated by the European Commission, in the Directorate General for Regional Policy, which as from today falls under my area of responsibility. As the Commission has made clear from the start, delivery of results must come from the bottom up. We in Brussels can provide as much support as is necessary, and, in this regard, I would offer three specific commitments.

Firstly, close cooperation between the European Union and our neighbours, in particular Russia, is a high priority. I would like to underline the usefulness of the Northern Dimension policy and its structures as a practical forum for discussing this cooperation. I commit the Commission to building and maintaining the necessary links with our neighbours to deliver better and more effective results for the Baltic Sea Region.

Secondly, taking account of the ongoing economic situation, the projects identified in the Strategy provide us with the chance to, not only clean up the Baltic Sea itself, but also to use the necessary work and activities as a way out of the crisis. In this regard, I particularly appreciate the very strong representation and commitment here today on the part of the private sector in these challenging times. I commit to working closely with the private sector and the international funding institutions to ensure their full involvement in the delivery of the Baltic Sea Strategy.

Thirdly, I would underline the strong support we have received from the regional and local level, and especially from environmental authorities and Non Governmental Organisations during the preparation of the Strategy. There is a vital need to sustain the momentum built up as a result of this support over the last couple of years by maintaining a high degree of visibility for the Strategy and its content across the region and across Europe as a whole. I therefore commit the European Commission to organising a large Baltic Sea Stakeholder Conference every year, where results can be communicated, stakeholders can meet, progress is evaluated, and new ideas and needs can be aired. I can inform you today that we will organise the first of these conferences in Tallinn on the 14 th and 15th of October this year.

In conclusion, let me be clear: the European Commission is committed to the successful delivery of the Baltic Sea Strategy. We are committed to delivering the necessary results from the projects already identified. And we are committed to working closely with all of you to deliver a greener, cleaner, smarter Baltic Sea Region.

Thank you for your attention.

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