The Baltic Sea: once a scene of confrontation, now a bastion of freedom.
Joint article by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gare Støre to launch Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States; published in the Hamburger Abendblatt on 30 June 2011
For one year from July 2011, Germany will hold the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the prime forum for cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. Building on the outgoing Norwegian Presidency’s important initiatives, notably in the field of maritime policy and the fight against trafficking in human beings, the CBSS will help develop responses to the new challenges facing the world today.
What do we want to achieve during our term in office, working together with our partners from around the Baltic?
The top priority is ensuring that the Baltic Searemains a healthy and viable ecosystem. Intact seas are indispensable for the welfare and survival of humanity. Ensuring the long-term protection of the Baltic Sea’s highly sensitive ecosystem is therefore a core challenge. The problem of maritime pollution caused particularly by the excessive discharge of nutrients from agriculture, industry and private households can only be tackled effectively if all Baltic Sea states join forces and work together. Climate change and global warming is a phenomenon that affects us all. The CBSS is planning a climate conference which it hopes will contribute to developing a climate adaptation strategy for the entire Baltic Sea region.
Almost one third of Europe’s GDP is generated on the shores of the Baltic, making the region one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Economic imbalances between the eastern and western parts of the Baltic Sea region have diminished, but can still be felt. Through a regional modernization partnership to be promoted by the German and subsequent Russian Presidencies, the CBSS will seek to act as a catalyst in bringing the region closer together.
According to a host of international studies, educational standards in the Baltic Sea region are among the best in the world. With its dense network of first-class universities and research establishments, the transition from an industrial to a knowledge society is something for which the region is well prepared. Intensifying exchanges between our young people, our junior academics and our experts will enable us to tap into this important potential and give the development of the entire region an even greater boost.
With 2000 ships plying its waters every day, the Baltic is a major hub of Europe’s transport system. Improving transport infrastructure and maritime safety is therefore a key priority for Baltic Sea cooperation. The CBSS is supporting greater integration between economic and research bodies with a view to fostering innovation. Shipping is to be further developed as a competitive mode of transport. At the same time, the regional maritime industry will have to adapt to stricter regulations on emissions from ships. Reducing such emissions will be a step towards combating climate change. Greater use should be made of alternative environmentally-friendly fuels, such as liquid gas, for ships on the Baltic Sea. At present, the region still lacks the infrastructure needed for such a change. Making progress on this front is one of the challenges we all need to tackle.
Another important long-term priority for the CBSS is cooperation in the energy sector. Trends in this sector vary widely. While Germany is phasing out nuclear power, Kaliningrad and Finland are building new nuclear power stations. And five of the eight countries with the most ambitious renewable energy targets are Baltic Sea states. By 2020, Sweden, Finland and Latvia want to generate over a third of their power from renewable energies. The basis for a successful Baltic Sea energy policy is thus a dialogue between all concerned conducted in a spirit of mutual trust. Apart from energy security and power grid expansion, the main issues to be addressed here are increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix and improving energy efficiency.
Norway and Germany want to modernize the CBSS, creating a strong, proactive organization with unparalleled potential to advance the development of the Baltic Sea region. In the CBSS all member states are on absolutely equal terms. The CBSS also offers Germany’s federal states and the regional entities of other member states a platform where they can join forces in the pursuit of common interests. With Germany at the helm, the CBSS will continue to make a valuable contribution towards achieving greater cohesion in the Baltic Sea region.