-- Translation of advance text --
Presidents of the parliaments and parliamentary assemblies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to congratulate you most sincerely on the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference on behalf of the German Government and of the CBSS Presidency.
I would like to extend my special thanks to our Finnish hosts for the opportunity to take part in this conference.
I always love coming to Finland,
a country of warm hospitality,
a country which is crucial to our development in Europe.
We are working particularly closely with Finlandto overcome the acute national debt crisis in the eurozone by creating a new culture of stability.
The excellent cooperation among the Baltic Sea countries in the region’s fora for cooperation is making a key contribution towards this culture of stability.
Although the impact of the financial and economic crisis has also left its mark on the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, particularly on the Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have demonstrated how countries can successfully overcome it by showing great determination.
Germany took over the CBSS Presidency from Norway on 1 July.
I would like to express my special thanks to our Norwegian friends for their successful and committed Presidency.
On behalf of the CBSS, I would also like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt condolences to the people of Norway. The appalling crime of 22 July was an attack on your open society’s fundamental values of freedom and tolerance. We in the Baltic Sea Region are just as committed to these values.
All our sympathy goes out to the victims and their families. The Norwegian people and its political leaders deserve our great respect for the prudence and far-sightedness they demonstrated in this difficult situation.
In his review of this forum’s history, Dr Jürgen Schöning impressively outlined the successes, as well as the problems and challenges, of Baltic Sea policy and the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference during the last 20 years.
I can only stress the great importance which the CBSS attaches to the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference.
Representatives of national and regional parliaments work together – and that is unique – to make a valuable contribution towards greater cohesion in the Baltic Sea Region.
I’m pleased that the cooperation between the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference and the CBSS has become ever closer during the last few years.
For there is one thing which unites everyone in this region: the Baltic Sea – that is our mare nostrum, our sea.
We all benefit from the very close ties – political, economic, human and cultural – which the Baltic Sea offers us. A regular and intensive dialogue with you is essential to the German CBSS Presidency.
We need impetus and support from parliamentarians in all areas.
Before I turn to the priorities of the German Presidency’s programme, I would like to come back to our anniversaries and take stock of the political situation:
Following the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, in two weeks’ time the German Presidency will kick off culture-wise when we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ars Baltica at Schloss Plön in Schleswig-Holstein.
Ars Baltica – this initiative is aimed at fostering cooperation between both artists and cultural policy-makers in the Baltic Sea Region.
And in the coming spring, the Federal Foreign Minister will host a Foreign Ministers meeting in Schleswig-Holstein to mark the 20th anniversary of the CBSS and to conduct a strategic dialogue on the region’s further development.
Few European regions have undergone such profound changes since the end of the East-West conflict as the Baltic Sea Region.
Until 1989, the Baltic Sea Region was one of the interfaces between East and West.
With the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, or, as it was once called with the Baltic region in mind, the Ice Curtain, the Baltic Sea was transformed from a sea of confrontation to a sea of freedom and opportunity.
The CBSS has fulfilled its original task, namely to support the eastern Baltic Sea states on their path to democracy and to a market economy, in an outstanding manner.
It has revived cooperation among all Baltic Sea countries, which has since become a model far beyond the region.
Not without reason, when it comes to seeking models of successful macro-regional cooperation for the Black Sea, the Danube or the Mediterranean, people look to the Baltic Sea Region.
I think we can be a little proud of that.
Today, eight countries in the Baltic region are members of the European Union.
Russia, including its exclave of Kaliningrad, is increasingly involved in European cooperation, only Belarusis still saddled with a dictatorial regime.
With the Northern Dimension and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Sea cooperation is developing a new momentum today, even though the Northern Dimension has a slightly different geographical focus and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was devised first and foremost as an internal EU strategy.
After all, the Baltic Sea is almost completely surrounded by EU countries. The CBSS reacted to this with the decisions on reform adopted at the Riga summit in 2008.
The central goal of this reform was to focus the work of the CBSS on a limited number of fields in order to produce the best results.
During the German Presidency, we intend to focus on three issues:
1.) Modernization partnership for the south-eastern corner of the Baltic Sea Region
Even though the Baltic Sea Region as a whole is thriving, there are still considerable differences between the south-east and the west. We therefore want to launch a programme on modernizing the south-eastern Baltic Sea Region.
We would like to devote special attention to the Kaliningrad area and its integration with the surrounding region.
The German Presidency, and subsequently the Russian Presidency, offer a unique opportunity to make this a long-term programme, thus providing the necessary continuity based on the work already done by Norway.
We are hoping for even more concrete proposals and contributions: especially from Polandand the Baltic states, as well as from other CBSS member states. The CBSS Foreign Ministers issued the appropriate mandate for this on 7 June.
At the same time, a joint initiative to promote public-private partnerships will provide incentives for the economic development of the Baltic Sea Region and for private investment.
Companies from the Baltic Sea Region must play their part in this, as must the state, which has to provide a reliable framework by ensuring legal certainty and good governance.
2.) Coherent framework for cooperation
In future, we want to integrate the CBSS more closely into the new Baltic Sea cooperation structures and to create stronger links among the various fora for cooperation.
We need a sensible allocation of tasks in which the CBSS, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Northern Dimension enhance each other.
It’s to our advantage that two Baltic Sea countries, Polandand Denmark, will take over the EU Presidency during our CBSS Presidency.
Together we will try to inject new impetus into the cooperation between the CBSS and the EU.
The Annual Forum on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, due to take place in Gdansk in late October, is therefore a key date for Germany’s CBSS Presidency.
We are playing an active role in the evaluation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region under the Polish Presidency, focusing in particular on the role of the CBSS in its implementation, as well as on much greater integration of non-EU member state Russia.
In Brussels, too, in the Commission and the European External Action Service, there is ever greater understanding of the specific value added which the CBSS can generate, especially in cooperation with Russia.
Only the CBSS provides a political forum for all Baltic Sea countries, the individual regions and the EU.
Next year we – and by “we” I mean not only the German Government but also the Bundestag – want to invite the various players in the Baltic Sea Region to Berlin for “Baltic Days” to discuss in depth this vision of coherent cooperation and the future role of the CBSS.
3.) Strengthening regional identity
A whole host of transnational networks, organizations and institutions have developed during the last two decades under the auspices of the CBSS.
The CBSS is a symbol of regional identity in the Baltic Sea Region.
The special feature is cooperation “from below”, which has done much to ensure that people in the Baltic Sea Region identify with it, with its history, as well as with its culture.
We want to further strengthen this identification.
That’s why the Baltic Sea history book project, for which we have provided substantial support, is particularly close to my heart.
It is intended to illustrate the cultural and historical aspects the Baltic regions and countries have in common whilst not ignoring areas of conflict.
This will give youngsters and young adults in particular the opportunity to get to grips with the multifaceted history of the Baltic Sea Region.
Alongside the new focuses mentioned, during our Presidency we will actively advance work on the long-term priorities of the CBSS. Let me just highlight the environment and energy spheres today.
I very much welcome the theme of this conference: “Green Growth for a Bluer Baltic Sea”.
This shows where parliaments and governments in the Baltic Sea Region see tasks and opportunities relating to future cooperation.
1. Environmental protection: The ever more intense use and management of the Baltic Sea has two sides: while people in the region are thriving, the state of the Baltic Sea itself is deteriorating.
The Baltic Sea countries can only successfully combat pollution in the Baltic Sea if they join forces. Climate change and global warming have also left their mark.
The transition to a green economy is part of the response to one of these urgent challenges.
If this transition is made in an intelligent and environmentally sound fashion, then it can ensure economic growth in the long term and mitigate pollution in the Baltic Sea, as well as climate changes.
I would like to take this opportunity to expressly welcome the work done by the Helsinki Commission HELCOM, which is working comprehensively and effectively on the basis of the Baltic Sea Action Plan to protect the maritime ecosystem.
We have a great opportunity to ensure that the Baltic Sea Region is a pioneer in establishing a green economy.
As a model, partner and innovator, it shoulders international responsibility and has a considerable potential in this sphere.
Above all in the Expert Group on Sustainable Development – Baltic 21, the CBSS will show the way forward by implementing concrete environmental projects. Furthermore, we want to contribute to the development of a joint climate change strategy for the entire Baltic Sea Region by holding a climate conference.
2. Energy: One key issue in this context is the future energy supply in the Baltic Sea Region. It’s evident that the Baltic Sea countries are heading in different directions here:
German society has made the fundamental decision to meet its energy needs in future from renewable sources.
To this end, we will phase out nuclear energy more quickly than planned – namely by the end of 2022 at the latest – and push ahead with the development of renewable energies.
On the basis of our Energy Concept, we want to reach the age of renewable energies in 2050. We’re aware that many of our partners – also in the Baltic Sea Region – will continue to use nuclear energy.
We’re convinced that also the Baltic Sea Region’s future lies in renewable energies.
Sweden, Finland and Latvia are leading the way in developing renewable energies. By 2020 these countries will generate over a third of their power from renewable energies.
Within the CBSS, the Baltic Sea Region Energy Cooperation (BASREC) stands for successful cooperation in Baltic Sea energy policy.
Issues relating to energy security, the development of renewable energies, as well as energy efficiency, are discussed in a dialogue based on trust within this framework.
BASREC will elaborate an overall energy strategy for the Baltic Sea region by 2020, as well as fund projects to develop wind energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The results of these projects will be presented in spring 2012 at an energy conference in Berlin hosted by the Federal Economics Minister.
You’ll find the German Presidency’s complete programme among the information provided to you.
We want to make the CBSS stronger and fit for the future during the German Presidency so that it will remain – and this is our motto – a “pioneer of cooperation and symbol of regional identity”. However, our Presidency can only be successful if it has the support of all member states. I therefore ask you on behalf of the German Government to support the projects I’ve outlined.
Let us join forces and work together so that the summit of heads of government on 30/31 May 2012, which Chancellor Merkel will host, can look back on a year of progress.
On that note, I wish everyone here in Helsinki a successful conference with interesting speeches and discussions about the Baltic Sea.
Thank you very much for your attention!