Speech by Minister of State Werner Hoyer at the Baltic Development Forum and the European Commission’s 2nd Annual Forum of the EU-Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region at Gdansk
Minister Rimantas Žylius,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to take part in this Baltic Development Forum and the 2nd Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. I would like to extend my special thanks to our Polish hosts for giving me this opportunity. I always love coming to Poland, a country of warm hospitality, a country which is currently very successfully presiding the EU and which is - as a close partner and friend - crucial to our development in Europe.
On the 1st July Germany took over the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) from Norway for one year: A year in which the CBSS also celebrates its 20th anniversary. One of the two founding fathers of this “pioneer of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region” is among us today, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. Together with the other one, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, we shall celebrate the anniversary in the beginning of February 2012 at Plön Castle in Schleswig-Holstein. Minister Westerwelle shall invite his CBSS-colleagues for an extraordinary foreign ministers meeting on that occasion. In the last two decades, the Baltic Sea region has completely changed: the former sea of confrontation, split by the Iron Curtain, has become a sea of freedom and opportunity. In this context the crucial role of the city of Gdansk, where the Solidarność movement emerged already in 1980, triggering off a process of increasing resistance against the Soviet-type regimes, has to be underlined. The setting for this year’s Annual Forum is thus highly symbolic.
The CBSS has played a key role in this successful transformation process from the very beginning. Today, eight of the Baltic Sea States are members of the European Union; Norway and Iceland are part of the European Economic Area and Russia, including the Kaliningrad region, is more and more open to European cooperation. Moreover, numerous new fora for cooperation have emerged in the Baltic Sea Region and created a new dynamism for Baltic cooperation. I thus very much welcome the theme of this conference, “New Ambitions for Baltic Sea Region Cooperation”. It shows the Baltic Sea States’ will to make progress on the region’s further development.
I would like to remind You of the 2010 Vilnius Declaration “Vision 2020 for the Baltic Sea Region” endorsed by the Baltic Sea Summit of the Heads of Government and the President of the European Commission. It shows us the way for the Baltic Sea Region to become one of the most prosperous, innovative and competitive regions in the world, including the emergence of a strong regional identity fostered by research, education, culture and the common heritage of the region. It will also be solid ground for the next Baltic Sea Summit that Chancellor Merkel will host on 30th/31st of May 2012 in Stralsund.
The ambitions of the German CBSS-presidency are inspired by this Vision 2020:
one priority of the German CBSS Presidency is the modernization of the South-Eastern Baltic Sea Area, especially by improving the links between Kaliningrad oblast and its surroundings. The fact that the CBSS Presidency will pass from Germany to Russia next year provides a good foundation for this medium-term oriented programme of work.
A joint initiative to promote public-private partnerships (PPP) – our second priority – is to provide incentives for the development of the Baltic Sea Region and for private investment. This two-year network project will be based on exchanging and spreading experience and knowledge in order to fully exploit PPP's potential.
In addition to that, as our third priority during the German CBSS Presidency, we also aim at strengthening the Baltic Sea Region’s regional identity, meaning that we want to increase the peoples’ identification with the region, its history and its culture. We thus for example support the Baltic Sea History project aiming at the production of a virtual history book for the Baltic Sea Region. In this context, I should mention the “Baltic Sea Days” we want to organize around 24th of April 2012 in Berlin. All fora, networks and partners of Baltic Sea Cooperation are invited to gather around that date in Berlin. We shall organize e.g. a Baltic Sea Youth Conference, an NGO-Forum, and a gathering of Baltic Sea enterprises. Parliamentarians of the Region will also meet in Berlin. All players in Baltic cooperation present in Berlin, be it professionals or volunteers, will then be invited for a festive event with our Federal President Wulff. This will be our contribution as German CBSS - presidency to foster mutual understanding and a sense of common responsibility for the future of our region.
Both the CBSS and the EU-Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region play a central role in Baltic Sea Cooperation. This is why the fourth priority of the German CBSS Presidency 2011/2012 is to create a coherent framework for cooperation in the region. We aim at linking the CBSS more closely to other Baltic Sea cooperation structures and at creating stronger links among the various fora for cooperation.
The EU-Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is first and foremost an internal EU-strategy. It aims at better “coordinating action by Member States, regions, the EU, pan-Baltic organisations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies to promote a more balanced development of the Region”.
Given its decentralized project approach, the EU-Strategy offers an important contribution to the CBSS’ five long-term priorities - environment, economic development, energy, education and culture, and civil security and human dimension - and to the long-term goals of the 2010 Vilnius declaration, both in terms of the CBSS’ policy objectives and the means of achieving them.
Vice versa, the CBSS can also provide an added value for the EU-Strategy, above all for cooperation in achieving the strategy’s objectives in the external dimension, meaning the cooperation with third countries.
This becomes all the more obvious when taking into consideration the fact that in contrast to the EU-Strategy, the CBSS is rallying all Baltic Sea States – giving them the possibility to actively participate on an equal footing. In many of the Strategy’s policy areas, the achievement of the goals depends directly or at least indirectly on the cooperation with Russia. If it is in the field of maritime pollution or safety, energy or environment – it is always about cross-border issues which cannot be tackled with an approach involving EU member states only. The CBSS can definitely provide an added value here.
We want to achieve a sensible allocation of tasks in which the CBSS, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and other cooperation networks as for example the Northern Dimension and HELCOM enhance each other.
It’s thus to our advantage that two Baltic Sea countries, Poland and Denmark, preside the EU during our CBSS Presidency. Together with the Commission 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 is therefore a key conference also for Germany’s CBSS Presidency and the CBSS Secretariat in Stockholm.
On that note, I wish everyone here in Gdansk a successful conference with interesting speeches and fruitful discussions about the Baltic Sea Region.
Thank you very much for your attention!