Representatives of German and European employers and trade unions,
Friends from the European Commission,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to deliver this opening speech at the final conference of the Baltic Sea Labour Network project – even if it is only via video. I am really thankful to be given this opportunity.
I really would have liked to attend your conference in person but the first review of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is on the agenda of the General Affairs Council today in Brussels.
The German Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States has played an active role in the evaluation of the strategy under the Polish Presidency. We are focusing on strengthened cooperation to foster economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Baltic Sea Region and, in particular, on the role of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in order to promote much closer cooperation with third countries.
Today, after several months of hard work, the Ministers will adopt the Council Conclusions on the review of this strategy at the General Affairs Council in Brussels. This is an important step in the future development of the Baltic Sea Region. I thus hope that you can forgive my absence.
On 1 July Germany took over the CBSS Presidency from Norway for one year: the year in which the Council of the Baltic Sea States is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. Founded in 1992, the CBSS is regarded as the “pioneer of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region”. In the last two decades, the Baltic Sea Region has changed completely. The former sea of confrontation, divided by the Iron Curtain, has become a sea of freedom and opportunity. The CBSS has played a key role in the successful transformation process from the very beginning.
Ambassador Almer will tell you more about the German CBSS Presidency’s aims afterwards.
As you can imagine, the German CBSS Presidency cannot achieve all the goals on its own. Cooperation is crucial! We very much depend on our partners all over the region – partners such as the Baltic Sea Labour Network.
The international economic and financial crisis has provoked economic downturns in many countries. The Baltic Sea Region, however, has recovered very fast. A culture of stability has emerged in the northern and north-eastern part of Europe as a role model for the whole of Europe..
How can this fact be explained?
One thing is for sure: stability always depends on how the economy of a country is organized – on how we – governments, employers and trade unions – cooperate to guarantee competitiveness and social welfare in a globalized world.
The BSLN has realized that social dialogue is a crucial element in this context.
But what does the social dialogue in the Baltic Sea Region look like?
In the Baltic Sea Region, the organization of the social dialogue varies very much from country to country, depending on the respective traditions. Great differences exist between the CBSS member states when it comes to the role of trade unions, employers and governments in the social dialogue.
There are different roads to success. It is in the interest of our societies to learn from each other, compare best practices and encourage social partners to further improve their cooperation.
This is exactly where the Baltic Sea Labour Network provides an added value. It transgresses national borders and successfully brings together state, employers and employees from the whole Baltic Sea Region, thus establishing a real transnational social dialogue.
And that’s not all: since 2008, the BSLN has also made a major contribution towards labour mobility in the Baltic Sea Region which, in times of crisis and continuous change, is of the utmost importance. As a transnational project aimed at promoting tripartite structures and cooperation, the BSLN has done much to foster sustainable labour markets in the Baltic Sea Region.
The Baltic Sea Labour Network has played and still plays a very important role in this context. However, we should not stop here. I am thus delighted that the permanent Forum for Social Dialogue in the Baltic Sea Region, that will be founded later today, will continue the important work done by the network. I therefore call on the Council of the Baltic Sea States, national Ministries of Labour, Baltic Sea Region parliamentarians as well as on employer and trade union confederations from the region to support this tripartite platform and to actively participate in its Annual Round Tables.
I wish you a successful conference, interesting and fruitful discussions about social dialogue in the Baltic Sea Region and, of course, all the best for the future!
Thank you very much for your attention!