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Ladies and gentlemen,
As representative of the current CBSS Presidency, I’m delighted to be with you here at the Baltic Media Forum to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
We feel highly honoured that so many distinguished guests from all over the Baltic Sea Region have come to Schloss Ploen for this special occasion. I’m particularly pleased to see here today the Council’s two founding fathers, former Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann‑Jensen and former German Foreign Minister Hans‑Dietrich Genscher. It was above all their doing that the CBSS saw the light of day twenty years ago.
I bid a warm welcome to Villy Søvndal, my Danish counterpart and representative of the current EU Council Presidency. Your presence here today is a tribute to the good neighbourly relations between Germany and Denmark as well as the close cooperation between the European Union and the CBSS.
I’d like to say a special word of thanks to Schleswig-Holstein Minister-President Peter Harry Carstensen for his generous hospitality.
And my warm thanks go also to Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Academia Baltica for their excellent organization of this special occasion.
The Baltic Sea connects us in a host of different ways. Close ties at the political, economic, cultural and personal level criss-cross the Region, bringing benefits to us all. Looking back, this intensive cooperation may now seem a matter of course, but that was not always the case.
Right up to 1989 the Baltic was a sea divided by the Iron Curtain, a part of Europe increasingly marginalized by Cold War tensions.
Not until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the Baltic transformed from a sea of confrontation to a sea of freedom.
In its original mission – to support the eastern Baltic Sea countries’ transition to democracy, the rule of law and market economies – the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) has been stunningly successful. Cooperation among all Baltic Sea countries has been greatly boosted and become a model resonating far beyond the Region itself.
It’s not without reason that people look to the Baltic Sea Region to see what a successful macro-regional cooperation model could look like for the Black Sea, the Danube or the Mediterranean.
Germany’s northern Länder (federal states), and Schleswig-Holstein in particular, have from the start contributed in a major way to this revival of cooperation around the Baltic Sea. Here in Schleswig-Holstein it’s obvious in all kinds of ways that Baltic Sea cooperation is very much an affair of the heart.
In future the CBSS will continue to have a crucial role to play as a link between the EU and third countries. Take the field of energy security, for example. The Baltic is a transit route between major producers and a host of consumers and it’s increasingly becoming a source of sustainable energy. At today’s Foreign Ministers Meeting we’ll be discussing issues of energy security and energy efficiency in the Baltic Sea Region as well as how to expand renewable energies. A key focus here will also be sustainable development and protecting the environment. For the unfortunate fact is that people in the Baltic Sea Region are doing ever better, but the same can not be said of the Baltic Sea itself.
Another major focus of our Foreign Ministers Meeting will be the modernization of the south-east Baltic Sea Region, which we hope to take forward during our CBSS Presidency. We plan to devote special attention to the Kaliningrad area and its links with neighbouring regions. In the field of tourism promotion, public-private partnerships, youth exchange and academic cooperation we hope to make real headway. Across a whole spectrum of new fields the Baltic Sea Region can serve as a trailblazer for cooperation. Today the waters of the Baltic no longer separate but connect the cities and countries along its shores.
I’d like at this point to quote what Hans‑Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s Foreign Minister at the time, said in his opening statement at the first CBSS Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Copenhagen on 5 and 6 March :
“History has given us both the mission and the opportunity to demonstrate also in this of all regions how Europe’s spiritual and economic unity can be restored by joint efforts and solidarity.”
History offered you an opportunity, an opportunity you resolutely grasped and from which countless people interacting in this peaceful and thriving Baltic Sea Region daily benefit.
What has made the Baltic a sea of freedom is cooperation, not confrontation.
Cooperation, not confrontation – that’s the foundation on which this Europe of ours is built. Some people today are inclined to criticize the European idea all too quickly. And of course it’s true that cooperation can be tough going. But anyone familiar with the consequences of confrontation knows that cooperation is worth any amount of effort.
Europe is our future. Even an economically strong country like Germany cannot compete on its own with new players like China, India and Brazil. That’s why we need an economically strong and politically united Europe. That’s why we need more Europe and not less Europe.
Looking towards the future of Baltic Sea cooperation, I hope we can light many beacons and count always on having favourable winds and water beneath our keel.
Thank you very much.