These are stormy times for our region. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine marks a watershed for all of us.
In this decisive moment, we need to set the sails, work together and set course towards making our region more sustainable, more resilient and more secure.
To this end, we want to ramp up the expansion of offshore wind power in the Baltic Sea. That is the first priority of our Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
We will organise a Baltic Offshore Forum during our Presidency, bringing together stakeholders from the public and the private sector to initiate concrete wind power projects. What works in the North Sea will also work in the Baltic.
The potential is enormous. The European Commission estimates that the Baltic Sea could potentially produce more than 90 gigawatts in wind energy. That is more than twice the installed capacity of all German coal-fired power stations.
These investments will help bring clean and safe energy to the homes of our citizens. Wind energy from the Baltic Sea will help us fight the climate crisis. And it is an investment in our security: it will help make us less dependent on gas from Russia.
Secondly, we strongly believe that young people must have a seat at the table when it comes to determining the future of their region.
That is why we will make the Baltic Sea Region Youth Forum a permanent platform. And we will hold a Youth Ministerial with young delegates in the run-up to the Ministerial Session of the Council.
I have met impressive young men and women who are full of ideas for the Baltic Sea Region. Such as tax cuts for bioeconomy products that derive from natural resources from land and sea, or stricter legislation concerning maritime pollution, as proposed by the Baltic Sea Youth Platform declaration. We want to support the work and draw on the ideas of these young people.
Finally – and this is the third priority of our Presidency – we want to tackle the problem of munitions dumped from previous wars.
The seabed is littered with around 400,000 tonnes of conventional explosives and 40,000 tonnes of chemical weapons. That is roughly the equivalent of the total load of 11,000 trucks. Much of it is located not far from Kiel, for example in the Kieler Förde.
These munitions pollute the sea. They contaminate fish and mussels which often end up on our plates – in restaurants and also in finger fish sticks at home.
During our Presidency, we will work to defuse this ticking time bomb on the seabed. The first step was taken here in Kiel last year with the first expert conference on munitions recovery – the Kiel Munition Week. We will use this momentum to make the Baltic Sea cleaner and safer.
The bombs, mines and sunken warships at the bottom of the Baltic Sea are a dark reminder of the damaging traces of war and conflict that remain with us for decades.
That is why it is so important for all democratic states to stand united against this war of aggression – so that our children can enjoy a safe and peaceful life in the future.
So let us set sail.
Let us steer towards this goal with determination and courage. For a better and safer future for all men, women and children who live in our beautiful Baltic Sea region.