On 5 July, 2016, Poland handed over the CBSS Presidency to Iceland during the Almedalen Political Week in Visby (Sweden). The event was hosted by the Governor of Gotland, Ms Cecilia Schelin Seidegård.
The Polish Presidency was represented by Ambassador Wiesław Tarka and Ambassador Michał Czyż, Polish Chair of the Committee of Senior Officials. Iceland was represented by Ambassador Estrid Brekkan and Ambassador Gudmundur Árni Stefánsson, Icelandic Chair of the Committee of Senior Officials. The CBSS Secretariat delegation was chaired by the Acting Director, Mr Bernd Hemingway. Among the guests were the Swedish Minister of Defence Mr Peter Hultqvist, Swedish Deputy Foreign Minister Annika Söder, Director General of the Swedish Institute Annika Rembe and Ambassadors of the CBSS member states.
Participants of the ceremony expressed their appreciation to Poland for its visionary approach and enormous commitment to the Baltic Sea Region cooperation. The role of the line ministers meetings, organised by Poland, including culture (September 2015), science (June 2016) and deputy foreign ministers’ (June 2016) sessions, was emphasised. The upcoming Icelandic Presidency priorities were also introduced, with both Ambassador Gudmundur Árni Stefánsson & Ambassador Estrid Brekkan emphasising the Icelandic commitment to the Baltic Sea Region and continued collaboration on all levels.
The Almedalen week also included a seminar on regional identity, titled “Balticness- What is it?”. The seminar was organised by the Polish Embassy in Stockholm (Polish Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States 2015-16), Icelandic Embassy in Stockholm (Icelandic CBSS Presidency 2016-17) & the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat. The speakers at the seminar included Mr Kurt Bratteby, Head of the Department for International Relations in the Swedish Institute; Ms Rebecka Lettevall, Ph.D., Director of the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES) at the Södertörn University in Stockholm; Mr Kazimierz Musiał, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the Institute of Scandinavian Studies and Applied Linguistics at the University of Gdańsk and Anna Karlsdóttir, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio (Iceland). The discussion was moderated by the CBSS Acting Director Bernd Hemingway.
The speakers pointed at several factors that shape the regional identity, including geographical closeness, infrastructural links, trade, tourism, environment and history. It was emphasised that education might be key in the process of building a common Baltic identity. The speakers agreed that regional integration and cohesion brings economic benefits, as it helps to deepen the trust among partners.
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