The Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was held on 13‑14 June 2017 in Berlin, Germany, with about 800 participants from politics, business, science and culture coming together to discuss issues relating to the Baltic Sea itself and cooperation of the countries around.
“Cooperation in a spirit of trust does not emerge of its own accord,” said the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel when opening the Annual Forum. Instead, cooperation requires energy and commitment of all the part involved, Mr Gabriel elaborated – a point which was also highlighted by the following speaker, Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Finland, Mr Martti Ahtisaari. “Nothing is possible without man, but nothing lasts without institutions. In the Baltic Sea Region, we have both,” Mr Ahtisaari explained.
In this region, it became apparent which force of peace the EU in collaboration with its neighbours can unfold, according to the German Foreign Minister. Further, he also mentioned the political climate in the Baltic Sea Region which had deteriorated recently, especially in relations to Russia. Therefore, it is more than important to maintain good relations and keep the dialogue going within the region. Mr Gabriel felt that close cooperation with Russia was still possible in the Baltic Sea framework and that this constituted an important step towards improving the situation.
In his opening speech, Gabriel stressed particularly two themes which have been essential at this year’s Forum. First, the region’s role as a centre of innovation – a topic which was taken up by the keynote speaker Ms Sara Mazur, Vice President of Ericsson. Secondly, the protection of the Baltic Sea itself and its desolate marine life. Here, too, the Baltic Sea States need to work on joint solutions.
The theme of this year’s Forum ‘Connectivity’ is thus intended to encapsulate the central idea underpinning cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region: transnational cooperation as essence when creating a successful region, be it with respect to infrastructure, environmental protection, energy or science.
At the conference, participants debated the expansion of tourism and infrastructure, as well as sustainable business models. Two plenary debates featuring eminent speakers provided additional input on transport policy as a motor of regional development and on blue growth – growth of the marine and maritime economy having full regard to environmental protection. Project presentations and interactive modules, a film presentation and funding speed-dating at which Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat presented the CBSS Project Support Facility (PSF), completed the programme of this year’s Forum.
The CBSS Secretariat was moreover involved in many of the sessions held during the two days in Berlin: Deputy Director General Mr Bernd Hemingway discussed at the seminar “Historical Identity in the Baltic Sea Region – Hansa to 19th century” different aspects of and the CBSS priority area ‘Regional Identity’.
The CBSS Baltic 2030 Unit participated in and co-organised the sessions on “Connecting the voice of youth for a sustainable future of the Baltic Sea Region” and “Culture as a driving force for sustainability” making the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals subjects of discussion.
In close connection to these, the CBSS Civil Security Team contributed to the panel discussion at the “Climate Challenges for Energy Supply” seminar focusing on risk reduction and different aspects of critical infrastructure resilience to changing climate.
Several back-to-back meetings took additionally place in the German capital, including amongst others a joint meeting of the CBSS Senior Officials Group for Culture, Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture, ARS Baltica and the PA Culture Steering Group.
See more pictures of the EUSBSR Forum and associated meetings on flickr.
The event was organised by the Federal Foreign Office in close collaboration with the Baltic Sea Commission and the European Commission.