Speech by Minister Jan-Erik Enestam: Finnish CBSS Presidency, in 11th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, St. Petersburg

Speech by Minister Jan-Erik Enestam: Finnish CBSS Presidency, in 11th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, St. Petersburg

11th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference
St. Petersburg 30.9. – 1.10.2002

Mr. Jan-Erik Enestam,
Minister for Nordic Co-operation
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland


Madam Chairman,
Distinguished Members of Parliaments,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), I would like to express my appreciation for the invitation to address this important annual conference of Members of Parliaments from the countries of the Baltic Sea Region.

The dialogue and close co-operation between national and regional parliaments in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is indeed strengthening the common identity in this part of Europe.

The CBSS has recently celebrated its 10 years anniversary. The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC) did so already in September last year. During this decade, the Baltic Sea Region has witnessed the emergence of a diversity of joint initiatives and actions among governments, sub-state actors, cities and municipalities. Also private businesses and non-governmental organisations are involved in these endeavours.

The CBSS is one of the building blocks for the construction of a stable, prosperous, democratic and sustainable Europe. Such, in fact, was the conclusion of the recent CBSS Ministerial session in Svetlogorsk.

Finland, which held the first Presidency of the CBSS in 1992–1993, has now opened the second “cycle” of Council Chairmanships. For the CBSS, this is the time for rethinking our profile, as well as diversifying and specifying our activities. In this process, we will continue to work on questions such as: “Which structures and working methods have evolved? How can we improve them?”

At present, four major intergovernmental structures are active in Northern Europe - the CBSS, the Arctic Council (AC), the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The objectives of these regional councils are complementary and together they span an impressive area of activities. Nevertheless, we believe coordination is essential in order to avoid duplication and to increase efficiency.

The CBSS also closely co-operates with other structures in the Baltic Sea Region, such as the Baltic Sea States Sub-regional Co-operation, the Union of the Baltic Cities, the Business Advisory Council, the Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region, HELCOM and last but not least the BSPC.

Let me now outline some of the major aims and efforts undertaken within the CBSS. They also constitute the base for the present work programme of the Finnish presidency.

Baltic Sea Regional Co-Operation and the European Union Enlargement
The fortcoming EU enlargement will open new prospects for the EU-Russia relations. In this regard, the development of Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast will attract particular attention. We believe Kaliningrad can become an example of fruitful EU-Russia interaction using the opportunities offered by the EU enlargement.

It was not by chance that the 10th anniversary session of the CBSS took place in Svetlogorsk. The CBSS is also actively co-operating with the EURO Faculty at the Kaliningrad State University. Assistance in developing the civil society could become the main area for the activities of the CBSS in Kaliningrad. Currently, the establishment of a special support group for small and medium-sized enterprises is under consideration.

The EU Northern Dimension is a dynamic framework for dialogue and co-operation and continues to be a major theme for the work of the CBSS. It seems obvious that the new Northern Dimension Action Plan, to succeed the present one expiring in 2003, should be complementary to the EU enlargement and implemented in parallel, in order to ensure that the benefits of enlargement do not stop at the new external borders of the EU.

In this context, we have seen the establishment of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP), which was an innovative solution launched together with the international financing institutions.

Additionally, the initiative for a Northern eDimension Action Plan has been taken in partnership with the European Commission. A special Northern eDimension Forum will be arranged in November this year in Pori, Finland.

As a major endeavour concerning the transport issues, Finland has developed the “Motorways of the Baltic Sea” initiative as an integrated part of the Northern Dimension transport policy.

Economic Growth and Sustainable Development

The CBSS undertakes joint efforts for the removal of the remaining barriers to trade and investment and for the promotion of economic growth, including efforts to nurture the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

One of the main objectives as outlined by the Heads of Government meeting in June in St. Petersburg is to reduce the border crossing time for goods to a maximum of two hours.

Further development of energy supply is a precondition for sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region. The Ministers of Energy, meeting later this year, will facilitate efforts to integrate national energy systems within the ambitious BASREC framework. The ambition to develop the Baltic Sea Region into a testing ground for flexible mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol should now be fulfilled.

Environment

Today, we face a range of common trans-border environmental concerns in the Baltic water and air pollution, as well as the depletion of natural resources and management of wastes. In addition, the environmental effects of the increased shipping density in the Baltic Sea have to be taken into account.

In this context, we are pleased to take note of the recent initiative of the Nordic Council of Ministers to produce an electronic map of the oil spill risks caused by the increasing oil and other transportation as well as of the oil combatting preparedness in the Baltic Sea Region.

Within the CBSS, the promotion of sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region has a strong focus, particularly with emphasis to the role of the Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region (Baltic 21).

Civil Society

The CBSS supports the considerable potential of NGO-related co-operation. During the Finnish Presidency, an NGO Forum will be arranged in Turku in May 2003. With regard to building up and strengthening democracy and the civil society at large, we would welcome more activity in the issues of gender equality as well as youth co-operation. Ultimately, by establishing sustainable civil society structures the CBSS contributes in building up an NGO network in the Baltic Sea Region.

Rule of law, promotion of democracy and human rights as well as fighting racism and xenophobia are essential elements in the work of the CBSS. In this context, the work of the CBSS Commissioner on Democratic Development is paramount.

Human and Civil Security

At their meeting in June, the Heads of Government welcomed the broadening of the co-operation regarding children at risk, taking into account for instance the problem of the large number of street children, and children in social care institutions as well as trafficking in children.

Also the sharp increase in communicable diseases remains a threat to human security in the Baltic Sea Region. This serious situation calls for counteractive efforts and concerted actions involving large segments of society. Under the umbrella of the CBSS, key projects (for example on tuberculosis, HIV and primary health care) have been identified by the Task Force on Communicable Disease Control in the Baltic Sea Region.

The CBSS member countries are united in the view that organized crime is a threat to democracy and good governance and, therefore, consider the work carried out by the Task Force on Organized Crime of extreme importance. As terrorism is understood to be one of the greatest threats to modern civilized societies, the decision was taken to include organized crime in relation to terrorism in the operational co-operation within the Task Force.

Summing up

Madam Chairman, let me conclude.
Co-operation in the Baltic Sea Region is a major endeavour and a tremendous challenge. Progress is only made step by step and there is still a long way to go.

Major changes will take place in the Baltic Sea Region and in the operational framework of the CBSS during the year of the Finnish CBSS Presidency. Decisions are expected to be made on the enlargement of the European Union and NATO.

The EU enlargement brings new opportunities as well as challenges for its neighbours in the East. The EU, Russia and the new Eastern neighbours of the Union should increase their co-operation in alleviating the socio-economic gap at the EU’s Eastern border. The active involvement of the EU in Baltic regional co-operation is expected to continue.

Certainly, the region will have to face challenges such as environmental issues, organized crime and communicable diseases, but also new opportunities, namely in trade, transport, the information society, education and energy. The CBSS will provide a pertinent forum for defining the interests of the region in these issues.

Thank you for your attention.