Foreign Minister Tuomioja's Speech at 18th Ministerial Session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Kaliningrad June 6. 2013

Address by Erkki Tuomioja
Foreign Minister of Finland

Let me start by thanking Foreign Minister Lavrov for hosting this 18th Ministerial Session of the

Council of the Baltic Sea States, as well as for the excellent dinner and lively discussions last night. I would also like to extend my warm thanks to the Russian Federation for holding the Chairmanship of the CBSS for the past year, and for the active work in advancing our common goals related to the Baltic Sea Region. After Russia, it is time for Finland to take over the presidency and lead the Council in the coming year.

The Finnish Chairmanship will be based on the work done by the previous presidencies. As the Russia and Germany before us, Finland will stress continuity as one of the principles in developing the work of the CBSS. The three principles guiding our work will be coherence, cooperation and continuity.

Our aim is to promote better coherence among the different actors in the regional cooperation. Promoting synergies between the regional councils, the Northern Dimension and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, is one of the central goals during our upcoming presidencies in the Council of the Baltic Sea States as well as in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, which will be also be chaired by Finland from next October onwards.

In order to make the cooperation more effective there is a need to improve the implementation of the CBSS priorities, strategies and outcomes of the projects. Our goal is a pragmatic and result-oriented cooperation based on coherence. Finland will also make efforts to increase the visibility and transparency of the valuable work done within the CBSS, its expert groups and networks.

The Finnish Presidency will be carried out under the theme Clean, safe and smart Baltic Sea. Based on the five long-term priorities adopted at the Riga Summit in 2008, the focus will be on three areas: Maritime Policy, Civil Security and People-to-People cooperation.

We will take further steps to develop the Baltic Sea as a model maritime region. We believe that an integrated maritime policy will further improve the competitiveness of the Baltic Sea, and promote environmentally friendly and safe maritime traffic. Special attention will be paid to promotion of clean shipping and the use of alternative fuels, and to support smart and safe maritime transportation.

Finland will make efforts to stimulate cooperation among the different actors in the field of civil security. The emphasis is on border control cooperation, nuclear and radiation safety as well as management of maritime accidents. We will also strengthen synergies and coherence between the maritime and civil security sectors through some concrete projects.

Rich and manifold people-to-people contacts and a well-functioning civil society are essential elements of the regional cooperation. We will seek a fresh approach to issues related to youth. Attention will also be paid to the facilitation of social tripartite dialogue in the margins of the meeting of the Baltic Sea Labour Forum.

The Baltic Sea is vital to Finland and it continues to be one of our key priorities. The sea offers opportunities to all of us.

At the same time the Baltic Sea is still in poor condition. The ecological state of the sea is improving gradually, but a lot of work is needed in order to reduce e.g. the amount of nutrient inputs to the sea. HELCOM and the implementation of its Action Plan play central role in protecting the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. We highly appreciate the work done by HELCOM, and we will make efforts during our CBSS Presidency to enhance interaction between the CBSS and HELCOM.

In the Baltic Sea Region there are several different types of cooperation mechanisms and frameworks. Their experience and resources are of utmost importance to the regional cooperation, and it is vital to strengthen synergies between the structures. I already referred to this earlier while speaking about guiding principles of the Finnish Presidency.

Over the years the Northern Dimension has developed into a rich cooperation structure. The Northern Dimension provides an excellent framework for policy dialogue concerning regional cooperation between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland, and covering both the Baltic Sea and Barents regions. The Northern Dimension partnerships help implement concrete cooperation projects. The success of the Northern Dimension Environmental partnership (continues and) has paved the way for a wide spectrum of ND activities in many sectors.

The Northern Dimension Ministerial meeting in February this year was a milestone for the Baltic Sea region cooperation as the four partners decided to intensify cooperation based on common interests and to seek a more systematic approach for this cooperation. Now the political will expressed in the joint statement of the ND Ministerial Meeting has to be translated into practical actions. I understand preparatory work is going on both in the EU and by the other ND partners.

It seems that there are two main institutions that offer functional framework for dialogue between all the Baltic Sea neighbours. The Northern Dimension has been described as the regional leg of the EU-Russia relations, where EU and Russia are talking to each other as neighbours, not as strategic partners. The CBSS, on the other hand, is the most important intergovernmental organization in the Baltic Sea Region, and moreover, the only regional structure that gathers also the Heads of Government together to discuss regional topics every two years.

It is a valuable tool for political discussions and informal liberations among the member states and its role should be further strengthened.

Bringing together the work done in the framework of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region with the cooperation with our partners is also essential. We should take full advantage of all these cooperation structures at various levels of government.

The CBSS Summit in the beginning of June 2014 will be the highlight of the Finnish Presidency. In parallel to the Summit also the Baltic Development Forum, the Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the CBSS NGO Forum will be organized in the city of Turku, on the Southern coast of the Baltic Sea in Finland. By organizing all these events at the same we hope to further enhance synergies and coherence and to stimulate discussions on issues related the Baltic Sea cooperation