Statement by Mr. Erkki Tuomioja, Foreign Minister of Finland at Svetlogorsk 6 March, 2002
There is a deep transformation process going on in the Baltic Sea region: the accelerating reform process in the Baltic states, Poland and Russia, the enlargement of the European Union and NATO, the integration of Russia into European cooperation, and the development of the Northern Dimension. During the past decade the Baltic Region has shown an enormous potential for cooperation, and actualised this potential into well functioning structures.
When Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, the development of the Baltic Sea region entered a new phase. In the latter half of the 1990s, the Union’s next wave of enlargement, its assistance programmes and active policy towards Russia were governing thinking on development in the whole region.
The Union thus committed itself to become a locomotive for development in the region. The start of membership talks with the Baltic States strengthened their international position. Russia began to show interest in the partnership with the EU and the support programmes it offered. The thought of interdependence in the Northern Dimension gave a stimulus to policy planning. It gained impetus when the whole Union, with its resources, became involved.
Today we can look at the development of the Baltic Sea region as a success story. Results can be seen in the development of the rule of law, democratic institutions, the economy, and stability and security in general.
Baltic Sea co-operation has understandably concentrated on the relations between the Baltic States, Poland and Russia. Now the central challenge for our future cooperation is the effect of the enlargement processes underway. The CBSS has to shift its centre of gravity.
Here in Kaliningrad we will face a new challenge as a result of the enlargement. It will involve more opportunities, than threats. I believe the challenge will lead to prosperity and welfare, not to isolation, provided that those responsible for the region will feel their responsibility and guide the development with a firm hand in the right direction. The EU is prepared for a contribution concretely. But the main responsibility will lie with the Russian federation and the regional government.
We welcome the opening of the TACIS office in Kaliningrad. The activity of the EBRD and other IFI´s will certainly be of major significance for the Kaliningrad region. Similarly we have recently noted favourable responses by several high authorities within the Russian Federation concerning the initiative to establish an information office of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Kaliningrad.
The CBSS has functioned as a coordination body for our governments in this region. Our mandate has been confirmed at the meeting of the CBSS prime ministers in Kolding in April 2000. We have seen co-operation being built up by other government agencies.
What is equally important is the fact that we have seen contacts and co-operation being created also outside governmental structures. Today we have co-operation between parliamentarians, local authorities and municipalities, inside the business community, between non-governmental organisations. For the co-operation between the regional authorities we have the Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation BSSSC with numerous participants. In the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) Berlin has become “member number 100”.
The work done by the regional and local authorities, for example in the framework of the BSSSC and UBC will certainly be of great importance for the development in the Baltic Sea area. I am confident that the work of our Finnish regional organisations, especially those representing the Southern part of Finland will in the future have a significant influence on the development in our adjacent areas, in St Petersburg and Leningrad oblast and in Estonia. We note the need for adequate resources and we hope the EU funding can be used in a constructive way.
Finland will take over the presidency of the CBSS after Russia. Although the Russian presidency will continue till the end of June I already want to congratulate the Russian government for having guided the activities in a constructive and efficient way. As we still have a period of Russian presidency ahead I will not give any detailed declaration of the new presidency’s programme here today.
Just some remarks on our thinking. We base our programme on continuity. This will mean that attention will be paid to environmental issues, cross-border co-operation and energy issues. Our co-operation is already today to a great extent focusing on possibilities and common concerns. We do not have many contentious matters on our agenda.
We hope that the work by the task-forces on organized crime and on combating communicable diseases will be continued in an effective way.
We are also confident that we can have something to give in the CBSS framework in border management issues based on our experience with the Russian Federation and the Baltic States. We would like to remind of the very timely initiative of Germany during its presidency concerning NGO activities. We welcome the Russian effort to continue this approach with a NGO forum in April in St Petersburg. We intend to arrange an even broader NGO gathering in Finland in 2003.
The work of the non-governmental organisations NGOs is an essential part of a modern democratic society. NGOs have been active also in our region in issues related to the human rights and rule of law. Perhaps the strongest influence has been in the environmental issues where we also have an efficient regional co-operation of the NGOs (in the form of Coalition Green Baltic). But we may also look forward to a fruitful contribution by the NGOs on social and health issues. I hope that our Finnish NGOs could share their experience with the NGOs in other Baltic Sea states.
We are looking forward to co-operation between labour market partners based on a joint Nordic initiative. The intention is to have a meeting of ministers of labour together with representatives of labour unions and entrepreneurs on trilateral basis during our presidency.
The Northern Dimension was launched in 1997 as a proposal to engage both EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Partners in a co-operation structure in our region. The ND Action Plan was endorsed at the Feira Council in 2000. The Northern Dimension process has brought with it new ideas also to the CBSS. It has given a new dynamism to the Baltic Sea co-operation that in itself is as broad and horizontal as the Northern Dimension. It has also linked us closer to the EU Commission and their work in different sectors. Finland will continue to strengthen the connection between CBSS and the ND.
A good example of the co-operation with the Commission is the rapid creation of the Northern e-Dimension Action Plan adopted by the IT-ministers of the Baltic Sea region in Riga last September. Another success which we expect to contribute to better living conditions for all of us is the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership. The NDEP combines different financial resources. The international financial institutions will for the first time ever coordinate their efforts for a cleaner environment in the region.
CBSS and the Arctic Council are complementary structures with their specific target regions. They have an interface in the Barents region, an important Arctic sub-region with strong economic and cultural ties to the south, to the Baltic Sea region. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council can be regarded as a bridge joining the Arctic and the Baltic. Finland will be the host of both bodies during a few months later this year, until we in October deliver the Arctic baton to Iceland.
The Arctic Window of the Northern Dimension will be discussed during the Danish EU Presidency. An Arctic Window with relevant contents may lead to closer interaction between the CBSS and the Arctic Council in the coming years, as regional counterparts to the European Commission.
I foresee a growing role for the transatlantic Arctic Council in alerting relevant European partners to the specific challenges of the vulnerable circumpolar region, including issues of global significance, such as climate change, use of natural resources under extremely demanding conditions in a fragile environment and the future of indigenous peoples in a globalizing economy.