The Northern Dimension by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Mr. Erkki Tuomioja, Bergen, June 21-22, 2000

The Ninth Ministerial Session of the CBSS

Mr. Chairman, Dear collegues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Northern Dimension initiative has become an integral part of the European Union external and cross-border policies. By endorsing the Action Plan on the Northern Dimension in Santa Maria da Feira, the European Council issued a strong and concrete recommendation to implement the Northern Dimension policy. Never before has the EU taken a stand on questions related to the Northern Dimension region in such a comprehensive and, at the same time, detailed manner. The Action Plan is the outcome of a determined work but by no means its end point. It is a good start for long-term co-operation.

Let me highlight briefly some of the main issues from the viewpoint of the Baltic Sea region and the regional cooperation bodies.

1. The significance of regional cooperation in Northern Europe has increased as the Northern Dimension has advanced. The EU enlargement to the Baltic States and Poland will further accentuate the importance of Northern Europe for the Union’s external relations. It will increase the attention of the whole Union to the North of Europe and its special features.

2. The accession of new member states will extend the Union’s border with Russia and other CIS countries. The Baltic Sea will become an inland sea of the Union, with the exception of Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg in the far end of the Gulf of Finland. The character of the Baltic Sea co-operation will change to a predominantly bilateral affair between the Russian Federation and the European Union, with which Norway and Iceland are closely related through the EEA Agreements. This will influence the future role of the CBSS too.

3. These developments do not, however, render regional co-operation and work of the regional bodies meaningless. The regional councils CBSS, Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council are and will remain important fora for dialogue where the issues of regional interests can be tackled. Fora, where common challenges - bigger and smaller - can be addressed at a regional level. The regional bodies address challenges and explore new possibilities in a more intensive way than the EU. The EU needs the expertise of the regional bodies.

4. The regional bodies have an important role in the definition of common interests of the Northern Dimension region. They can also provide added value as fora for co-ordination, follow-up and exchange of information and help in the implementation of the Action Plan. This being said, one has to keep in mind that the Union will not automatically embrace the priorities agreed upon in the regional bodies. The regional bodies will continue to have an agenda of their own. The processes and projects on the regional level can, however, complement the processes on the Union level.

5. Cross-border cooperation and cooperation at sub-national level are the most promising features in the Baltic Sea region. The Northern Dimension encourages direct contacts at the sub-national level, including cooperation directly with Russian regions. Interlinking and reinforcing complementarity between the EU assistance programmes and pre-accession instruments should be further developed, as pointed out in the Northern Dimension Action Plan.

6. Strengthening cooperation in IT sector is a priority area both in the framework of the CBSS and the Northern Dimension Action Plan. The Task Force against communicable diseases that was set up in the CBSS Prime Ministers´ meeting in Kolding is another good example how regional bodies can contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan.

7. The EU-Russia Summit in May reaffirmed the readiness to discuss, within the framework of the PCA, the impact of future EU enlargement on Russia´s trade and economic interests and the special issues existing in the Kaliningrad region. Kaliningrad has obtained special attention in the Northern Dimension Action Plan too.

8. Our common concern in the Baltic Sea region is the protection of the environment. Supporting e.g. the construction of St.Petersburg waste water treatment plant is crucial for the ecology of the Baltic Sea. This example underlines the need for joint financing of projects from Community funds and national programmes with the International Financial Institutions and the private sector. Promoting joint financing of projects and creating better preconditions for private investments is essential for the development of the whole region. By strengthening positive economic interdependence in the Northern Dimension region the EU promotes security, democratic reforms and sustainable development in the region.

9. On energy the Northern Dimension Action Plan follows the conclusions of the Baltic Sea Energy Ministers´ Conference in Helsinki last October. Integration of energy markets and connecting them with the EU is emphasized. Infrastructure investments should be transparent. A common view on how to enhance security of gas supply and most economically connect the Baltic Sea Region gas markets should be established. Development of electricity network in the Baltic Sea region along the Baltic Ring approach would facilitate more efficient use of power and contribute to sustainability of energy supply.

10. The Commission´s determination together with Portugal´s active support in carrying out the preparations of the Action Plan indicate our common responsibility as regards various EU policies. In the same way as the southern member states´ support is important in the North, the northern states´ support is important in the south. This applies to the regional cooperation bodies too. Finland warmly welcomes Italy to the CBSS family as an observer.

11. Efficient implementation and systematic follow-up of the ND Action Plan are of utmost importance. In this task, the following Presidencies of the EU and the Commission play a key role. The role of the incoming French Presidency in implementing the Action Plan and the initiative of Sweden to organise a follow-up conference on the Northern Dimension during her Presidency are significant steps forward.

12. The ND partner countries´ stand on the Action Plan has been positive and constructive. In the future, the Union has to further increase cooperation with its partner countries, also with the transatlantic partners USA and Canada.

13. Finally I would like to thank the Norwegian Presidency of the CBSS, which has been, as expected, very practical and successful in results. I would also like to wish good luck for the forthcoming German Presidency to which we are looking much forward to.