Analytics, Baltic, Cooperation, Direct Speech

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Thursday, 23.11.2017, 03:34

The future we want for the Baltic Sea region

Tarja Halonen President of Finland 2000–2012, Chair International Advisory Board Centrum Balticum Foundation Turku, Finland, Baltic Rim Economies, www.utu.fi, 06.01.2017.Print version
Looking into the future brings up a question on whether the Baltic Sea region will be passive and affected by future developments or will it proactively shape its own future. A proactive line is one of cooperation at all levels and across sectors involving a multi-stakeholder approach. It means increased accountability by governments and regional bodies, but also other players. It means political commitment that turns into tangible action.

Our region of nine countries and more than 85 million people is very heterogeneous in political, social and economic realities. We have both very densely and very sparsely inhabited areas, hard climate conditions and much agriculture and industry that still pose challenges to then environment. The Baltic Sea is one of the most intensely operated marine areas in the world, but it is also one of the world’s most fragile sea areas.The Sea itself is very important for the future of our wellbeing as it provides food and income, a transportation route and leisure space for various activities. The destinies of the people of the region have been and will continue to be very much interlinked. So one could think that it would be difficult to find consensus in such circumstances among a varied group of stakeholders, but we have managed to come together. The HELCOM governing body is one great example of that and of common shared goals. We have much knowhow and resources, and all the potential to be both the drivers of our own future and global champions of regional cooperation in the implementation of a more sustainable future.

 

The Agenda 2030 – with 17 Sustainable Development Goals – agreed at the United Nations in September 2015 is a great and necessary framework also for our region as it encompasses and integrates the three vital dimensions of Sustainable Development: the social, economic and ecological. The Agenda even has a specific goal – Goal number 14 – to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

 

Our challenges are multifaceted and complex despite the relative comfort and prosperity we enjoy. The required solutions are equally complex and the implementation of the SDG Agenda needs integrated and coordinated governance in the Baltic Sea region. Fortunately the region already has a large number of networks and institutions available for cooperation. The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) was the first macro-regional strategy in Europe. The framework supports the much needed joint actions to address common challenges from a regional perspective.

 

I remember well the Baltic Sea Summit which was held in Helsinki in 2010. The purpose was to streghten the work of the HELCOM in practice. The Baltic Sea Action Summit gathered a large group of high-level participants in the Finlandia Hall to pledge their commitments for the benefit of the Baltic Sea. Concrete commitments were made by governments, companies and NGOs. The cooperation has since also been praised by the United Nations.

 

We have experienced a long history of cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe.

There are numerous cooperation networks focusing on specific themes and areas. In global

perspective the natural resource base is rich in the region. The share of renewable energy is the highest in the EU and in general increasing.The potential is huge.

 

Political dynamics change and major powers such as the United States and Russia might at times find it hard to cooperate affecting matters of enduring importance. It is important that we keep cooperation channels open and discussion alive to care for the long-term interests of the entire neighborhood. Experts, the academia and civil society need to stay active and engaged despite high-level political differences that have cooled down some of the official collaboration.The Baltic Sea lives much longer cycles than politics so we need to be responsible and have our sight in the future.

 

 






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