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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Thursday, 25.04.2024, 16:12

Baltic Sea region: attention to mobility and sustainability

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 27.03.2019.Print version
Several main issues were discussed during this year’s Baltic Sea Region Forum of Finland concerning regional future challenges, organised by the Centrum Balticum, including the labour mobility and sustainability, with some circular economy issues included. Over 300 hundred participants and 27 outstanding speakers from all walks of political, academic and business communities in countries around the Baltic Sea took part in the forum.

Baltic Sea Region Forum of Finland (BSRF) has already been functioning for more than 12 years organising discussions of different socio-economic development aspects in the countries around the Baltic Sea area, while providing scientifically based recommendations to the national decision-makers. Present forum took place in Turku on 25 of March.

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Modern regional challenges

This time in March 2019, three BSRF’s panels covered not only the modern regional challenges in general, but mobility and circular economy issues in particular.

In the opening speech, the Centrum Balticum Foundation director and BSRF organiser, Professor Kari Liuhto stressed –among other things - the importance of sustainable use of national resources. Finland’s Minister of finance, Petteri Orpo added another important challenge connected to the demands of digitally based growth, so-called digital economy and agenda, which is going to be an integral part of national political economy guidelines in the coming years.  

The first, so-called “ministerial panel”, consisting of ministers from Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia (including the Latvian deputy PM and minister of defence, Artis Pabriks, who send his message through Skype), expressed the participants’ vision on increasing populism in Europe, on regional security, on present welfare problems in the states and on growth perspectives.

The ministers, while underlining positive trends in Finland –the country was acknowledged as the happiest state in the SDSN Global Report in 2019, with leading role of the Nordic states, while their neighbors took a modest stance: Latvian on the 53, Lithuania on the 42 and Estonia on the 55 place) – underlined an important fact: it is the wellbeing that has been presently “turning to happiness”, with the general happiness aim and purpose of reducing the distance between the elites, decision-makers and the public followed by the peoples’ increasing trust in governments’ policies.  

The second panel on labour mobility in the region - chaired by Nils Karlson, the president of the Swedish Ratio Institute ( - has gathered eight panelists, mostly from Finland- who underlined the existing problems concerning the EU-member states division of competence in movements of workers, the establishment of corporate entities and regional social law/policy issues (professor Ulrich Becker from German Max Planck Institute). The collective bargaining has to become “a must” in the national economic planning with the need for additional assistance from the EU special agency -the EU’s Labour Authority- and the EU’s consultative body, the European Economic and Social Committee.     


During the third panel discussions, with an ambitious title “circular economy –moving forward”, Ville Niinistö, member of Fish parliament chairing the panel, underlined the importance of the circular economy (CE) for the region as a new trend in national economy uniting sustainability, the CE itself and the bio-economy aspects. However, the differences in approaches among the states in the Baltic Sea region abound: some states stress the priority of waste management and environmental quality, others on renewables, etc. A member of Finish parliament, Saara-Sofia Sirén underlined, for example, the growing importance of the bio-economy’s direction in national strategies. The panelist have been unanimous that the CE in the future will become an integral part of national political economy, though the move needs changes in national priorities from consumerism to welfare, the trend which is still regarded in some states as full of contradictory approaches.    

Panels’ main recommendations

The general message from the “ministerial panel” formulated a new challenge for the states around the Baltic Sea: modern post-industrial society –the result of the so-called 4th industrial revolution – requires changes in the traditional political institutions in the countries, including –among others - in renewed approaches to democracy and towards new narratives in national political economy structures.

Present political system’s components are not any more reflecting the necessary “deliveries” concerning region’s population growing welfare demands. 

For example, the mobility panel voiced the need for a new “social contract” reflecting optimal work-life conditions, progressive collective bargaining and additional EU’s role in labour relations, with flexicurity principles and “common European rules” in industrial relations.

The sustainability’s panel formulated a visionary “state-of-circular-economy” for the decades ahead composed of the following “ingredients”: first, the need for “teaching sustainability” in showing inherent connections among circular- and bio-economies, well as sustainable growth patterns; second, creation of public-private partnerships, PPP in approaches to circular economy solutions; third, introducing financial incentives for new sustainability decisions –mainly through the EU funds; fourth, rising the sustainability and circular economy ideas in academic and research communities to the upper levels of peoples’ consciousness and in “behavioral economics”. Optimal circular economy shall be an integral part of national pride; and scientists have to work hard for that to happen.     


It has to be mentioned in the conclusion that the present quite successful discussions of the major regional challenges during the BSR-Forum-19 have shown once again that BSRF is capable of organising a professional forum for discussion and dialogue, but also provides constructive advices and recommendations for politicians, economists, academia, social scientists, etc.   

As to the perspectives, it seems that progressive Forum’s directions shall include other vital growth strategies’ issues for the countries in the region.

The following shall be the most adequate for the regional needs directions: - research and innovation perspectives for the national growth in the states of the region; - designing possible options and facilities for the countries’ “smart specialisation” strategies, and – the effect of new trends in the European education for national research potentials, to name a few.

Attention to these issues would definitely increase already high BSRF’s prestige as an important regional platform for both discussions and productive recommendations for the countries’ political-economy decision-makers in designing their perspective national growth strategies.

Closer attention to these issues would additionally increase the BSRF’s role as an active communicator of the multi-sectoral development issues and solutions in the Baltic Sea states acting both as a fruitful catalyst for public debate and a forum providing constructive recommendations for all spheres of national development.  





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