EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

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    Commissioners Ferreira and Sinkevičius will participate in the 11th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) that will take place tomorrow, 20 October, in a fully virtual mode under the headline ‘Our Region, Our Future – Towards a Decade of Innovation and Sustainability'. 

    Ahead of the Forum, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is an important platform for cooperation that prepares many initiatives beneficial to the lives of our citizens. The 11th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR will be a crucial step for innovation and sustainability of the area and for the European Union as a whole. We are committed to make it a continued success because of its strategic added value for the economic development and growth in the region.”

    Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, added: “One of the objectives of this Strategy should be to develop regional cooperation in responding to crises such as the coronavirus one and inclusive climate action. It is especially important for the Baltic region as the Baltic is choking with nutrient run-offs, suffering from unsustainable fishing practices and facing marine litter problem. This forum will give us the chance to strengthen cooperation in addressing the Baltic Sea pollution as committed recently in the declaration signed at Our Baltic conference.” 

    The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is the first macro-regional strategy in Europe. The Strategy was approved by the European Council in 2009 following a communication from the European Commission. It involves 12 countries: eight EU Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden) and four neighbouring countries (Belarus, Iceland, Norway, Russia). More details in the Annual Forum 2020 programme. 

    On 23 September 2020, the European Commission adopted the third biennial report [COM(2020)578], covering the period from mid-2018 to mid-2020, on the implementation of the four EU macro-regional strategies (MRS): the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR), the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) and the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP).

    The report is published at a time when the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is having severe economic, fiscal and social impacts on the European society. Therefore, in addition to assessing the state of implementation of the MRS, the report also considers the role that MRS can play in addressing the crisis through coordinated actions.

    In terms of achievements, the report focuses on the three, broad, interconnected priorities that all four MRS have in common: environment and climate change; research & innovation and economic development; and connectivity (transport, energy, digital networks). These three priorities are closely connected with key actions of the European Green Deal as well as the European Digital Agenda and ‘An economy that works for people’.

    As examples of concrete achievements in the period covered by the report, the MRS have:

    • helped improve water quality through a better management of hazardous substances being released into the Baltic Sea and a better monitoring of the Adriatic-Ionian Seas;
    • helped enhance the water status of the Danube river through reinforced cooperation between river basin management planning and flood risk prevention;
    • helped develop the conditions for ecological connectivity in the Alpine region by deploying green infrastructure;
    • supported knowledge capitalisation and sharing research and innovation in the Alpine and the Danube regions;
    • promoted energy efficient inland waterway transport by contributing to the implementation of the ‘Fairway Rehabilitation and Maintenance Master Plan’;
    • supported the sustainable development of transport corridors in the Baltic Sea region and the distribution and supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for maritime transport in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

    Full details on achievements in all priority areas of each MRS are to be found in the staff working document accompanying the report [SWD(2020)186].

    The MRS are a powerful tool to support economic, social and territorial development and integration, and to foster good relations with neighbouring countries. They are also a flexible tool to react to new global challenges. The MRS provide a ready and operational cooperation framework to ensure better coordination of actions, investments and projects within their territories. For all these reasons, they can play a significant role in helping MRS countries and regions to tackle the post-COVID-19 crisis by implementing, in a coordinated manner, the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy, which are the cornerstone of Europe’s growth strategy. In that respect, the report recommends a close coordination between MRS national and thematic coordinators and all relevant stakeholders across the macro-region in the areas in which the MRS have proved their added value.

    As the MRS do not have their own resources, their implementation depends on bundling funding from different sources. Therefore, the success or failure of the MRS is ultimately linked to their capacity to ensure that EU, national, regional, and other public and private funds are aligned with the priorities of the relevant strategy.

    In this regard, in the last two years coordination has been ongoing between MRS national and thematic coordinators and national/regional authorities responsible of EU programmes supported by the European Structural and Investment (ESI), IPA III and NDICI funds. The aim is to ‘embed’ MRS priorities into the next generation (2021-2027) of these national/regional programmes. All four MRS have taken initiatives to accelerate and strengthen this ‘embedding’ process. Efforts should be intensified during the preparation of programmes before their transmission to Brussels. This is vital for the MRS to achieve their economic, social and territorial objectives and to contribute to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

    The report also highlights the role that MRS play with regard to the enlargement process. The cooperation between EU Member States and countries of the Western Balkans in the Adriatic-Ionian and Danube strategies enables convergence to EU policies to substantiate their perspective for EU membership. In this context, the inclusion on April 2020 of the Republic of North Macedonia in the Adriatic-Ionian strategy highlighted the attractiveness that this cooperation framework offers to accession countries. Closer synergies between MRS and the enlargement process is key to supporting the EU perspective for the Western Balkans, in line with the EU priority ‘A stronger Europe in the world’. The current involvement on an equal footing of the Western Balkans in the Adriatic-Ionian and the Danube strategies should be further enhanced, including by ensuring their effective participation in implementing the twin green and digital transition.

    Next Steps

    The report and its accompanying staff working document are now transmitted to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions for their consideration.

    More information

    Do not miss the 11th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR, the agenda of the day is now available. One more time this year, the actors of the Baltic Sea Region will e-meet, in order to discuss Innovation and Sustainability, the two topics of the year. It will also be the occasion for the EUSBSR community to look at the 10 years of achievement.

    After having developed its new Action Plan, more than ever, the Baltic Sea Region community needs an inspirational vision and the renewed political support to guide us Towards a Decade of Innovation and Sustainability.

    To feed the discussion, workshops are organised some weeks prior to the Annual Forum. All confirmed sessions are available. All interested stakeholders are invited to register as soon as possible by contacting the relevant organisers.

    An online networking village is to be announced very soon, be posted!

    More information about the 2020 Annual Forum & the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

More news

The area covered by the EUSBSR is mainly the basin of the Baltic Sea, including also the hinterlands. It stretches from the Lapland to the North of Germany and is home to around 85 million inhabitants. Involving 12 countries, it is the second largest and most diverse macro-regional strategy: eight EU Member States (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden) and four Neighbouring Countries (Belarus, Iceland, Norway, Russia).

The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) is the first Macro-regional Strategy in Europe. The Strategy was approved by the European Council in 2009 following a communication and an action plan from the European Commission. The Commission publishes regular reports on the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

The European Commission coordinates the efforts of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. For news and information on the activities and progress of the Strategy as curated by the various stakeholders, please visit the EUSBSR's dedicated website at www.balticsea-region-strategy.eu.

The Strategy is divided into three objectives, which represent the three key challenges of the Strategy: saving the sea, connecting the region and increasing prosperity. Each objective relates to a wide range of policies and has an impact on the other objectives. The Strategy helps to mobilise all relevant EU funding and policies and coordinate the actions of the European Union, EU countries, regions, pan-Baltic organisations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies to promote a more balanced development of the Baltic Sea Region.

The Baltic region defines several sub-objectives

    • Clear water in the sea
    • Rich and healthy wildlife
    • Clean and safe shipping
    • Good transport conditions
    • Reliable energy markets
    • Connecting people in the region
    • Baltic Sea Region as a frontrunner for deepening and fulfilling the single market
    • EUSBSR contributing to the implementation of Europe 2020 strategy
    • Climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management

Better coordination and cooperation between the countries and regions is needed to address these challenges.

The Strategy does not come with extra EU finance but it is supported from the resources already available according to an integrated approach. Countries may also make use of the funding they receive through EU cohesion policy, other EU programmes and financial instruments, and various international financial institutions. To know more about financial opportunities visit www.balticsea-region-strategy.eu/about/funding-sources
  • Since 2004, the majority of the countries in the Baltic Sea region are EU countries.
  • Many of the problems are covered by EU policy.
  • As an independent player with respected authority, the EU is in a good position to facilitate cooperation.
  • The EU already runs programmes in the region and so can provide opportunities for cooperation.

As for the implementation, the Strategy will be based on the key principles applied for the existing macro-regional strategies: no new EU funds, no additional EU formal structures and no EU legislation, while relying on a coordinated approach, synergy effects and a more effective use of existing EU funds and other financial instruments. The aim is to produce a clear added value based on jointly identified objectives.

Achievements so far include:

  • Support for new projects, including cooperation between farmers to reduce eutrophication and improved planning for transport infrastructure;
  • Greater involvement of Russian partners in areas like environmental protection, water quality and innovation;
  • Improved cooperation between regions and other partners, including the private sector

To get in contact with the EUSBSR team in DG REGIO, please email the secretary of the REGIO. DDG.D1 : REGIO-TRANSNATIONAL-AND-INTERREGIONAL-COOPERATION@ec.europa.eu. For more information on how to get in contact with EUSBSR stakeholders, please visit the EUSBSR website.