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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » October 27, 2011
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EU Strategy for Baltic Sea Region
October 27, 2011   
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Developed by the European Parliament and the European Commission, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region contributes to more intensive cooperation between Baltic countries and shapes the region into a regional cooperation model for the EU as a whole.

The strategy focuses on four areas: the environment, the economy, accessibility, and security. The implementation of the strategy is financed from different EU funds, including the Baltic Sea Region Program. The Commission officially launched the Strategy and its Action Plan on June 10, 2009. The Strategy was adopted by the European Council on Oct. 26, 2009.

The European Union’s Baltic Sea Region Program 2007-2013 promotes regional development through transnational cooperation. Eleven countries around the Baltic Sea work together to find joint solutions to common problems. The strategic objective of the program is to make the Baltic Sea region an attractive place to invest, work and live in.


Baltic Sea Region Program 2007-2013
The Baltic Sea Region (BSR) Program 2007-2013 is implemented under the European Community’s territorial cooperation objective. It is built on the experience of two predecessor programs supporting transnational cooperation in the Baltic Sea region under the Community Initiatives Interreg IIC (1997-1999) and Interreg III B Neighborhood Program (2000-2006).

The overarching strategic objective of the Baltic Sea Region Program is to strengthen development toward a sustainable, competitive and territorially integrated Baltic Sea region by connecting potentials across borders. The program thus addresses the European Union’s Lisbon and Gothenburg Strategies.


Program area
The eligible area includes the whole territory of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden, and northern parts of Germany (the states—Länder—of Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein and niedersachsen /Lüneburg), as EU member states. Also the neighboring countries of Norway (whole country), Russia (St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad Oblast, Republic of Karelia, the Oblasts of Kaliningrad, Murmansk, Novgorod and Pskov; for projects addressing the Barents Region, also cooperation with the Archangelsk Oblast, Komi Republic and Nenetsky Autonomous Okrug is envisaged) and Belarus (whole country) belong to the program area.


Priorities
- Fostering innovation across the BSR
- External and internal accessibility of the BSR
- Managing the Baltic Sea as a common resource
- Promoting attractive and competitive cities and regions
The first priority is focused on facilitating the generation and dissemination of innovations across the BSR. It is dedicated to core innovations in the field of natural and technical sciences but also to selected non-technical innovations, such as business services and design. Actions will be targeted at the performance of innovation sources and their links to SMEs, facilitation of the transnational transfer of technology and knowledge as well as at making groups of citizens fitter for generating and absorbing knowledge. Priority will also be given to supporting actions aimed at broader socioeconomic development at the regional level, especially in the context of cooperation with Russia and Belarus.

The second priority is dedicated to improving the external and internal accessibility of the Baltic Sea region. Priority topics include promotion and preparation of joint transnational solutions in the field of transport and information and communication technology (ICT), in particular those overcoming functional barriers to the diffusion of innovation and to traffic flows. Also further integration of already-existing strategic development zones, spread along the transnational transport corridors in the BSR, will be promoted, and new transnational links will be created.

The third priority concentrates on environmental pollution in the Baltic Sea area within the broader framework of a sustainable management of sea resources. It supports operations aimed at limiting pollution and its impact on the marine environment. Special emphasis is put on enhanced maritime safety. Attention is given to an integrated development of offshore and coastal areas in the BSR in the context of climate change.

The fourth priority promotes the cooperation of metropolitan regions, cities and rural areas to enhance the attractiveness of the BSR for citizens and investors. It features action programs and policies at the BSR level to make cities and regions more competitive in economic development. At the same time, ideas will be promoted to strengthen urban-rural partnerships and support a viable economic transformation of BSR areas with smaller and less dense settlements. A special feature under this priority are joint actions dedicated to social issues linked with regional and city development, as well as governance and capacity building in the public sector, exclusively promoted in cooperation projects with Russia and Belarus.


Budget
Available funds:
- European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)—208 million euros
- European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)—22.6 million euros
- National funding from Norway—6 million euros
- Polish contribution to the program budget in 2007-2013—47.7 million euros.
The co-financing rate:
- up to 75 percent of the eligible project costs for beneficiaries in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Finland from the ERDF
- up to 85 percent of the eligible costs for beneficiaries in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland from the ERDF
- up to 50 percent of the eligible costs for beneficiaries in Norway
- up to 90 percent of the eligible costs for beneficiaries in Russia and Belarus from the ENPI.


Eligible beneficiaries
Eligible beneficiaries comprise public authorities at the national, regional and local levels as well as public equivalent bodies (such as research and training institutions, business development institutions and other nonprofit organizations). Private organizations may act as additional partners with their own financing. At least three benefiting institutions from at least three different countries will form a partnership for transnational cooperation.


Partners in Difficult Times?
“Poland and Sweden are partners for all times, including the difficult ones.

This has been demonstrated over and over again, not least during the visit by King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia in May. We are neighbors; we share values; we share a deep commitment to European integration, including its Eastern Partnership
dimension. And—together with our other neighbors—we share the Baltic Sea. Certainly we share the responsibility to even more energetically address the environmental challenges.

During my years in the Swedish development Agency, Sida, this was one of my main tasks. But we are also joint stakeholders in the potential of the Baltic Sea Region, the potential for us all to benefit from more integration and cooperation leading to innovation and growth.

The EU Baltic Sea Strategy is a key tool to unlock that potential. Necessary not least to turn difficult times, like the present ones, into solutions and progress.”

Staffan Herrström, Ambassador of Sweden to Poland


Close Allies
Poland is a very close and important ally for Estonia. We are both in the EU and NATO; our views and interests there are very similar. Poland is the biggest trading partner for Estonia in Central Europe.

The global economic crisis has affected trade volumes, but recent trends have been positive again.

Estonian companies are eyeing the big and attractive market in Poland. Estonia is often seen as an inspiration for new and effective solutions, particularly in the field of ITC. I am very happy to see that more and more Poles are discovering Estonia. We expect a record number of Poles visiting Estonia this year. This is a fantastic and very important dimension of our relations. In 2011 we celebrate the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Poland and Estonia. It is the highlight of our close and long-standing cooperation in all areas of life, from business to culture, democracy and defense. Estonia joined the eurozone in January 2011. Poland is currently holding the presidency of the EU, which has also significantly strengthened our relations. Overall, I would say that in difficult times Poles and Estonians have a similar instinct to keep together. The beautiful word “solidarity” is part of our collective DNA. The Estonian and Polish governments share the view that the answer to the current problems in Europe is more, not less, cooperation.

Taavi Toom, Ambassador of Estonia to Poland


Partnership Vital
Poland and Scandinavian countries—including Finland—are today good and close partners in many respects. We share values, interests but also problems.

Poland’s first EU presidency is taking place during a challenging period. We are encountering the most difficult economic crisis after World War II. We need common efforts to solve the problems. Poland has for its part made a strong contribution in deepening the economic governance of the EU in order to avoid similar crisis in the future.

Baltic Sea cooperation is a cornerstone of our partnership in the region. It has to be comprehensive, including improvement of the ecological state of the sea as well as enhancement of the competitiveness of the region by deeper cooperation in education and innovation. This has been the basis for the still highly-valued Nordic welfare state.

Partnerships are tested in difficult times, when each country tends to defend its own interests.

It would, however, be short-sighted to give up what has been achieved so far. Partnership today is more important than ever.

Vesa Himanen, Ambassador of Finland to Poland


Cooperation is Key
Most of the economies in the Baltic Sea Region are fairly open economies. This implies a reliance on trade and investment which again requires knowledge about where to find individual comparative advantages and where to find cooperative solutions. To obtain this you need networks and insight into the world around you. This is where the extensive cooperation within the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region can make a difference.

The region is also facing challenges that require action at a regional level, since responses at the national or local level would be inadequate.

Here the Baltic Sea Strategy is able to deliver an efficient framework for solutions and thus to serve as a driver for economic growth. This applies in particular to research and innovation, where the clustering and combination of the areas in which we excel is also a strong growth enabler.

Finally, when you dig into the web of projects and activities under the strategy you see a picture of clear links to the priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the Europe 2020 strategy.

To sum up, the Baltic Sea Strategy is—both in its own right and as a building block in the overall EU response to our growth challenges—a very useful instrument.

Thomas Østrup Møller, Ambassador of Denmark to Poland


Drawing Closer Together
Over the last few years there has been dynamic development in relations between Norway and Poland, which has brought our countries closer together. One important factor are the Norwegian Grants whereby Norway, a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), contributes to reducing economic and social disparities within the new EU member states. Poland is by far the largest beneficiary, with an allocation of 559 million euros over the past five years and 580 million for the coming years.

Our grants go to important sectors like the environment and energy efficiency, health, cultural heritage and cultural exchange, and justice. They include projects involving NGOs, universities and research.

Further, we have been pleased to experience a positive trend in our bilateral trade. Seafood from Norway and ships and steel constructions from Poland are key sectors, and tourism is increasing both ways. A recent development has been trade in products and services stimulating innovative parts of our economies. Another factor has been the large number of Polish workers in Norway, who are doing a very good job.

We enjoy close contacts at political level, reflecting the many important interests we share.

During my time as ambassador to Poland, it has been a privilege to witness the recent broadening and deepening of our bilateral relations and I look forward to continued positive developments.

Enok Nygaard, Ambassador of Norway to Poland
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