A Coherent Digital Baltic Sea Region – EUSBSR 9th Annual Forum

in BDF Events, Debate, News

BDF had the pleasure to co-organise the EU Annual Forum 4-5 June in Tallinn together with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the plenary sessions was dedicated to digitalization in the BSR and how we can address the digital gaps in the region. Speakers and panelists were: Andrus Ansip, Vice President, European Commission; Martin Andersson, Professor, Blekinge Institute of Technology; Karol Okoński, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Digital Affairs, Poland; Åsa Zetterberg, Government Chief Digital Officer of Sweden; Katariina Ora, Associate General Counsel Western Europe, Microsoft; Jessica Blechingberg, Community Operations, Maria 01 start-up community. The session was moderated by Luukas Ilves, Deputy Director, Lisbon Council.

In his introductory keynote VP Ansip highlighted the fact that even though the region is well placed to embrace digital technological progress and thrive on it, there are still substantial differences between countries that are holding back regional progress. National and regional digital divides should not expand further if we are to build a functioning Digital Single Market across Europe. The EUSBSR can help in this process.

Professor Martin Andersson gave a snapshot of the digital performance of the BSR based on the State of the Digital Region reports from think tank Top of Digital Europe. The countries are leading within different indicators which gives potential for learning from each other via transnational digital collaboration and building a bottom-up complement to the DSM.


Inspired by the two keynotes, the panel discussed how the region can stay at the top of digital industries and innovation and at the same time narrowing the internal gaps. Vice Minister Okonski highlighted key digital priorities of Poland: Cross border data transfer and standards; AI; e-government solutions and cybersecurity. Important to bridge the gaps between east and west, north and south. Åsa Zetterberg, Sweden’s GDO, emphasized that the BSR countries share the same challenges and cannot afford to develop their own individual solutions without collaborating on the right spots, with Nordic-Baltic MR Digital as an example. Katariina Ora, Microsoft, pointed at the high education level and tech understanding – and a fairly predictable political climate – when explaining the tech industry’s interest in the region. Jessica Blechingberg asked for better housing and integration facilities for talents as prerequisites for a continued strong talent attraction that favours the strong Nordic-Baltic start-up scene. Among many burning issues and ideas that were highlighted during the debate was the need to spread and duplicate successful bilateral cross-border projects (e.g. FIN-EE) to other national borders in the BSR: The need for mutual learning.       

More information on the plenary, and or contact for digital issues can be address to Head of Digital and Public Affairs, Torben Aaberg: ta@bdforum.org