Global Challenges, Regional Solutions – Creating a World-Class Arena for Business and Talent on Top of Europe
The economic situation in the BSR has never been more favourable than today. Never before has economic growth been so high in all parts of the region at the same time. The growth rates are outperforming most other regions in the world, including NAFTA, and in 2006 they were even higher than the global growth rates. The BSR continues to be among the most competitive economies in the world, based on open economies with strong innovation capacities, skills, and ambitious research and development programmes. Most countries receive positive reviews for their National Reform Programmes within the Lisbon Agenda of the EU. However, there are challenges that could have significantly negative impact on other parts of the region. Certain economies are at the brink of overheating and the demand for talents and labour is hampering continued high growth. These conclusions pinpoint some of the core issues that should be pro-actively addressed for the Baltic Sea Region and Europe to become the most competitive and dynamic economy in the world.
European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
The future success of Europe will to a large extent depend on the successes of its regions. Baltic Development Forum therefore welcomes Sweden’s initiative to make a European strategy for the Baltic Sea Region a main priority for its EU Presidency in 2009. The introduction of a regional dimension in the EU context will bring new dynamics into addressing common challenges and opportunities through EU policies and instruments open to EU and EEA members. The European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region should aim at strengthening the region’s integration and to reinforce its growth and competitiveness, thus contributing to the overall EU competitiveness and fulfilment of the Lisbon goals. In addition, the strategy should encourage joint long-term planning in crucial policy areas for economic development, such as infrastructural and environmental projects, innovation, R&D, etc. Together with its network and partners, Baltic Development Forum will engage in the process to support a strong and focussed outcome of the European Baltic Sea Region strategy.
The Voice of Business
Successful businesses and investments create the prosperity and competitiveness we all benefit from. When developing framework conditions for competitiveness, it is therefore of great importance that national and local governments understand what drives businesses to locate in one place instead of another. In this regard, it is imperative that a joint platform between politics and business is created where tomorrow’s growth agenda can be developed. Baltic Development Forum will facilitate this development by providing its platform for such discussions.
Skills & Talent
Unless Europe can attract, develop and retain talents of the highest quality, it will face great challenges in its quest to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. It must therefore continue to strive for scientific leadership and push its universities’ rankings. In addition, Europe and the Baltic Sea Region should focus on upgrading its innovation structures by encouraging new markets for innovative goods and services, prioritising financial resources to R&D, and changing the risk-taking attitude towards innovation. Baltic Development Forum will continue to further this agenda with national, regional and European partners.
Energy & Environment
The Baltic Sea Region is at the heart of the political energy debate with the EU – Russia energy relations increasingly being an important topic EU-wide. For the Baltic Sea countries to fully leverage the opportunities their position offers, this requires extensive further development both regionally and EU-wide. First, a consistent and predictable energy policy framework, reducing uncertainty, should be established to facilitate investments. Second, competition should be increased by forming a regional – and ultimately – a single European electricity market, with functioning links with the countries neighbouring the EU. Third, active promotion of R&D and innovations is required to provide new technologies to capture CO2, make transport more efficient etc. Baltic Development Forum will engage public and private strategic partners in developing regional aspects on innovative energy solutions fighting climate change culminating in the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009.
Financial Market Integration
A better integrated financial services market in the Baltic Sea Region can help reap the benefits of globalisation by injecting efficient lubricant in the business system, thus fostering economic growth and prosperity for its citizens. Deregulation has lead to increased regulation in the implementation phase, which in turn severely hampers such a development. Governments, regulators and market actors in the Baltic Sea Region are therefore urged to develop a system for the financial services sector that can open up for a better integrated and stronger financial service market in the Region. Baltic Development Forum will seek support from these partners to develop an analysis similar to “Sustaining New York’s and the US’ Global Financial Services Leadership” providing better insight into possible financial niche markets for the Baltic Sea Region.