BDF wants to – and is fully able to – play an even stronger role in regional cooperation in 2012 making use of its think-tank activities, Summit meeting, thematic cooperation among stakeholders and matchmaking activities. Impressive progress has been achieved. That was demonstrated in the review of the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (BSR), discussed at the BDF Summit 2011 in Gdansk. The BSR has profited from the EU’s increased focus on the region which represents today the most advanced regional co-operation in Europe with many across border projects under implementation.
At the same time, the BSR represents one of the most disintegrated regions in the EU in terms of membership of the EU, the euro, military cooperation, infrastructure, languages etc. which is an obvious paradox. Regional cooperation and wider European integration is not seen as competing or conflicting processes. On the contrary, regional integration is strongly imbedded in the wider cooperation the Europe which is good at a moment where disintegrating forces are stronger than never before in Europe. BDF wants to ensure that regional and European integration goes hands-in-hand. The close neighbourhood to Russia also adds to the special character of the region. It is both a challenge and an opportunity. BDF wants to build bridges between all parts of the region.
The review of the EU strategy is welcomed but it has also weak points. It is BDF’s role to highlight the deficiencies and to propose solutions since the strategy is an opportunity that must not be missed. It includes the involvement and outreach to groups and sectors that are not fully engaged. In this regard, BDF’s role is to ensure that the private sector takes more actively part in setting the priorities for the region. Public-private cooperation is essential to make better use of the region’s potential and to improve the region’s economic growth, competitiveness and innovation capacity.
1. BDF Summit 2012 in Copenhagen, Denmark (17-19 June)
Again this year, the Baltic Development Forum Summit will be organized together with the European Commission’s Annual Forum on the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The Danish EU Presidency, and two Danish regions are close partners and hosts. The EU strategy will be in focus again and BDF will do its best to promote the action plan of the strategy.
The main theme of the Summit will be bigger infrastructure project and investments in the region (“Connecting Europe – Smart and Green Partnerships in the Baltic Sea Region”). Public-private partnerships are not only important for investments in infrastructure (including transport, energy, ICT/digital agenda/water etc.) These are necessary to kick-start economic growth but also essential for improving the framework conditions for the long-term sustainable development of the Region. In addition to promoting a smarter and greener Region, the meeting will also address the Europe 2020 Strategy and the proposals for a “Connecting Europe” facility.
This year more efforts will be done to involve the private sector since a Baltic Business Arena – match-making for small and medium-size enterprises – will be organized in parallel. As always, the Summit will include a broad range of seminars relevant for public-private partners.
2. Sustainable growth, investment promotion and branding
BDF should continue evaluating its role and options within the EU strategy. BDF has already several roles in connection with competitiveness, branding, place and investment promotion and regional identity.
- Water is of obvious importance to the cooperation in the BSR. The business perspective is crucial for the efforts to improve the marine environment in the Baltic Sea. The water sector is a growth sector, expected to grow bigger than the energy sector. BDF has developed a project proposal in order to evaluate the region´s strong competences in the field. The starting point could be the Oresund region. There is a clear link between the water sector and energy/climate sector. BDF is trying to develop a sustainable development concept together with the Union of Baltic Cities. This could become a new platform for public-private partnerships.
- Digital Internal Market. At the BDF Summit in June, BDF and Baltic Sea Chamber of Commerce Association (BCCA) will present a report on barriers and potentials for more integrated market in the digital area. The report will investigate into areas where the Baltic Sea Region could complement the EU´s digital agenda.
- BSR One and investment promotion. BDF takes active part in developing an EU project that will address some of the horizontal dimensions of the EU strategy for the BSR (follow up of BaltMet Promo). It includes cooperation between investment promotion agencies of the BSR. BDF intends to play the role as honest broker to identify the common interests between otherwise competing agencies that each wants to attract more investments. It includes also regional identity and branding, policy dialogue and communication.
3. Reports and conferences
BDF is recognized as one of the best think-tanks in the world in the field of regional economic development. This position should be further established and even improved during 2012 where the network of researchers (“Deep Water”) will be strengthened. Among the reports will be:
- State of the Region Report
BDF’s main tool for addressing topical questions on regional development, cooperation and competitiveness is , the economic report – State of the Region Report. It is increasingly gaining international appreciation and recognition The2012 report will also set the context of the 2012 Summit and Annual Forum.
- Political State of the Region Report
Launched at the 2011 Summit this report is presented and discussed at several seminars and conferences during first half of 2012 (Brussels, Vilnius, Warsaw). The second edition of the report will be ready for the 2012 Summit in Copenhagen.
Conferences. Throughout 2012, BDF will continue to organize thematic conferences and seminar in different parts of the region as well as taking active part in conferences and networks as speaker and participant.
4. Building bridges to Russia
BDF will ensure closer links with Russia not least this year when the Russian Federation take over the Presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). BDF will propose project and activities wthat could be useful and helpful to the Russian CBSS Presidency. Also BDF will be more active within the Northern Dimension framework, including The Northern Dimension Institute and the Business Council.
- Co-operation and cross-border projects with North-West Russia
BDF will take active part in the Russian cross-border conference which will be organized in Pskov region during Autumn 2012. BDF will also offer to elaborate a report on thematic issues.
- Russia’s accession to the WTO – regional consequences
Many partners support this idea as veryvery relevant in view of the Russian CBSS Presidency. It is also important for business to get insight in the potentially changing framework conditions.
- Kaliningrad energy project
As project leader BDF will ensure the best possible implementation of the project on energy efficiency in Kaliningrad (“Rensol”), approved in December 2011 by the European Commission. and started up early 2012. The project is included in the framework of Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership.
5. BDF’s outreach and administration
- Communication and information exchange
Last year BDF prioritised to improve its communication activities. Proposals were sent to the EU and regional partners on how communication and information exchange could be improved in the BSR through an independent media platform. These efforts will continue and be discussed at the 2012 Summit.
BDF will continue modernization of its administrative forms and management structure including the further development of the international board structure. The aim is to establish a regional competitiveness council with high level business representatives.
In March 2012 BDF will move to a new address whichwill increase office space. It will entail modernization and better facilities for receptions and visits.