The spectacular setting of the ‘Black Box’ in Tallinn’s Creative Hub welcomed over 350 participants to the 20th and final BDF Summit – Exploring the question, ‘Is It Time for a BSR 2.0?’
To mark the occasion Lene Espersen, BDF Chairwoman opened the mornings programme, reiterating the optimistic key messages from two new reports released by BDF at the Summit; that the Baltic Sea Region continues to be one of the most integrated and dynamic regions in the EU and globally, and the potential of the predominantly small, open economies is huge, despite growing global challenges.
Politics across the Region
Per Carlsen set the scene for the new Political State of the Region report focusing on the concept of a ‘flexible Europe’ and its prospects for the BSR. Joined by two of the report’s authors, Dr Jana Puglierin and Igor Gretskiy, the reports main points were presented, from growing Euroscepticism – even in the political rock that is Germany, to flexible Europe – a Europe running at different speeds, diverging strategic security questions and Russia’s view on recent developments. Taking the report as point of departure a more than qualified panel debated the finer details including Andrius Kubilius, Andris Piebalgs, Vygaudas Usackas, Anders Åslund and Prof. Zaneta Ozolina. In addition, the need to support Ukraine was raised, not forgetting the refugee situation to the south, and a wider perspective on important EU topics including, aging populations and too little attention granted to education. Support for the PSORR to continue in 2019 was voiced with political foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung promising its funding for the next edition.
BSR Economies are strong but definite tests ahead
Dr David Skilling, author of the commissioned report ‘The Baltic Sea Region Economies: Progress and Priorities’ kicked off the second half of the summit with a fascinating display of data. It showcased the Baltic countries rise, to a level now on par with the Nordic block. Looking ahead Dr Skilling noted the threat of an agile Chinese economy, an aging Baltic demographic, a flattening of productivity growth, and innovation, education and skills disparities as some of the economic priorities to address in the immediate future. A panel consisting of Thomas Wrangdahl, Kaarel Ots and Jukka Luukkanen presented their comments to the report.
What’s next for the Baltic Sea Region?
A fitting end to the Summit and BDF’s engagement in the region, President of Estonia H.E Kersti Kaljulaid began by thanking BDF and Uffe Ellemann-Jensen specifically for providing a platform to connect, discuss and drive new thinking across and between the region’s countries. She noted, as a young governmental aid, the influence BDF events had on her thinking and the broadening of perspectives of participants throughout the numerous activities that BDF have hosted throughout the years. Looking to the future, it is the task of other collaborators to take the torch and promote a connected and strong BSR region.
The final word fell to BDF founder Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. He recalled stories from previous years summits, the ups and downs in Russian relations, the motivations and will that led to BDF’s mission, and a renewed call for further work to strengthen cooperation between the BSR countries at a time when threats loom at the region’s doorstep as much as further afield. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen suggested that although BDF’s operations have drawn to an end, the region continues and a new agenda must be conceived to progress the BSR. Whether that’s a continued and consolidated BSR programme, or a BSR 2.0, the fact remains there is still plenty of work to be done.
Thank you to all for making the 20th BDF Summit a memorable event and platform for connecting across countries. See the photos from the Summit here.