The 2013 Political State of the Region Report “Trends and Directions in the Baltic Sea Region” is a fresh take on answering amongst other things the question of: In what state is the Baltic Sea region (BSR) in 2013? What are the current challenges and opportunities? What are the current priorities of its countries? How has the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) developed since 2011?
The first part of the report sketches and analyses relevant recent political and economic developments in those countries that form the BSR over the period September 2011 until April 2013. It sheds a light on countries’ governments and, so applicable, recent general elections, which in some consolidated the existing political constellations but changed the political scene in others. The country chapters also analyse concrete policies (domestic, foreign and European) and the way the countries have been dealing with the recent economic and financial crises. Furthermore, the report focuses on the countries’ policies towards the BSR and the region’s place on their political agendas.
The second part of the report analyses a number of specific issues that are of high relevance for the BSR: the highly controversial issue of nuclear energy, which the region’s nine countries handle in completely different and opposite ways; the challenging field of environment in which HELCOM and its Baltic Sea Action Plan continue to play an important role; tourism forming an important area for close regional co-operation and sustainable development in the future; the competitiveness of maritime clusters that also contain a great potential for co-operation and economic growth; and funding programmes without which much of the existing and future co-operation and tangible projects would not be possible. The BSR is also put into a wider European perspective and compared with another European macro-region, the Danube region. Furthermore, Baltic co-operation as a specific form of regional cooperation and its place within the wider regional setting is analysed.
The report concludes that the BSR and most of its countries are in possession of a very valuable good: ’soft power‘. They are economically prosperous, they have sustainable welfare systems and solid democratic manifestations and they work hard to treat their natural environment gently. The challenge for the near future is to use this ’soft power‘ potential effectively and wisely, not just in the regional but also, and perhaps even more importantly, in a wider European context.
For some time, recognised experts from the Baltic Sea Region-oriented Thinktank DeepWater have been dealing with questions concerning the Baltic Sea Region, preparing to give advice and to initiate, develop and follow up political processes. The Baltic Sea Region is still an interesting and challenging area, not only for policy-makers also for researchers. Its promotion as a European macro-region and the launch and implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region have placed the region into the spotlight as an innovative area in which certain European developments and trends start. Since these processes have, for the most part, not been concluded but are still works in progress, there is the possibility and the need for input and fresh ideas from the academic world to further develop different forms of regional cooperation in particular. With this in mind, the aim of the Thinktank is to contribute with its expert knowledge to the continuously necessary monitoring and analysis of regional developments.
Indeed, the Political State of the Region Reports are an attempt to make such a contribution and to provide such input. In October 2011 we launched the first Report in Gdansk, and in June 2012 the second in Copenhagen. Now, we are glad to be able to present the third Report of this kind. In it, we returned to the structure of the first report. In its first part, the report deals with all the countries of the BSR, even including Iceland and Norway, outlining and analysing recent political and economic developments within these countries as well as their activities in the BSR. The report’s second part contains assessments of various issue areas and specific themes relevant to the Baltic Sea Region. The reporting period was between September 2011 and April 2013. The chapters of this report primarily reflect the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the editors and sponsors.