The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) met in Malmö under the Swedish Chairmanship on 12-13 June at the level of foreign ministers. The Parties agreed that a reformation of the institution was needed, and that a strategy for the Baltic Sea Region should be developed to find new and effective ways for regional cooperation in a globalised world.
At the opening dinner, the Chairman of Baltic Development Forum, Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, addressed the guests and shared his views on the future of the CBSS as one of its founders.
Opening Address by Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Speech by Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Chairman of Baltic Development Forum and former Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs at the opening of the 14th ministerial meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Malmöhus Slott, 12 June 2007.
Find the CBSS Declaration on the Renewed Baltic Sea States Cooperation below.
“Baltic Sea Cooperation – Time to Turn the Page”
Thank your for inviting me in this esteemed company – and at this wonderful old Danish castle that holds so many memories of a past that really belongs to the past. Unfortunately that is not always the case – as pointed out by our beloved poet-philosopher Piet Hein in this little Grook:
We think of our age as the age of all ages – When Man has grown modern at last. But what other Page among history’s pages – Was so overburdened with past.
Sometimes you are reminded of that, when the past – and different interpretations of the past – creeps into the debate in our region.
And to me this is a reminder, that the original visions of this Council – the CBSS – are as valid today as they were 15 years ago when we started our cooperation.
The other day, I found in my files the report from the first Baltic Sea Conference that took place in Copenhagen in March 1992 – where the Council of Baltic Sea States was established. And the rapporteur wrote in his conclusion: “A positive and almost enthusiastic attitude was noticed among all participants.”
That certainly corresponds to my own recollections of this meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the Region.
The basic philosophies behind CBSS were:
- We need a place to sit and talk – all of us, big and small.
- Cooperation is not a zero sum game, but about WIN-WIN. As relevant now as it was then.
We have come a long way since 1992 – longer that even our wildest dreams in those days dared to expect – and indeed, this is a very different region than 15 years ago. In the early 1990’s, this was a region at the shadow of the cold war facing a serious economic crisis. Today, we are the economic powerhouse of Europe with strong growth rates, a stable position on world export markets, and a high degree of foreign investments.
This strong performance has been possible thanks to the highly competitive environment. The western part of the region was well equipped to take advantage of globalization with strong legal and political institutions and a high degree of social cohesion. With unprecedented speed, these advantages have been transferred to the eastern part of the region. In my view, none of this would have been possible without the existence of the CBSS. Because this gave us a place to sit and talk – and to identify problems that should be dealt with in a regional context.
My appeal to you is the following:
Let us not rest on our laurels. The original visions are as valid today as they were 15 years ago. The world is not static, we all know that. With the expansion of the EU and with eight out of 11 Baltic Sea States being EU members, some might think that the time for regional cooperation now has played out its role. In my view, it’s quite the opposite! With an EU consisting of 27 member states – so far – the future integration will be driven by the regions themselves under the common EU umbrella.
And – let me be very straightforward with you:
As long as you can see kilometre after kilometre of trucks waiting at some of the borders in our region, the mission of the CBSS is not yet accomplished, And I could add many other examples – but you all know them…
You still have a mission – and you still need a place to meet and talk.
If some of you think that the bureaucracies have taken over – let me tell you a story from the late 80’es, when the Nordic foreign ministers got bored of our bi-annual meetings where we read pre-prepared statements to each other. You know what we did? We went fishing.
At our meetings we met away from the capitals – almost alone, to the horror and dismay of our civil servants – and we talked together. This certainly would be an idea for the G-8 to copy – don’t you think? – and maybe you could benefit from this experience as well…
This, however, will require a significantly deeper level of integration than the EU can provide under the single market. Within a region as ours with a well defined geographical area, close cultural ties, and a well developed tradition of successful regional cooperation, such deepened integration is absolutely possible.
I personally believe that we have reached a stage where it’s time to turn the page and adapt the institutional framework to the new demands at hand. For a future CBSS to be effective, it should in my view:
- Be demand driven and based on a clear and shared political vision for the region.
- Be provided with necessary decision making power and financial resources.
- Include active participation from high level business interests, research networks, and civil society.
- Increase the visibility of the BSR within the EU and globally.
Well – these were a few thoughts from a dedicated “grandfather of the CBSS”. I truly hope to see a reformed and vital CBSS within the next few years.
I wish you a productive discussion over the next days!