“The business of business is business – not international affairs”. This is one of the key points transpired from the Northern Dimension Business Council meeting that took place in St. Petersburg 3 April 2014.
Business leaders from all over the region see a clear need for re-establishing trust due to Russia’s role in the current crisis in Ukraine. Nevertheless, most participants wish to return to a normal business environment as it used to be before the crisis. Although the Russian economy is witnessing a downturn and the rouble has weakened, business leaders still see great opportunities on the Russian market.
The two co-chairmen of the Northern Dimension Business Council, the CEO of the Finnish energy giant Fortum Tapia Kuula and the CEO of the Russian steel company Severstal Alexey Mordashov, had invited businesses and partners to the yearly meeting, which was convened for the 5th time on 3 April in St. Petersburg.
The meeting was to clarify “how to increase the competitiveness” of the region. The co-chairmen and most speakers conclude that the meeting was conducive to returning to a more normal situation and point out that the economies of Russia and the EU are intertwined and interdependent: if one gets hurt (e.g. by sanctions or negative political actions), the other part will also get hurt.
It is clear that the business communities on both sides – the EU and Russia – are worried that the present political crisis could worsen the economic situation in Russia. Thus, the participating business communities hope for more political stability.
Baltic Development Forum’s invitation to the conference was about telling how its cross-border activities could contribute to closer business relationships in the region. Director Hans Brask explains how the RENSOL project in Kaliningrad (www.rensol.eu), part of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership, helps to establish further public-private partnerships in the field of energy efficiency. Municipalities in Kaliningrad are introduced to partner cities, municipalities, universities and companies in the Nordic countries as well as to the best available technologies in the field. An important part of the project is, therefore, study tours to Nordic municipalities and companies and also different models of financing opportunities for energy projects.
In addition, the two chairmen and other organisations that conduct active business in Russia discussed ways to strengthen business relationships in the region. The potential of energy efficiency is a key topic in the discussions.
During the stay in St. Petersburg, BDF meets with many relevant public and private stakeholders within the Northern Dimension framework and has invited the Northern Dimension Business Council members to the BDF Summit in Turku in June.