EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: is there a catch or is it just another paper?

The Baltic Sea

Major threats to the Baltic Sea are eutrophication caused by agriculture and scattered settlements and increasing volume of chemical and oil sea transport. Data is based on the Helsinki Environment Agency questionnaire of the Baltic Sea.

Questionnaire was an Internet survey of citizens’ opinions and observations of the Baltic Sea. The survey was part of the ongoing Helsinki and Turku urban challenge launched by the Baltic Sea campaign. Although the survey was quite small, it consist the basic threat elements commonly recognized. This is why European Union has announced Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

– There is a huge risk built in the Finnish government´s statement on the strategy, says Finnish MEP Ville Itälä (EPP).

He refers to financing the strategy, which in Finnish government´s opinion, should be the same model as funding of the Northern Dimension. This has also been Commissions opinion.

– This means that that there will be a new strategy, but without any sufficient funding for implementation. A good program, but it is without a real meaning.

MEP Itälä is in the heart of the big question. Is there any real meaning in this new strategy, or is it only a new paper without a catch? Is there any real influence on the decision making in EU or in national government. Funding is the key factor implementing any strategy.


Four cornerstones

The Strategy aims at coordinating action by Member States, regions, the EU, pan-Baltic organizations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies to promote a more balanced development of the Region.

The four cornerstones of the Strategy are to make this part of Europe more:

1. To make the Baltic Sea region an environmentally sustainable place
2. To make the Baltic Sea region a prosperous place
3. To make the Baltic Sea region an accessible and attractive place
4. To make the Baltic Sea region a safe and secure place

(summary of the strategy)

Safety issues in sea were important to Finland, when making the strategy. Finland aimed to improve co-operation in the design and implementation of the Baltic Sea. Coordinate the fragmented command and control, routing and information systems. Improve education of maritime officers on the ships and personnel in the maritime centers.

The most important objective is the development of Baltic Coast guard, which would be able to answer increasing threats on oil leakages and other emergencies in the Baltic Sea region.

This and all the other actions are funded throughout another programmes. The Strategy itself has no funding.

Almost 240 MEUR is available

However there are funds available to the Baltic Sea region. Over 230 million euro earmarked by the European Commission and the Government of Norway. Total 236,6 MEUR is available to Baltic Sea Region Programme (2007-2013).

There are planed 46 transnational co-operation projects, so moreover own co-funding will come from project partners. Next years will show how much EU and the other countries could do in the Baltic Sea Area.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (pdf, 205 kb)
Action Plan (pdf, 98 kb)

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