European strategy for the Baltic Sea region: planning and practical implementation

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The annual forum of the European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSBSR is the largest event in the strategy’s development which takes place for the 13th time in Finland. The event brings together not only the stakeholders implementing various strategies’ policies, but also those interested in the Baltic Sea regional growth issues. Among the participants will be also those who practically contribute to managing common challenges for the Baltic Sea region, according to the forum’s motto – “from plans to practice”.  

The EU macro-regional strategies occupy a vital place in the European integration. Generally, “macro-regional strategy” represent an integrated framework supported mainly by the European Structural and Investment Funds to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area (including the EU states and third countries located in the same geographical area) which could benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to achievement of European economic, social and territorial cohesion.
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) is managing the work of all European macro-regional strategies.
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Attention to the Baltic Sea region
The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) is one out of four European macro-regional strategies; it was the first to be adopted by the European Council in 2009 following a recommendation from the European Commission.
The other three EU regional strategies are: for the Danube region (2010), Adriatic and Ionian region (EUSALP, 2014) and Alpine region (2015).
These four European macro-regional strategies already “unite” 19 EU member states and 8 non-EU countries, which are holding their own annual forums; for example the EUSALP forum will take place in Italy on 22-23 November 2022.
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All mentioned macro-regional strategies are following their action plans which are regularly updated in light of new and emerging needs, challenges and changing priorities. It is important that all EU strategies are actively contributing to the main EU political priorities, such as the “green deal”, the “stronger EU in the world”, and the “EU closer to citizens”, etc.
These strategies are also benefiting from a large range of stakeholder’s participation, by bringing in their daily work civil society organisations, SME’s and young people active in the local governance and the strategies’ implementation.
The EU legal acts adopted during 2021-2027 reinforce the macro-regional synergies with the Interreg transnational programs, namely Interreg Baltic Sea Region, Interreg Danube Region, Interreg IPA Adrian and Interreg Alpine Space which are funding projects and are supporting the strategies’ governance.
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The Forum’s venue
The 13th annual forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR-2022), which is performed under the motto “from plans to practice”, takes place in Lappeenranta/Finland during 28-29 September 2022 under the Finnish Presidency of EUSBSR.
The forum will provide the framework “to examine the state of the region, to describe the most pressing issues in BSR as well as exploring ways in which EUSBSR community can tackle them”, noted in the forum’s website.
The focus of this year’s EUSBSR Forum will be on sustainability, climate change, managing challenges and project realisations in the Baltic Sea Region through innovation to prosperous, connected and green BSR.
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Already approved speakers at the forum include G. Poznański, Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat, K. Mikkonen, Finland Minister of the Interior, J. Katainen, President of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra among many others.
Choosing the forum’s venue in Finnish Lappeenranta was not at random; the city is commonly known as “the country’s climate capital” and it created wonderful sustainable success stories together with residents and companies. Besides, the city is the European Green Leaf Award 2021 winner and the brave central city of Southeast Finland providing for solution-oriented projects in renewable energy and science education.

Some hot issues under discussion
= Tourism. This area has been under serious attention during the strategy’s long-term activities. Recently, an additional information tool was introduced, i.e. “Policy Area Tourism” as the latest Baltic Stories e-magazine prepared by the Let’s Communicate Project. The magazine was published in June 2022 and includes articles about tourism policy area’s spatial planning and transport, as well as the CBSS initiative PROMISE, the Barnahus network and ResQU2 project on increasing emergency preparedness, to name a few.
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= As soon as the forum’s motto is “from plans to practice”, the main burden of work will be done by the local and regional authorities; hence the role of these governing levels is becoming a vital element in the EUSBSR’s practical implementation.
The EU institutions have already doing their part of the work: thus, the European Commission signed recently framework partnership agreements with five global and European sectoral associations of local authorities: the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones, AIMF; the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum, CLGF; Platforma/Council of European Municipalities and Regions, CEMR; the United Cities and Local Governments, UCLG, and the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, UCLGA.
Supported by €50 million, the agreements are aimed at activating the role of local authorities and their associations in formulating policies to promote local and regional sustainable development.
The five renewed partnership agreements that will be in force until 31 April 2026 recognise the contribution of local and regional governments to the design and implementation of policies that are required to achieve the SDGs, in particular for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The agreements have formalized a set of common interests and objectives, which include the following priorities:
= Strengthen the voice of EU local and regional governments and their associations in EU development policy and global agendas;
= Enhance the engagement of EU local and regional governments and their associations in decentralised cooperation, focusing on EU priorities and the SDGs;
= Improve current practices in decentralised cooperation, through efficiency and innovation;
= Raise awareness and build the capacities of local and regional governments and their associations as governance and development policy actors;
= Strengthen the capacity of associations of local authorities to coordinate the voices of all partners, create synergies, and add value as a network, ensuring good governance and sustainable partnerships.

Note. Our Institute’s representative will take part in the event and inform the readers about most vital discussions and decisions.

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