Photo credit: Lars Lund Godbolt, BSSSC
26th BSSSC Annual Conference comes to an end
From September 10-12 in Gdansk, Pomorskie Voivodeship, Poland, the BSSSC invited stakeholders from all over the Baltic Sea Region to the Annual Conference titled “Solidarity, participation and smart action for a better future”
Roger Ryberg, Chairman of BSSSC opened the conference with a history lesson. In front of about 200 participants from both regional, local, national and EU level he could announce that this autumn it is 25 years since the BSSSC cooperation started. Initiated by some of the foreign ministers that had established the Council of the Baltic Sea States the year before, regional politicians and civil servants gathered in Stavanger, Norway to form the Baltic Sea States Subregion Co-operation. They saw the need for an organisation also at sub-national level – to encourage and stimulate cooperation between the regions - to tie the Baltic Sea Region together again after a long period of separation.
- And, they were absolutely right! Regions had to be involved and to cooperate to develop a strong and united Baltic Sea Region. Solidarity among countries, regions, municipalities and - the citizens - are vital for a region to blossom and become prosperous and attractive. AND - the Baltic Sea Region has become a region of prosperity - but also of challenges - bridging east and west – bringing people together. The BSSSC has been and is a part of this tremendous development over the past 25 years, said Roger Ryberg.
Solidarity, participation and being smart
Wieslaw Byczkowski, Deputy Marshal of Pomorskie Voivodeship introduced this year’s topics. Solidarity was chosen not only because Gdansk is the birthplace of the historical social movement solidarity, which moved the first brick in Europe’s east-west dividing wall, but also because of the political situation in the world today we need to remind ourselves of solidarity.
- Looking around at the developments in Europe and the world, it seems we have to bring back this uniting Spirit, and remind ourselves, that solidarity is an essential positive value in human relations, within the EU and between the various nations. Or it should be, said Mr. Byczkowski.
He quoted Mr. Brzezinski – an influential political adviser:
Participation was chosen because we need to jointly solve issues together.
- A necessary condition for that is to be open to get to know "the other" and cooperate – as we do within the Baltic Sea Region, but we should still be better, said Mr. Byczkowski.
The third key word for the annual conference is smart, as we have to be smart and use smart innovative solutions to build a better, cleaner and healthier world around. In addition, we have to be smart to realize that introducing environmentally healthy solutions is not a burden but an opportunity, also in economic terms, said Mr. Byczkowski.
Solidarity and participation – cities and regions as enablers
The topics were covered in a wide range of ways. Session 1 had key-note speeches by already mentioned Wiesław Byczkowski and Roger Ryberg, but also Michał Czyż, Ambassador, Polish representative CSO CBSS, Juris Bone, CBSS – Latvian Chairmanship 2018/2019, Audrone Perkauskiene, European External Action Services (EEAS), Head of Division, Eastern Partnership, Regional cooperation and OSCE and Bodo Bahr, Secretary General, The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. Mr. Bahr underlined the need to work with the sustainable development goals and said that depending on the country; only 25 to 60 percent of the targets of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan currently meet at the national level. He also emphasised the importance of working with youth and said that BSSSC is a forerunner on this issue.
In session 2, solidarity and participation – cities and regions as enablers, participants listened carefully to Simone Baglioni, Professor of Politics at the Glasgow Caledonian University presenting his interesting findings. A majority says yes to financially helping poorer countries in Europe with their debts and most European still believe in Europe, he said. There were also discussions and keynotes with Markku Markkula, Vice-President, Committee of the Regions, Roger Ryberg, Chairman of BSSSC, Vytautas Grubliauskas, Vice-president of Euroregion Baltic and Marie Louise Rönnmark, Vice-president of UBC.
Simone Baglioni, Professor of Politics at the Glasgow Caledonian University
Workshopping our way to a better Baltic Sea Region
Session 3 consisted of four parallel workshops. In workshop 1, The value of culture for getting young people inspired for Baltic Sea cooperation, several youth and cultural actors were brought together to discuss the content of the panned Baltic Sea Region Youth Camp 2019, which will be back to back with the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) Annual Forum 2019. The youth camp will be from the evening of June 8 to the evening of June 11, while the EUSBSR Annual Forum will be from the 12-13 of June.
In workshop 2, the concept of Smart growth - blue growth regions were introduced. Smart specialisation is still a relatively new concept. It is an essential tool for avoiding dissipation of the EU research funds and for focusing the research, innovation, human and financial resources on those innovative sectors which are high performing, strategic from a socio-economical perspective and – what is exceptionally essential - also eco-friendly. Around the Baltic Sea, many regions have identified 'Blue Growth' as a priority in their RIS3, as they recognise the blue economy as one of the sectors with the most significant potential.
Workshop 3, Smart societies – Circular Bioeconomy is the Key for Green and Sustainable Regions In order to reach the full potential in circular bioeconomy, it was emphasized that regions need to build functional ecosystem by unifying rural and urban regions. Bioeconomy development creates business opportunities both to urban and rural areas with circular management of material flows and energy and effective innovation ecosystems. In this workshop participants were provided concrete examples and experiments from development projects and innovation to business. Download the presentations from the programme here.
Workshop 4, Together for a sustainable future- solidarity among generations, was co-hosted by our youth network. Solidarity is one of main European principles together with equal opportunities, respect for individuals and tolerance. However, the last years developments (economy crisis, increasing immigration from outside Europe, political disturbances) have changed the living and working conditions of European citizens and challenged inter- and intra- European solidarity. To a certain extent, all regions are confronted with youth unemployment, school dropouts and a growing social isolation among the immigrant population. On the other hand, ageing of the society and the knowledge gap due to growing senior professionals urges policy makers to bind generations in the process of knowledge transfer. Baltic Sea region is in need of extra stimulus, strong empowering action and involving the youth.
From the workshop on blue growth.
On day two different projects were asked to come and present their project and predict the future: how does our region look like in twenty years? These projects are covering issues vital for the long-term development of the Baltic Sea Region (e.g. smart growth, energy, infrastructure, district heating, digitalisation, cultural heritage, mobility etc.). Their presentations can be downloaded at the programme here.
Following the project presentations there was a discussion on how we can communicate the Baltic Sea Region cooperation as simple as possible – but not simpler. These discussions were led by Marcin Nowicki, Centre of Strategic Thought, who asked the audience questions of why, how and what we are doing the Baltic Sea Region Strategy.
As with every BSSSC Annual Conference, the BSSSC Conference Resolution was presented. It contains a number of common positions from BSSSC regions on the future of the Baltic Sea area - from youth inclusion to transport corridors and, of course, the future of EU cohesion policy. Read the conference resolution here.
The BSSSC Conference ended by Vice Marshall Wiesław Bukowski thanking everyone for joining the conference and handing the BSSSC flag over to next year's host: Klaipeda, Lithuania. Thank you Pomorskie Voivodeship for hosting a fantastic Annual Conference and we welcome you all to next year’s BSSSC Annual Conference in Klaipeda!
Why did Solidarity win? Because it was something so much broader than a political movement, than a trade union, and than a wish to regain sovereignty. It was not just a movement, it was Spirit – a powerful moral force, based on humanistic, religious and democratic values. It was a coalition without class or national hatred, a coalition whose goal was not to look back into history but to build a better future, based on social reconciliation and on reconciliation with the neighbours. This Spirit was the main source of Solidarity Movement victory – probably the most important peaceful revolution in history.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski
Wieslaw Byczkowski, Deputy Marshal of Pomorskie Voivodeship gives the BSSSC flag to Klaudija Kionies, Managing director of Klaipeda Region Municipalities Association