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The Baltic Sea is a brackish inland sea, the top largest body of brackish water in the world (beside the Black Sea and Hudson Bay). The Baltic Sea occupies a basin formed by glacial erosion during the last few Ice Ages.


average depth


max. depth

surface area

377.000sq. km



average salinity


The Baltic Sea in ancient sources known as Mare Suebicum (or Mare Germanicum), is also known by the equivalents of "East Sea", "West Sea", or "Baltic Sea" in different languages: in Germanic languages, except English, "East Sea" is used in: Danish (Ostersoen), Dutch (Oostzee), German (Ostsee), Norwegian (Ostersjoen), and Swedish (Östersjön).


"Baltic Sea" is also used in the Slavic languages: Polish (Morze Bałtyckie or

Bałtyk), Belarusian (Baltyjskaje Mora), Russian (Baltiyskoye Morye) and also in the Hungarian language (Balti-tenger). 

In Baltic-Finnic languages it is either "East Sea" in Finnish (Itämeri) or

"West Sea" in Estonian (Läänemeri), with the correct geography (the sea is west of Estonia and Finland). In the Baltic languages it is known as "Baltic Sea": Latvian (Baltijas jura) and Lithuanian (Baltijos jura) and the Romance languages French (Mer Baltique),

State of the Region

The future of the Baltic Sea Region depends on the interplay of what policies are being pursued within the region, and what European and global economic and political environment they will face.


The current challenges have their origin largely outside of the region. But it is also true that the strong performance prior to the crisis owed a lot of the opportunities that the global economy oŠered to the region. This is the fate of Small-Open Economies and will not change. However, if globalisation is slowing done, the importance of neighbours and the opportunities for deeper integration within the macro region might by growing. At the minimum, it is unlikely that the global economy is going provide strong growth impulses for the Baltic Sea Region. The region needs to not only prepare for global competition – this is something that it has been doing for some time. It also needs to explore the opportunities within the region – arguably this is something that has received somewhat less a©ention in recent years.

For policy makers in the region this suggests a need to look at three diŠerent levels for action. First, domestically it is critical for economic policy to both manage the economic conditions of today and to prepare for a possible slowing down of the economy in the future. Moving beyond the crisis also means moving beyond the short-term oriented crisis mode of economic policy. This is diŸcult, especially when governments are concerned about their political support. But it is critical if the region wants to remain on top also a‡er the next economic shock. Second, given the region’s huge reliance on its external environment and specifically the nature of European markets and policies, it needs to actively engage in the process of defining the Europe that will emerge post-Brexit. Whether that is already happening beyond the staking out of short-term national interests is unclear. As smaller member countries the Baltic Sea Region might feel that it can only manage within the context of whatever structures the large EU member countries come up with. But that is neither doing justice to the high stakes the countries in the region have in the outcome of this process, nor to the influence they potentially could have.

Third, the opportunities and necessity to enable growth by pursuing higher levels of economic integration with neighbours in a macro region like the Baltic Sea might be increasing in the years to come. Here the region should leverage the many relationships, organisational platforms, and instruments that have been created in recent years. Baltic Sea Region integration is not an alternative to broader-based internationalisation and a continued focus on global trade liberalisation. It is an opportunity to strengthen the region’s hands in these eŠorts regardless of how the external environment will change.


Regional collaboration is no panacea but can play a supporting role in these eŠorts. Given the complexities in the political and economic environment already discussed in last year’s State of the Region Report it is unlikely that the regional level is going to emerge as a central platform for common action. What it can do, however, is to enhance the quality of choices that policy makers across the region are going to take. And that in itself is a benefit that counts.

2016 State of the Region Report – Doing Well Today, Feeling Worried About Tomorrow

Christian Ketels
Helge J. Pedersen

Published by: Baltic Development Forum

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