EUSBSR Annual Forum 2020 – the celebration of Baltic Sea Cooperation in times of Corona
The Annual Forum of the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region has always been a celebration of cooperation, knowledge transfer, exchange of inspiration and cheering concrete results of joint initiatives in the Baltic Sea Region. But these were not mainly the keynote speeches, the presence of prominent politicians and established experts that attracted a considerable number of 800 to 1000 participants each year. The main reason was to grab some coffee with the people you worked hard with throughout the whole year or people whose work you really appreciated but did not have the chance to ask about unofficially. And that is how many new ideas were born, and many new partnerships launched.
This year due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Annual Forum was held online for the first time, which posed a huge challenge for the organizers from the Finnish city of Turku and CBSS. One thing is sure- against all odds, they did their best to make the gathering in virtual space as close as possible to the in-person-event, creating a very participatory and interactive experience thanks to available technological tools. But could it have been otherwise taking into account that the countries from the Baltic Sea Region are frontrunners as far as digitalization is concerned and that the 2020 Forum’s main theme was ‘Towards a Decade of Innovation and Sustainability’?
Although, no chance for a cosy coffee corner, so much appreciated informality was brought in by the speakers casually dressed and being seen in front of their home libraries or favourite pictures. And by an enthusiastic, uncompromising voice of the Baltic Youth representative, talking about the expectations and ideas of youngsters and proudly introducing the Baltic Youth Declaration.
A policy matters only if it serves the people. And having such a strong voice of the young generation at this year’s EUSBSR Annual Forum was a perfect starting point for more involving, more people-centred policymaking. The starting point, which is strongly supported by the EUSBSR New Action Plan, presented and discussed during the Forum. It seems that the ground is set for more result-oriented, more effective and more engaging activities in the Baltic Sea Region.
On macroregional level, which has always been praised for a bottom-up approach and uniting different governance levels, economic sectors and diverse groups of ‘people of the action’ working on concrete projects, the inclusion of new-comers and community building initiatives have always been top priorities. With all the digital tools that are available at the moment and that we have all been learning more intensely since the pandemic outbreak, there is even a higher chance for making these ambitions come true. Thanks to the hard work on the ground, of course.
By Marta Czarnecka-Gallas, PhD, Team Europe expert, ‘Pomorskie in the EU’ Association,
*The article written within Let’s Communicate! project