New objectives for Baltic Sea strategy
By Isabelle Smets | Monday 26 March 2012
The European Union’s Baltic Sea strategy – the first EU macro-regional strategy – will soon turn three (it was launched in June 2009) and the European Commission has decided that its priorities need to be refocused. In a communication, adopted on 23 March
(1), it proposes to base cooperation in this region on three new strategic objectives: saving the Baltic Sea, connecting the region and increasing its prosperity.
The Baltic Sea is still one of Europe’s most vulnerable areas. Algae proliferate every summer in its waters and more and larger ships navigate in its narrowest and shallowest straits. “Divisions from the past are still being overcome,” notes the Commission’s communication. “Research, innovation and trade links need to be reinforced, while transport and energy connections have big gaps – the Eastern and Northern parts of the region are still too often isolated from the rest of the EU.”
For each of the three priorities set, the Commission identifies objectives and indicators that will help measure progress. The member states that participate in the strategy are invited to propose others. To “save the Baltic Sea,” for example, indicators include elimination of illegal discharges by 2020, 20% reduction in maritime accidents by 2020 (from 2010) and increased cooperation between maritime surveillance authorities. To “connect the region,” the Commission seeks full and “environmentally sustainable” interconnection of the gas and electricity markets of rim states by 2015. To “increase prosperity,” the executive aims for a 15% increase in the volume of intra-regional trade and cross-border services by 2020.
USING FUNDS MORE EFFECTIVELY
Although EU macro-regional strategies have no specific budget, the Commission stresses the need to use available national and EU resources more effectively. An earlier follow-up report identified noteworthy progress in this area, “but more work is needed”. The EU’s future cohesion policy, for example, should serve this strategy more than it does today. The strategy was launched in the middle of the current programming period of 2007-2013, with consequently little chance of influencing programme content, but that is no longer the case and the partnership contracts and operational programmes to be developed under the 2014-2020 cohesion policy should draw on it further.
To “increase prosperity,” the executive aims for a 15% increase in the volume of intra-regional trade and cross-border services by 2020(1) The document is available at
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