The Baltic Sea Strategy as a Momentum for Regional Development and the Baltic EU Council Presidencies Speech delivered at the 15th Baltic Development Forum Summit Inga Skujiņa, Head of the Secretariat of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues, It is a great honour of mine to be on this panel alongside such excellent speakers. Over the next several minutes I would like to share with you my views on the importance of the regional aspects of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region in the context of the upcoming Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is no surprise that the Lithuanian Presidency is planning on de voting significant attention to the Baltic Sea Strategy. Taking into account the regional development potential that the Strategy possesses, it is essential that our Lithuanian colleagues are successful in finding sustainable political support for both individual projects and the Strategy in general. The success of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is of crucial importance for the institutional and political cooperation projects between public institutions of the European Union countries around the Baltic Sea. The “Baltic Sea Strategy” could become a new landmark for regional public cooperation within the European Union. Based on adherence to the same liberal democratic values of tolerance and inclusion, all of the countries and their administrative apparatuses already share common ground for
8 Inga Skujiņa cooperation. Thus, the implementation of individual projects and “getting the job done” must be the guiding attitude not only among officials, but also politicians, non-governmental organizations and societies. Different languages or historical experiences, or false stereotypes, should not prevent us from achieving economic wellbeing, introducing social and economic opportunities and freedoms, and permanent civic interaction. Thus, within the time left for my presentation, I would like to emphasise three aspects that we should take into account when thinking about region - alism and regional political development around the Baltic Sea. The first is gaining an understanding of the place of the Baltic region in the changing European Union. The second is the necessity to identify the immediate concerns of the region and business opportunities therein. The third is the future of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region in the context of the Lithuanian and Latvian Presidencies of the Council of the European Union. The European Union is at a crossroads. I must emphasise again — the EU is at a crossroads. Traditionally, the European Union has been shaped by the different external or internal processes and challenges it has faced. Challenges have toughened the union and shaped the formation of the economic and political community in Europe. The current sovereign debt crisis and ideas on the Banking Union, Budgetary Union and completing the Economic and Monetary Union by introducing fiscal coordination methods have resulted in discussions on the federal future of the EU. European Union institutions naturally seek greater coordination and we can observe an Ernst Haas neo-functionalist “spill-over effect” in the speeches of the Presidents of the European Union Council and the European Commission. But one aspect is rather obvious: we cannot argue that the European Commission is not willing to find solutions for the population of the whole European Union. We cannot say that the Commission does not care about all of the regions and countries in the European Union. Its support for the Baltic Sea Strategy and interest in the implementation of regional projects is clearly stated multiple times. And the ball now is in the hands of the member states, their entrepreneurs, politicians and administrators. It is the responsibility of the EU member states around the Baltic Sea to demonstrate their leadership and resolution in utilising the potential for the integration of historically, economically, socially, linguistically and culturally diverse countries.