Statement by Ms Kristiina Ojuland Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia at the CBSS 12th Ministerial Session
11 June 2003, Pori, Finland
The Baltic Region in a Changing World
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin my short statement with the acknowledgement of the excellent job done by the outgoing Finnish Presidency. In this connection, I would like to make special mention of the work done on the new Northern Dimension Action Plan, and the coordination and cooperation of activities with other organisations.
Proceeding to the central topic of my address – the immediate future of the Council of Baltic Sea States – allow me to once more repeat the well-known and generally accepted truth, that the success of any organism or structure depends on its ability to react adequately to changes in the environment and to adapt itself to altered conditions. As far as the Council of Baltic Sea States is concerned, we may state with satisfaction, that during the past 11 years, the CBSS has exhibited remarkable vigour and ingenuity in identifying the burning issues of the region, and in helping to direct the efforts of the member states at solving them. So there is no question about the vitality and dynamism of the Council so far. We all know, however, that due to the enlargement of the European Union, there are new challenges in the offing.
The first year of the second decade of the CBSS saw the finalisation of the accession negotiations between the European Union and four member states of the CBSS. Before the end of the upcoming Estonian Presidency, an overwhelming majority of the CBSS member states – 8 out of 11 – will be members of the Union. This means, on the one hand, that when planning the activities of the CBSS, serious consideration should be given to the EU context. On the other hand, the fact that so many of the member states are also becoming members of the EU, creates particularly good preconditions for the more extensive engagement of the Union in the Baltic Sea region. This also gives the CBSS enhanced possibilities for promoting regional cooperation.
As for the upcoming Estonian Presidency, I would like to confirm our adherence to the principles of continuity and innovation. With the former, we want to emphasise our commitment to carry on and further develop the work of the Council in those areas where notable progress has already been made and where there exist good prospects for new achievements. By innovation, we mean openness to all new ideas and proposals aimed at streamlining our organisation and making it more effective and goal-oriented. For instance, contemporising the Council’s work in concert with the socio-economic developments taking place in the EU. In this connection, I would like to express my full support for the ideas of the business communities of the member countries, which were also put forward in the statement of the Business Advisory Council.
Now, a few words about those areas, which Estonia believes warrant special attention during its presidency. In the field of economic cooperation, priority should be given to efforts aimed at the continued implementation of the 2002 Moscow Action Plan. We also think that greater emphasis should be placed upon the development of regional economic infrastructures and energy networks, intensified ITC cooperation, and the modernisation of the border infrastructure to a degree that meets 21st century business requirements.
We give full credit to the work done by the CBSS to encourage cooperation among the member countries in the field of civil security. It must, however, be born in mind that the fight against terrorism, the traffic in arms and narcotics, the trafficking in human beings, as well as the smuggling of goods, requires increased efforts and resources. The Council should also continue its engagement in the fight against communicable diseases.
Since the very beginning, environmental issues have constituted a pivotal sphere for the activities of the CBSS. Together with the growing economic activity of the region, however, new environmental risks are emerging. For instance, the risk of maritime pollution, as a result of the enormous increase in the shipping of oil in tankers on the Baltic Sea, has become a source of grave concern for all the member states. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that an arrangement, among the countries of the region, for minimising these risks is reached. At the same time, intensive work must be continued on improving nuclear safety in the region.
The changing conditions in the political and economic environment are creating the need to refashion the means and methods of regional cooperation. Therefore, the already ongoing discussion about the modification of the role of the CBSS, in accordance with the emerging economic and legal environment, should be given new impetus.
The CBSS should also maintain and increase its support for cross-border cooperation among local and regional authorities, with special emphasis being placed upon the economy and culture.
Considering the great potential of the EU Northern Dimension for the whole region, the CBSS should also continue its active engagement in the development of the Northern Dimension Action Plan, and contribute to its subsequent implementation.
During the Estonian Presidency, some administrative measures are also to be carried out. In accordance with the relevant decision of the Council, the office of the Commissioner for Democratic Development will terminate its work by 31 December 2003. This does not mean that all work on democratic development will be discontinued – projects will be carried on by relevant working bodies. I think that this can be regarded as recognition of the remarkable democratic development, which the societies of the so-called former communist countries have undergone.
Furthermore, the 5-year review of the CBSS Secretariat, coordinated by the Presidency, is to be completed by the spring of 2004, in accordance with the decision made in 1998, when the Secretariat was established.
Allow me to conclude with a few more words about the future of the Council.
The positive experiences of the CBSS, as an efficient and flexible catalyst for cooperation and development, give us good grounds for believing that the Council will cope successfully with the new challenges. The Council will, without a doubt, continue to play a significant role in the development of the Baltic Sea region – repeatedly described as one of the most stable growth regions in the world.
But to ensure the continual and enhanced efficiency of its work, we must take a careful look at the activities and structures of the Council, It is necessary to identify accurately the areas and issues, which need to be addressed, without the risk of overlapping with the activities of other similar structures. On the other hand, it is advisable that when planning future activities, serious thought be given to the possibilities and limitations of the Council. The tasks defined must be realistic, and chosen on the basis of the perceived needs of member states and sub-regional actors.
With this in mind, I would like to call on all the member countries to make an individual assessment of their expectations in connection with the CBSS. Hopefully, this will result in the presenting of concrete proposals about how to best combine CBSS work and activities with the new emerging reality.
Thank you for your attention.