As we face a changed and changing world, a globalised world, a more competitive world, we must find new solutions that will enable us to maintain our competitive edge and the European quality of life to which we have become accustomed. But to do that, we need to work to overcome those obstacles that have come to impede us, where running just to keep up leads to us falling behind. (President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the Ministerial Conference on the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, 18 September 2009 in Stockholm).
In November 2006, the European Parliament approved a resolution on creating a strategy for the Baltic Sea region. The European Parliament resolution drew attention to many topics, for example environmental pollution, risks arising from increased shipping traffic, and how much the countries in the region must depend on one another.
The initiators of the SBSR were then-members of Parliament Alexander Stubb and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who today, in 2015, are the Finnish Minister of Finance and President of the Republic of Estonia, respectively.
After about two years of preparations and consultations, which were led by the European Commission, in October 2009 during the Swedish Presidency the Council of the European Union confirmed the creation of the SBSR. In 2011 Poland, during its Presidency, initiated the process to update the strategy, which was completed at the beginning of 2013. The updating process made the structure of the action plan for the strategy more specific and clearer, the roles of various parties were laid out, and concrete indicators to measure progress were set. From 2014–2015, the SBSR was updated for the second time with an aim to consider issues that are equally important to all countries in the region and thereby, ensure better functioning of the strategy.
The SBSR touches the lives of 85 million people (17% of the population of the EU) and eight EU member states (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland). These nations have many common goals and challenges, and the strategy provides a basis and support for co-operation. The Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region focuses on how to improve the region’s competitiveness, create new transport and energy connections, protect the environment, promote knowledge-based co-operation and contacts, and ensure safety for people and for the environment.
The SBSR is the EU’s first macroregional strategy; the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region were later compiled using it as an example. The SBSR is unique because it concerns not only various countries and regions, but also many different parties, from state institutions to the private sector and from universities to non-profit associations.
The Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region has three main goals:
- protect the Baltic Sea;
- connect the region;
- increase prosperity.
The goals set by the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region are implemented through the concrete activities and projects that make up the strategy’s action plan. The projects have been divided into flagship and contributing projects. Flagship projects are the projects that have a great effect on the entire Baltic Sea region; projects that affect a smaller area are called contributing projects.
The strategy is divided into 13 priority areas and four overarching themes, which have a horizontal measure that touches all the priority areas. The priority areas are, for example, Culture, Education, Innovation, Reducing pollution in the Baltic Sea, Energy, Maritime Safety, Tourism, Transport, etc. One overarching theme, Neighbours, addressed co-operation with neighbouring regions that do not belong to the European Union – it is within the framework of this dimension that co-operation is carried out with Russia, for example. Every realm is co-ordinated by one or two countries, cities, NPO umbrella organisations, or regional organisations.
No new institutions have been created to carry out the goals of the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region; existing organisations and structures are utilised instead. HELCOM plays a major role in carrying out environmental goals. Many other sectors involve the Council of Baltic Sea States, Northern Dimension, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Municipal governments and non-profit organisations play an important role in the strategy. SBSR projects can be initiated by national and municipal governments as well as private companies, universities, and non-profits.
The necessary funds for carrying out projects mainly come from various EU funds and programmes.
Estonia and the SBSR
The implementation of the SBSR is co-ordinated by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Regional Policy). The role of national SBSR contact point in Estonia is filled by the Foreign Ministry, which also co-ordinates the activities of Estonian parties (Department for Europe and Transatlantic Co-operation, telephone +372 637 7260).
Issues related to the strategy are discussed in a national working group, which is led by the Foreign Ministry and made up of representatives of ministries and offices.
The following issues are particularly important for Estonia: the development and broader introduction of interoperable IT solutions and cross-border e-services, the recognition of professional qualifications, the creation and effective performance of the network of research institutions, the development of transport and energy infrastructure, etc.
Estonia’s interest is that the European Commission and the Member States would consider, inter alia, the priorities of the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the updated action plan when planning and implementing the EU budget, including cohesion policy and territorial cooperation instruments, and other funds. This will contribute to the joint planning and implementation of the regional projects of strategic importance and to the achievement of the objectives of the EU cohesion policy as a whole.
Seed money is EU funding to prepare projects that contribute to one of the priority areas or horizontal actions of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. If a project turns out to be sustainable, it can be developed further using the resources of the European Union or other national resources, including European structural and investment funds for the period 2014-2020.
The plan of the draft project has to include a description of activities and outputs, the composition of the partnership, the indicative budget and an analysis of funding possibilities. If the future project is to be focused on investments, also feasibility and pre-investment studies can be financed. The plan must also describe how the sustainability of the project will be ensured after the end of seed funding.
The project must aid in the accomplishment of one of the objectives of the 17 priority areas or horizontal actions listed in the strategy’s action plan. A letter of support from the priority area coordinators or horizontal action leaders is necessary.
Seed money is given for up to one year. It is possible to extend the deadline by up to three months (two months before the signing of the contract for managing all tasks related to the contract and one month after the end of the project to prepare the final report and make the last payments).
Participation in seed money projects is open to public institutions, bodies governed by public law, and other bodies established under public or private law for the specific purpose of meeting needs in the general interest. The project must include at least three partners from those involved in the Baltic Sea Strategy (8 members of the strategy + Norway, Belarus and Russia). Funding applications can be submitted year-round.
Seed money can be used for personnel costs, outsourced services, and the cost of involving experts, as well as costs associated with travelling, housing and organization of meetings.
A project can be financed with 30,000–50,000 euros, and exceptionally even up to 100,000 euros. A minimum of 15% must be self-financed. For example, if the entire budget is 30,000 euros then the grant cannot be more than 25,500 euros and self-financing cannot be less than 4,500 euros.
The decision on the granting of seed money is made by the Seed Money Committee that is composed of the members of the monitoring committee of the EU’s Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007–2013 and the coordinators of the priority areas and horizontal actions. Decisions are made up to four times per year. If you have any further questions, please contact the Seed Money Secretariat.
Important channels for EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region financing are EU regional cooperation resources. Read more - http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/policy/cooperation/. You can also find useful information on the INTERACT Turku home page http://www.interact-eu.net/about_us/about_interact/22/2911 and the Ministry of Finance home page http://www.fin.ee/euroopa-territoriaalne-koostoo/?highlight=el,territoriaalne,koostöö (in Estonian)
Database www.keep.eu contains information about around 16 thousand EU supported projects, including EUSBSR related projects.
The presentations of the seminar “The EU’s Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the European Territorial Cooperation Programmes 2014+” that took place in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 September 2014. The seminar was organised in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance.
- Website of the European Commission on the SBSR
- Website of the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (SBSR)
- The SBSR in Estonian (1.64 MB, PDF)
- Documents on the SBSR: EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region - Library - EU Regional Policy
- Estonia’s European Union Policy 2011–2015 (PDF)
- Speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet at the conference “The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and topical legal and economic issues, including in the field of insolvency”, Tallinn University, 8 November 2012
- Speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet at the conference “The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and other regional cooperation forms”, 18 January 2012, Tallinn University
- Mihkelson, Marko. Eesti peaks EL-i eesistujana keskenduma Läänemere strateegiale. Eesti Päevaleht, 16 September 2010
- Paet, Urmas. Sea, saunas, beer and a chance to revive the Baltic region (2.21 MB, PDF). European Voice, 23 July 2009
- Paet, Urmas. Opening remarks by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Urmas Paet at the 18th BSSSC Annual Conference Qualifying the Region for the Future - Implementing the EU Baltic Sea Strategy, 13 October 2010, Tallinn
- President Ilves at the Ministerial Conference on the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, 18 September 2009, Stockholm