The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) is the first macro-regional strategy in Europe. It aims at reinforcing cooperation within this large region in order to face several challenges by working together as well as promoting a more balanced development in the area. The Strategy also contributes to major EU policies and reinforces the integration within the area.
The EU Baltic Sea region counts 85 million inhabitants (17 percent of EU population) and eight countries (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) which share common features and challenges. Hence there is a clear need for joining forces and working in cooperation. Against this background, the Strategy intends to increase the levels of environmental sustainability, prosperity, accessibility and attractiveness and safety and security.
The Strategy was approved by the European Council in 2009 following a communication from the European Commission. In this respect, it provides an integrated framework for improving the environmental condition of the sea, transport bottlenecks and energy interconnections as well as facilitating the development of competitive markets across borders and common networks for research and innovation.
Now well into the implementation phase, the Strategy shows the commitment of partners at different levels. According to the European Commission's assessment, "the Strategy is already contributing positively to enhance cooperation in the Region".
How does it work in practice?
The Strategy aims at bringing together initiatives in different sectors (growth, sustainable development etc.) as well as promoting cooperation between stakeholders in the Baltic Sea Region.
The Strategy also promotes flagships in the Baltic Sea Region. These flagships have a macro-regional impact and start from joint initiatives involving partnership from different countries.
Implementation of the Strategy requires active participation by all the actors and stakeholders implicated in the process not only at a national level but at a macro-regional level.
The EU member states involved in the EUSBSR are Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Strategy is welcoming cooperation also with EU neighbouring countries (Russia, Iceland, Norway and Belarus).
Policy Areas and Horizontal Actions
The Strategy is divided into three objectives (previously in 4 pillars) which represent the three key challenges of the Strategy: saving the sea, connecting the region and increasing prosperity. Each objective relates to a wide range of policies and has an impact on the other objectives.
The objectives guide an array of Policy Areas which are specific areas for macro-regional cooperation that address the key challenges and opportunities in the Region. Examples include promoting clean shipping and supporting SME growth. The work carried out under each Policy Area involves stakeholders from various levels (international, national, regional, local) and sectors (public, private, civil society). It is structured around joint actions and can be illustrated by flagships.
The Strategy also includes Horizontal Actions which have a more cross-cutting character and are relevant for many objectives and sub-objectives; examples include cooperation on spatial planning or climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Horizontal Actions complement the objectives and Policy Areas.