EUSBSR Annual Forum 2021: five different takes on the sustainable future of the Baltic Sea Region
The 2021 EUSBSR Annual Forum was organised from 27 September to 1 October 2021 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Kaunas City Municipality, Klaipėda City Municipality, and the Union of the Baltic Cities.
A guiding principle of the Forum was the idea of synergies, which was reflected in the involvement of multi-level institutions, organisations, and other actors both in the in the realisation of the events and in the topics of discussion. In addition, the Annual Forum emphasised the role of cities, culture, and youth.
The format of the Annual Forum provided the opportunity to participate online in plenary sessions, workshops, networking sessions and other events for five consecutive days. Each day featured a plenary session discussing the sustainable future of the Baltic Sea Region from different perspectives.
Opening Session: Revitalise the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Stronger together
The high-level opening session of the 12th Annual Forum focused on the economic recovery of the Baltic Sea Region through green and digital transformation. The discussion highlighted the potential of the Baltic Sea Region to become a forerunner in both green and digital transformation. Cooperation was considered essential both for furthering the development and for facing future crises. Although the important role of the EUSBSR in enabling and furthering cooperation was emphasised, it was recognised that more could be done within the framework of the Strategy to increase its positive impact.
The speakers considered the new Action Plan of the EUSBSR to be a step in the right direction. Its stronger focus on climate action and cooperation with neighbouring non-EU countries increases the opportunities to further green and digital transformation. The similarities between the objectives of the EUSBSR and the Green Recovery Plan of the EU were also highlighted. [...]
Plenary Session I: EU agenda-setters vs. implementers: Which role for EU macro-regional strategies?
The first plenary session discussed how EU macro-regional strategies can contribute to the achievement of EU goals. Although macro-regional strategies are commonly viewed more as a means of implementing the EU agenda, the speakers confirmed that they believe macro-regional strategies can be agenda setters as well. The knowledge and experience gained through regional cooperation is of great value not only on the implementing level, but also for the policy making process. In addition, macro-regional strategies can learn from each other.
Still, the main role of macro-regional strategies is to combine the forces of a region to work on a common agenda. As noted during the discussion, actions need to be made on the level where it is most effective, which in some cases is the macro-regional level. Many of the challenges we face today can only be overcome if we set common objectives and work together on every level to reach them. Speakers also highlighted how important it is that macro-regional strategies include non-EU countries in the cooperation, as the challenges we are facing do not know borders.
(Source: press release EUSBSR, shortened)