EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

06-06-2016

Encompassing regions from Member States as well as third countries confronted with a common set of challenges, macro-regions are often defined on the basis of geographical features. Whether inspired by a sense of regional identity, a desire to engage in closer cooperation or to pool resources, all macro-regional strategies share a common aim: to ensure a coordinated approach to issues best tackled jointly. While diverse in many ways, the countries bordering the Baltic are characterised by a high degree of interdependence, with a tradition of cooperation dating back to the Hanseatic period. This shared identity was cemented further through the EU accession of the Baltic States and Poland in 2004, increasing to eight the number of EU Member States in the Baltic region (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland). Yet despite the introduction of common EU rules and policies, opening up new prospects for improving growth and living standards through closer coordination, persistent differences have remained between the prosperous northern and western seaboards of the Baltic and its less developed southern and eastern countries. Concerns over the deteriorating state of the Sea itself, and a sense that the region had failed to make best use of the opportunities of EU membership led to calls for action and the development of a dedicated strategy for the Baltic region in 2009. Originally initiated by the European Parliament, the Strategy covers the eight EU Member States of the Baltic and also involves cooperation with the neighbouring countries of Russia, Belarus, Norway and Iceland. It has been designed to be adapted to changing circumstances, and revisions of its Action Plan have streamlined its structure and given more responsibility to Member States. A number of key challenges remain, however, not least its complex governance, a lack of political engagement, low knowledge about the Strategy and mixed results in integrating it into 2014-2020 operational programmes, a key potential source of funding.

Encompassing regions from Member States as well as third countries confronted with a common set of challenges, macro-regions are often defined on the basis of geographical features. Whether inspired by a sense of regional identity, a desire to engage in closer cooperation or to pool resources, all macro-regional strategies share a common aim: to ensure a coordinated approach to issues best tackled jointly. While diverse in many ways, the countries bordering the Baltic are characterised by a high degree of interdependence, with a tradition of cooperation dating back to the Hanseatic period. This shared identity was cemented further through the EU accession of the Baltic States and Poland in 2004, increasing to eight the number of EU Member States in the Baltic region (Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland). Yet despite the introduction of common EU rules and policies, opening up new prospects for improving growth and living standards through closer coordination, persistent differences have remained between the prosperous northern and western seaboards of the Baltic and its less developed southern and eastern countries. Concerns over the deteriorating state of the Sea itself, and a sense that the region had failed to make best use of the opportunities of EU membership led to calls for action and the development of a dedicated strategy for the Baltic region in 2009. Originally initiated by the European Parliament, the Strategy covers the eight EU Member States of the Baltic and also involves cooperation with the neighbouring countries of Russia, Belarus, Norway and Iceland. It has been designed to be adapted to changing circumstances, and revisions of its Action Plan have streamlined its structure and given more responsibility to Member States. A number of key challenges remain, however, not least its complex governance, a lack of political engagement, low knowledge about the Strategy and mixed results in integrating it into 2014-2020 operational programmes, a key potential source of funding.