Revamping the Baltic Sea Region strategy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Infographic: Website of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

Is the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region still a role-model in the macro-regional cooperation framework? Marta Czarnecka-Gallas gives some answers.

Marta Czarnecka-Gallas, PhD,is part of the Team Europe Poland expert network

Back in 2009, the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) became the first European Union macro-region to have its own strategy. The ambitions were high. And there seemed to be a great commitment on all governance levels to make the chosen three objectives of saving the sea, connecting the region and increasing the prosperity really work.

The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) has embodied the modern, European-style governance, which according to the scholars stresses the need for interactions across and between state and non-state actors. Consequently, macro-regional strategies should enhance the capacity of the public policy and enable it to solve complex problems of society.

Years have passed, the EUSBSR has developed, its Action Plan was adjusted to the new needs (at the moment the second major revision is taking place) and the Strategy’s success in bringing together various people, institutions and projects has been exported to other EU regions.

Today nineteen member states and eight third countries participate in four macro-regional strategies and there are plans to establish the fifth one, covering the Carpathian region.

In fact, when there are no additional funding, no additional structures and no additional legislation to implement the strategies general and more specific objectives, most depend on existing networks, institutions and engaged people.

The Baltic Sea Region has a very diverse institutional environment. On the one hand, it helps to realize the EUSBSR goals.

On the other hand, it makes it also more complicated to transfer the solutions, knowledge, innovations, etc. and make them truly sustainable. In various reports, including the one by the European Commission, the coordination between the activities of BSR stakeholders has been assessed as a weak point.

There are voices that this is visible also during the current revision of the EUSBSR Action Plan. The process might be perceived by some organisations and networks to be going on somewhere in the skies, rather than down-to-earth, in regular and two-directions consultations.

This can actually pose a serious threat and weaken the EUSBSR. But the process is underway, so there still might be some scope for closer involvement of the willing parties.

The discussions and negotiations about the future financial and legislative frameworks and its supporting programmes are reaching the climax. This provides a unique opportunity for all macro-regional strategies to optimize and fight for funds to reach their full potentials.

In the Baltic Sea Region, it is even more important with the ongoing works on the revision of its Action Plan. Such an opportunity cannot be missed. And to prevent this, all of us should keep in mind what the macro-regional strategies were designed for in the first place.

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