The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) was presented by EU MPs from the Baltic region to the President of the EU Commission in 2005. The initiative’s emphasis was predominantly on optimizing economic growth and potential in the Baltic Sea Region. After a few modifications and adjustments, the Strategy was presented to the Commission in 2009 and adopted by the Council.
Defining New Approach
The main points of the strategy included a new approach to macro-regional strategies including:
- Abandoning creating new institutions but relying on multi-level sectors or governance
- Abandoning adoption of new legislation for strategy implementations but developing relevant Action Plans
- Abandoning establishing new funding programs but rely on combining existing fund schemes.
The EUSBSR Action Plan included four major pillars for the establishment of macro-regional cooperation. The mission displayed in the EUSBSR was aimed at improving the environment in the Baltic Sea region, promotion of a steady economic growth, finding ways for easier access to the region, and ensuring overall safety and security. The four pillars were eventually reduced to
1. saving the sea,
2. connecting the region,
Within the framework of the strategy, 15 priority areas were defined, each entailing a number of projects. The strategy’s efficiency was questioned when two additional priority areas where added, but yet certain cross-cutting actions reduced the number of priority areas to five, proving that the strategy was on the right path.
The first real report was issued in 2011, and the EU Commission evaluated that the strategy was successful, accompanied by concrete actions and efficient use of funds. The strategy is considered a showcase and flagships in matters of awareness-raising in policy making.
2015 Action Plan
The 2015 Action Plan focused on environmental issues, economic growth, and infrastructure. The major actors in the Action Plan implementation were the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), and Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea (VASAB).
To bring together stakeholders from ministries, national authorities, and international bodies, steering groups, were formed.
Since the strategy implementation relies heavily on the willpower and efforts of the countries involved, the EU member states maintain the so-called National Contact Points (NCPs) or coordinators who assist in the implementation at national level.
Different approaches of the participating countries influence the effectiveness of the strategy implementation. Also, allocation of national funds is crucial. EU Commission and EU member states play a key role in the implementation. The Commission monitors the implementation, issues recommendations, and is the universal coordinator of the Action Plan, while EU member states assist with administrative challenges.
Consequences of Macro-regional Strategies
The strategies can influence spatial dimensions, institutional settings, as well as boundaries. Macro-regions represent a joint effort of territorial authorities at different national levels which negotiate different government arrangements like decision-making policies, administration, etc. They also give the opportunity to governmental and non-governmental participants to defend their own interests through negotiating implementation.
In general, macro-regional strategies are important for achieving jointly defined goals which benefit each beneficiary country and the entire region.
The Role of CBSS
The CBSS, along HELCO, is one of the key actors at the macro-regional level which consists of countries around the Baltic Sea. Norway and Iceland also count to the CBSS. The CBSS exists since 1992 summoning up government leaders and Foreign Ministers. The Council deals with different challenges which plague the region and fosters trust and security.