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Baltic Sea subregions call on the EU to pay specific attention to the straits of the region

Published the 18 November 2014

The 22nd Annual Conference of the Baltic Sea States Subregional Co-operation (BSSSC) was held in Jūrmala, Latvia, on 16 October 2014. The special theme of the most important sub-regional event of the Baltic Sea Region this year was “Time for New Beginnings and Innovation in the Baltic Sea Region”. The annual resolution recognised the particular characteristics of the numerous Baltic Sea Straits which is a major step towards recognition by the European Union that will be precisely chaired by Latvia for the next six month in 2015.

BSSSC Chairman, Mr Ossi Savolainen, Regional Mayor of Helsinki-Uusimaa, one of the European Straits Initiative signatories, opened the conference. He stressed the importance of the forthcoming Latvian chairmanship in the EU that will be a very important period for the Baltic Sea Region. This will be also a great opportunity to promote several Baltic Sea Issues, especially the EU Strategy for Baltic Sea Region as well as Northern and Arctic Dimension, which have a paramount importance for the future of the region. Mr. Savolainen also mentioned BSSSC’s role as a network organization which relies on its expertise and activity stemming from the cooperation of the member regions.

For the first time the BSSSC annual resolution made a focus on the Baltic Sea Straits:

"With regard to macro-regional strategies and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the BSSSC […] calls on the European Commission and National Governments to have a stronger emphasis on the specificities of the Baltic Sea Straits – as stated also in the cross-border and transnational Interreg programmes of the Baltic Sea Region for 2014-2020 as well as in the results of the NOSTRA (Network Of STRAits) INTERREG IV C project (2012-2014) – in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, particularly regarding the field of maritime transport, which constitutes an important backbone for trade. The current heavy traffic flows within narrow straits and in shallow waters, covered with ice for a long period of the year, making the Baltic Sea difficult to navigate and increasing the risk of shipping incidents, as well as the vulnerability to pollution. Baltic Sea Straits are also specific territories where marine cross-border cooperation is especially needed and where an integrated approach is the key to allow an harmonious development of all the activities to take place there – economy, marine transport, tourism, environment, culture."

One of the objectives of the European Straits Initiative (ESI) is to have the particular characteristics of the straits recognised at a European level. This resolution is an encouraging step towards this recognition. To the ESI and its 19 members bordering straits all over Europe, the EU macro-regional strategies such as the Baltic Sea Region Strategy, but also the Adriatic and Ionian Strategy, should pay specific attention to these areas which represent both environmental fragile territories and huge opportunities in terms of blue growth and cross-border cooperation in various fields such as tourism, transport, or marine spatial planning.

The next BSSSC Annual Conference will be held in Gotland, Sweden, on 23-25 September 2015. Helsinki –Uusimaa Region will have the Chairmanship of BSSSC until the end of 2015.

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