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Baltic Sea Cooperation

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was founded in 1992 with the participation of the 9 Baltic Sea States, including Iceland and Norway, in response to the geopolitical changes in the Baltic region after the end of the Cold War. 

The Council was established at the initiative of Uffe Ellemann-Jensen and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the foreign ministers at the time. CBSS became the foundation for cooperation among the Baltic Sea States, which include Denmark’s most important neighbours, and which together account for approximately 40 % of total Danish exports. The active participation of Russia in this cooperation is of great political importance for Denmark. CBSS works with networking and project-based activities.

In particular during the 1990’s, CBSS played a pivotal role as the first regional cooperation with the participation of the independent Baltic states, the united Germany and Russia. In this way, CBSS contributed to reducing the potential for conflict and to furthering democratic conditions in the area. Over time, other platforms for cooperation in the Baltic Sea region have emerged alongside CBSS.

One of these fora is the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). In October 2009, the European Council decided to launch an EU strategy for the region as the EU’s very first macro-regional strategy. In June 2010, a similar strategy for the Danube region was agreed. Both strategies are internal EU strategies aimed at providing better and more cohesive regional coordination of policies and projects. Both strategies are based on the principle of using already existing legislation, existing financial resources and existing institutions. The EUSBSR aims at strengthening cooperation among the Baltic Sea States with a view to improving environmental protection, growth and infrastructure. The strategy operates with three main objectives, 17 priority areas, 5 horizontal actions and approximately 175 flagship projects. Denmark is responsible for coordinating 4 of the priority areas: Clean shipping, safe shipping, energy and small and medium sized enterprises.

The cooperation within the Northern Dimension (ND) is a result of a Finnish initiative from 1997. In 1999, the policy regarding ND was approved at a meeting of Foreign Ministers for the participating countries. A new cooperation policy platform was signed in the margins of the EU-Russia Summit on 28 September 2006. From 1 January 2007, ND thus became part of a common policy encompassing the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia as equal partners. ND implements the EU-Russia Cooperation Programme’s Four Common Spaces in practice: common economic space, common space for freedom, security, and justice, common space for external security and common space for education, research and culture.

Other important organisations in the Baltic Sea Region are the Nordic Council of Ministers as well as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), which manages the implementation of the Helsinki Convention on the protection of the Baltic Sea. The Danish Nature Agency chairs HELCOM at present. Furthermore, the independent Danish organisation Baltic Development Forum (BDF) established in 1998 with former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ellemann-Jensen, as President, builds networks and arranges specific projects for stakeholders in the region with the participation of all interested parties. BDF’s mission is to promote the Baltic Sea Region as an integrated, prosperous and internationally competitive region.

To a large extent, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Northern Dimension share the same overall objectives. Environmental protection, economic growth as well as education and culture are at the top of the agenda for all three. Within each of these fora, extensive regional cooperation has developed characterised not only by involving governments and authorities, but also a wide range of businesses, interest groups and civil society representatives as well as various financial institutions and development banks.

Furthermore, Baltic Sea cooperation is characterized by its ability to transform the political commitment of the participating countries into a large number of concrete and down to earth results within such diverse areas as environmental protection, civil security as well as culture and education. Examples include improvement of the marine environment, surveillance of reactor safety and measures against human trafficking.

Danish Baltic Sea policy framework

In early 2013, a Danish policy framework for Baltic Sea cooperation was approved at the political level. The former Minister for European Affairs launched the framework at an event July 10th last year with participation of Danish authorities and the Danish business sector. The framework outlines three policy objectives for Denmark’s participation in Baltic Sea cooperation, namely:

One principal goal: Denmark wishes to connect the Baltic Region in ever closer cooperation among all Baltic Sea Countries. This also, and in particular, applies to Russia, since the Danish Government attaches great importance to Russia’s political and also commercial involvement in Baltic Sea cooperation.

Two priority areas: In line with the Danish government’s green growth agenda, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark will focus on protecting the environment and the climate as well as creating growth in a broad sense . Climate change and environmental protection are objectives, which all three main Baltic cooperation platforms have highlighted, and which reflect Danish core strengths. The region has considerable commercial potential, especially within the maritime sector and transport and logistics. The potential for growth in the area surrounding the Fehmarn Belt is particularly relevant with German and Polish cooperation partners. This and similar opportunities should be exploited.

Three main cooperation platforms: Denmark focuses on cooperation within the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Northern Dimension in order to make the most of existing resources. Efforts in other Baltic fora, including HELCOM, pull in the same direction.

The implementation of the policy framework will require active commitment by all Danish authorities involved in Baltic Sea cooperation. Their focus will be on two things:
- To continuously take into account commercial opportunities for Danish businesses when working with projects in the Baltic Sea region and
- To increase awareness in the Danish business sector of commercial opportunities relating to regional projects involving Danish authorities.