Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Opinion

Baltic Sea co-operation may show Europe at its best

  • The EU's Baltic Sea Region Strategy may be a source of inspiration for the Danube River Basin Strategy (Photo: Nord Stream)

Late on a Friday evening in October, a powerful explosion was heard in the dark waters off the German Baltic Sea coast. The detonation, in a truck onboard the Lisco Gloria ferry plying the route from Germany to Lithuania, set the ship ablaze.

Nobody died. In fact, only three people were lightly injured. The 249 passengers and crew were swiftly evacuated by German and Danish ships and rescue helicopters with Swedish units also standing by. None of the bunker oil leaked even though the fire raged for hours.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Having put out the fire, the ferry was towed into Danish waters escorted by a flotilla of coast guard, rescue and pollution control vessels. The Lisco Gloria episode unfolded so quickly that it barely made the news - in sharp contrast to three previous Baltic sea shipping disasters in the 1990s involving Danish, Polish and Estonian vessels which claimed hundreds of lives.

That the rescue was mounted so quickly and so successfully says a lot for the efficiency of the German and Danish rescue authorities and the professionalism of crews on nearby ships on 8 October. It is also proof of the close and long-standing cooperation between rescue and coast guard authorities in the Baltic Sea Region.

These ties are vitally important, as the sea is Europe's most vulnerable large body of water due to its minimal inflows from the oceans and average depth of only 53 metres compared with 1,500 metres in the Mediterranean Sea which mean oil spills or other pollutants are not easily dispersed. This danger is very real as the Baltic Sea is a very busy shipping route. On a normal day as many as 2,000 ships - many of them oil tankers - will be crossing the sea. In such an environment, national authorities must be able to work together to ensure safety and prevent disasters.

This co-operation and the mutual trust it brings has been in place for decades and dates back to the 1974 Helcom treaty for monitoring the Baltic Sea marine environment. The treaty paved the way for multi-million-euro investments by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and by other investors, such as those in St Petersburg, where in 2012 fully 96 percent of the wastewater will be treated. Such projects are now beginning to have an effect. In spite of record temperatures during the summer of 2010, algae blooming in the sea was much less of a problem than in previous years.

The close relationships are paying off in other areas too. One example is the economy. Adjustment policies in the Baltic states in 2008 and 2009 were made easier by the close ties between governments, central banks and financial institutions around the Baltic Sea.

Two decades after the Iron Curtain was lifted, these links have been re-established and the Baltic is once again - as was the case for centuries - a sea that binds the region together. This is evident also in increased investment, trade and economic integration, which have contributed to the region's leadership in innovation.

According to data assembled by the EIB, of the 21 most innovative regions in the European Union, measured by regional R&D intensity, as many as seven are in Sweden and Finland. Also, Denmark is significantly above the European Union average and soon-to-be-Eurozone-member Estonia is higher than the average for the 10 new EU member states while progress is also made in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

This means the EU Baltic Sea Region Strategy - the EU's first macro-regional strategy - can build on well-established common ground in its support for important projects within research and development, the environment, transport, energy, education, health care and other areas. But it also puts the focus on how such a strategy could further enhance trust, openness to new ideas and prosperity.

Making the strategy work obviously takes time. But the investment is worth it, because where there is trust and understanding, there is a better chance that science and innovation will rise and that capital and ideas will flow. In that sense the EU Baltic Sea Region Strategy may be a source of inspiration for the EU Danube River Basin Strategy.

Eva Srejber is Vice-President of the European Investment Bank with special responsibility for financing operations in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, EFTA countries, the EU's Eastern neighbors and Central Asia

EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Viktor Orban of Hungary and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski seem to share the idea that the rights of some may come at the expense of the rights of others, and public institutions should serve the majority, and not all citizens.

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Why Brussels' toxic lobbying culture must end

What is revelatory about the study by Corporate Europe Observatory is the sheer number of embassies, committees and advisory groups that lobbyists can target: from the Council all the way down to standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed.

News in Brief

  1. Visegrad countries meeting with Israel called off
  2. EU ministers call climate change 'direct and existential threat'
  3. Seven MPs leave Britain's Labour Party
  4. Czech PM: May's EU elections 'most important ever'
  5. 'History will judge us': May tells MPs on Brexit
  6. Trump warns EU on release of Islamist fighters
  7. Venezuela expels 'conspiratorial' MEPs
  8. Holocaust dispute upsets Israel's EU lobbying

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  2. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  3. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  4. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland
  5. ESA pushback against new EU space agency plan
  6. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  7. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  8. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us