From 30 August – 1 September, over 180 parliamentarians, BSPC Observers and other invited guests came together in Rostock under the heading “Baltic Sea Region – A Role Model for Innovation in Social- and Healthcare”.
Concluding the conference the parliamentarians unanimously passed a resolution covering cooperation in the Baltic Sea region, cross-border cooperation in healthcare, health & economy as well as sustainable healthcare at the crossroads of healthcare provision, the demographic shift and shrinking budgets. In their resolution the BSPC called, among others, for a joint strategy against multi-resistant bacteria or the improvement of rescue services in border areas. In their resolution the parliamentarians also agreed on the launch of a Working Group on Sustainable Tourism. Sylvia Bretschneider, MP Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, will assume the Chairmanship of the new WG.
After the successful passing of the resolution the baton of the Chairmanship went to Latvia, the host of the next and 25th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. Hamburg will assume the Vice Chairmanship
The BSPC Drafting Committee and Standing Committee held their first sessions on Sunday, 30 August. Parallel sessions were organized by the NDPHS Secretariat on the link between public health and the economic development of countries.
The conference was opened by the Chairman of the BSPC, Sylvia Bretschneider. Ms Bretschneider emphasized that although healthcare in the Baltic Sea Region is organized differently, this fact also enables the parliamentarians to learn from the strengths of the respective other system. In her consequent report on BSPC activities in 2014-2015, the Chairman emphasized the issues of health, tourism and activities in the framework of the BSPC Observer Status at HELCOM.
Keynote speeches were delivered by the Federal Minister for Families, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Ms Manuela Schwesig, and the European Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society, Mr Günther Oettinger.
The federal minister Manuela Schwesig gave a keynote speech focussing on the theme ‘Demographic Changes and Care’. Because of many structural changes the population of Germany is growing older. Conferences like the Baltic Sea Parliamentary conference serve as a foundation to come up with new solutions. The Federal minister connected the demographic changes to the current European Refugee Crisis. She stressed the responsibility of the Baltic Sea Region to bear the weight of the arriving refugees and of a fair distribution among the region. Fugitives are not a burden, but an opportunity and an enrichment of German society. Regarding Care, the minister brought to the attention the new Care law, that grants employees up ten days paid leave, should they need to care for a relative in poor health.
The European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Society, Günther Oettinger, spoke about the cooperation in the healthcare system and emphasized that the protection of data should have the highest priority in moving forward with the digitalization of healthcare. “Healthcare data and medical records which are saved digitally, are the single most important and sensitive issue when it comes to privacy and data protection. It is as high as the private sphere goes”, the Commissioner spoke in Rostock yesterday. The use and analysis of data should only be allowed within the borders that are pre-approved by the patient.
In a moving speech the Chairman of the BSPC, Sylvia Bretschneider, commemorated the 60 million victims of World War II at the beginning of the BSPC plenary on 1 September. “1 September is the day which makes us pause and remember the horrors of war, which still deeply shocks us to this day. (…) 76 years after World War II was provoked by the German National Socialists and 70 years after its end, which did not immediately bring justice, freedom and self-determination for all, it is clearer than ever before that all of us are still facing a challenge in society: to keep up awareness of the crimes, committed by Germany’s National Socialists, to learn from our history, and most importantly to let it guide our political and social actions. (…) For all of us here today, the Baltic Sea – where the first shots were fired which led to World War II – is what connects us. We have come together despite differences in our historical responsibilities and in our political, economic and social interests. Our declared goal is to ensure that the Baltic Sea remains a sea of peace. We can and will achieve this goal by promoting our common identity, while respecting national self-determination, independence and human rights. However, we will only be able to achieve this if we engage with each other in discussions and if we work together to find solutions. While we may be tough in the discussions, we should always be fair, focusing on what we have in common.
Honoured participants of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, let us jointly seek answers to the questions we are concerned about. Let us continue to work together in learning from history, which is not merely a chapter of the past. We bear special responsibility – in particular as members of parliament, as democratically elected representatives of the people in our countries – to ensure that we live in real peace in our own countries and with our neighbours. We bear responsibility for the dignity of all human beings and for preserving the memory of those who suffered then. Please rise and observe a moment of silence for all the victims of World War II.”
Following the speech, Ms Bretschneider led the other delegates in song, beginning “We shall overcome” and finished with the third verse “We shall live in peace”, followed by a minute of silence by all participants.