The highest Executive Committee of the BSPC, led by the new President of the BSPC, Jorodd Asphjell, held its first meeting under the Norwegian Presidency in the City Hall of Trondheim. Delegations from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, the European Parliament, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hamburg, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Nordic Council, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden participated in the meeting.
Implementation of Resolutions and results of the CBSS Vision Group
One focus was placed on the follow-up to the resolution of the 27th annual conference, which took place in Mariehamn, Åland Islands from 26 – 28 August 2018, the reports by the national and regional governments about the implementation of the 26th BSPC resolution on the basis of political analyses and the report of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Vision Group.
Follow-up statements to the 26th resolution have been received from 10 national and most of the regional parliaments. They are more and more comprehensive and partially very detailed. The Standing Committee noted that this was a positive development but also pointed out that the statements should focus even more on common international projects. All statements are published on the BSPC website. http://www.bspc.net/statements-to-bspc26/
The outgoing and incoming President have forwarded the Resolution of the 27th BSPC at the international level to international institutions. The BSPC Member Parliaments will bring the resolution as in previous years to the attention of their governments.
BSPC Vice-President 2017-2018 Carola Veit, the President of the Conference at which the resolution had been adopted, reported on the results of the governmental statements as well as on the implementation and the evaluation at the annual conference in Mariehamn: http://www.bspc.net/10-08-2018-rede-implementation/
The BSPC had again commissioned two political scientists to prepare an analysis of the government statements. Dr Tobias Etzold, also a member of the CBSS Vision Group, nominated by Denmark, and Christian Opitz, from the Foundation of Science and Politics, to elaborate a political analysis: http://www.bspc.net/analysis_govresponses_26bspc-resolution_2018_etzold-opitz_final_update/
The analysis includes:
- an overall quantitative assessment of the governments’ statements;
- a qualitative analysis of the governments’ statements regarding the more general section on regional cooperation as well as the three priority areas;
- and an overall assessment highlighting shortcomings and identifying recommendations for the future.
Dr. Tobias Etzold presented in Trondheim the results of the analysis in detail. He pointed out, the resolution itself and the governmental responses had shown that there was a lot going in the world, a richness of various initiatives and activities. As much as there was in place, it was still necessary to work to ensure that corporations continued to exist. At the same time, there was certainly place for improvement and for extension of the joint efforts.He noted the very good response rate of the governments.
While this in itself showed that the governments were taking the resolution seriously, there was still room for the reactions to be more accountable and relevant. One thing he singled out was the great variety when it came to comprehensiveness and quality of the statements.
The next point for Dr Etzold was that in some places, there was too narrow a focus. Many governments focused on national issues; which he considered interesting because some areas had to be implemented first on the national level. But in the context of regional cooperation, he saw it as more important to look at transnational activities, how countries could achieve goals together. In his view, the resolution called for actions across borders and not just within nations.
Quite a number of the responses also focused on past occurrences, not just of the past year as asked for in the resolution but also several years earlier. Of greater interest would be what governments were doing to strengthen collaboration. The resolution had clearly called for strengthening a number of aspects in regional cooperation It would be of great interest to get information how the governments proposed to reinforce such initiatives.
Equally in need of greater attention in his view were the goals and future activities, based on past initiatives. Rather than only looking back, Dr Etzold stressed that looking forward was also quite important.
He noted that the start of the resolution called for further cooperation – efforts to decrease tensions in the region and to rebuild trust. In that regard, he would welcome information from the governments on how they were planning to achieve this since this was a very important goal.
Another point already stated in the 2016 resolution and repeated in the 2017 resolution was that any shortcomings and failures in the region were not really mentioned. Yet this would also be interesting, Dr Etzold stated, in order to improve cooperation and to point out where problems existed, where more should perhaps be done.
One of the core problems was the narrow time frame. In the analysts’ mind, it might be more helpful to stretch out the opportunity to include a bit more of a medium-term perspective on what has been implemented.
The BSPC shares in the 27th resolution from Åland the vision of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Vision Group. It had been pointed out that the BSPC will take into account the report of the Vision Group in its further discussions on future developments in the Baltic Sea Region. Since Dr. Etzold had been also member of the CBSS Vision Group, nominated by Denmark, he also informed the Standing Committee about the work of the Vision Group in detail.
Established in autumn of the previous year, it consisted of twelve individuals, each a representative of one of the Council member states and the European Commission. It had been a group, composed mainly of diplomats, either retired or active, including a vice-foreign minister from Lithuania, but also a politician and a representative of civil society as well as a number of academics. Because of this diversity of backgrounds, he noted, the discussions had been very interesting.
The group had started with a number of questions given by the secretariat leading into very open discussions about the possible future course of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
Their report had begun with the vision – which had also been referred to in the BSPC resolution, which Dr Etzold applauded. As such, he read out said vision, aiming for a region that is prosperous, safe and secure for all of its people, open and transparent, inclusive for all nations and nationalities across the region and beyond, confident of its own strong regional identity and focused on sustainable economic growth and development, while being fully aware of the ecological vulnerabilities, committed to vibrant and intense exchange between its people, protective of human security and safe societies as well as capable of building trust between its nations. According to the vision, sustainable development ensured equal opportunities to live the lives they chose to live and to secure conditions for future generations. The CBSS would play a key role in realizing this vision, along with other organizations of the Baltic Sea in cooperation. It was very important, he stressed, to jointly work towards implementing this vision. The work of the CBSS would continue to rest on two important pillars: on the one hand political dialogue and on the other, practical cooperation on the basis of concrete and tangible projects.
The value of political dialogue had been stressed throughout the meetings and the report itself. Dialogue had hit troubled waters, he said, and needed to be revitalized since it was the basis for good and fruitful cooperation. Only when people started talking to each other again could concrete results be produced, despite – or because – all the problems and challenges faced by the region. In the analysts’ view, the CBSS served as a hub for stimulating political dialogue, exchange of experiences and best practices.
He admitted that a vision was not always very realistic, and now the task was to see how to implement and work towards it in operational terms. For that, the Vision Group had developed a number of recommendations, starting with key issues that they had deemed very important to implement – revitalizing communications, sustaining high-level political contacts – such as foreign ministers and heads of governments -, the role of the secretariat of the CBSS had to be strengthened and made more efficient, funding, implementation. Another key recommendation concerned other regional factors, namely the need for more cooperation between the regional organizations and structures. Here, he referred to the EU, the Russian Federation as well as Belarus where the cooperation should be extended.
After considering the changed political and social landscape of the Baltic Sea Region, as well as the current strengths and weaknesses, the Vision Group had developed more detailed recommendations which on the one hand had referred again to the structure and roles of governments, the secretariat and committees, then priorities regarding the regional identity of the region, creating a prosperous, secure and sustainable region. These goals should be kept under constant review by the ministers and senior officials, to be adapted to changing circumstances when necessary.
Next, Dr Etzold mentioned funding as an important point since that, as in life in general, proved the vital underpinning for any initiatives. Equally, better communication and visibility were also crucial, not least to publicize the results of the joint activities.
The speaker went on to note the importance of matching activities on the inter-governmental and parliamentary level. In Dr Etzold’s personal point of view, it would make sense to not only have a Working Group on Migration and Integration in the BSPC but also a respective counterpart on the inter-governmental level.
His summary was that cooperation needed to be strengthened. While there were calls for regular meetings, he stressed that the urgent topics of the region should be discussed together, trying to find solutions.
The Standing Committee underlined the importance of both topics in the ensuing discussion.
The BSPC Rapporteur on Cultural Affairs, Karin Gaardsted (Denmark), the BSPC Rapporteur on Integrated Maritime Policy, Jörgen Pettersson (Åland Islands) and the BSPC Rapporteur on Labour Market and Social Welfare, Pyry Niemi (Sweden), informed the Standing Committee on current developments in the relevant policy fields.
The Standing Committee again raised the question of possible topics for a BSPC working group after the next annual conference. After intensive discussion, the Standing Committee called for the mandate of the current Working Group on Migration and Integration to be extended for a further year given the importance and complexity of the issue and for the Working Group to submit another interim report to the next Annual Conference in Oslo. Other pressing issues, in particular, the problem of plastic waste, shall be discussed intensively by the Standing Committee even without the establishment of a separate working group.
The 28th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in Oslo 25 – 27 August 2018
BSPC President Jorodd Asphjell informed the Standing Committee that the 28th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in the Plenary Hall of the Norwegian Parliament.
He outlined as the themes for the conference, which would be aligned with the BSPC priorities based on the Strategy and Work Programme 2018/2019:
- The Future of Working Life – Digitalization, Integration and Labour Mobility in the Baltic Sea Region
- Migration and integration, finding solutions based on mutual information and best practices
- Peaceful and close neighbourliness as well as intense cooperation based on democratic values, the rule of law, human rights and equal opportunities for all
- The Baltic Sea Region as a Role Model to reach the United Nations Development Goals before the year 2030
He noted the general consensus about preceding conferences that they had benefited from high-level political representation. The Standing Committee agreed to continue following this path.
Further topics of the Standing Committee meeting were i.a. the topic of peaceful cooperation and deepening cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economical Cooperation on the basis of the joint Memorandum of Understanding.
Information about the City of Trondheim and the Region
Additionally, the Standing Committee was informed about the municipal situation and the region by the Vice Mayor of Trondheim, Mr Ola Lund Renolen and by BSPC President Jorodd Asphjell.
Seminar on the electrification of the coastline as well as Ocean related research in Trondheim
As part of the meeting the BSPC Standing Committee was given a deep insight into the latest research results from Trondheim in the areas of Clean Ocean, Renewable Ocean Energy and Smart Maritime as well as the development of environmentally friendly ships.
The first presentation, on the electrification of the coastline, was held by the Director Strategy and Business Development at Siemens, Trondheim, Odd Moen. In his presentation, he first discussed the current global megatrends: globalization, urbanization, demographic change, climate change as well as digitalization. He presented a large number of examples of vessels with new electrical technology, which led to massive reductions in consumption and emissions. He also addressed the topic of electric aviation. The question was now how to bring all the electrical ambitions together, on roads, on sea and in the air as well as railway.
He also pointed out that digitalization would raise the efficiency of electric operations. He expected the vision that by 2030, it should be possible to travel along the Norwegian seaside without any negative emissions because the technology was already available for the various types of vehicles. He expressed the believe that the future will be electric and that the marine market would double in the next few years.
Professor Sverre Steen, Head of Department, Department of Marine Technology of NTNU – the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim addressed the topic of maritime transport and the environment as well as the associated and important issue of autonomous ships. The university pursued four strategic research areas: energy, health, ocean and sustainability. He stated that shipping took up some 90 per cent of the transportation tasks in terms of kilometres, carrying e.g. oil and coal. By the same token, shipping also accounted for 2.6 % of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Referring to greenhouse gas emissions, the professor considered it the most difficult problems. For short range vessels, batteries could be used, but that was not available for deep sea ships. While the emissions of 2012 might be considered a small number, they were expected to grow significantly in the coming years unless radical measures were put in place. International shipping was hard to regulate. Regulation through the IMO was a very slow process, taking 20 years on average. The professor noted that politicians could implement some changes on a much faster track, citing local transportation regulated by national rules. Modern hydrofoil technology could double the range for high-speed boats on batteries. The technology saved 20 – 30 % of energy consumption. He pointed out, there was great interest in autonomous shipping in the maritime industry and dealt in detail with the different developments for large ships to be fully autonomous and for short-shipping.
Mimmi Throne-Holst, Research Manager, gave an insight in the research results from the SINTEF Center for clean ocean research. Challenges related to marine littering and pollution must be solved to realise growth in a sustainabe blue economy. She covered the topics of Climate Change and Acidification, Over Fishing and Destruction of Habitates, Marine Littering and Pollution as well as Oil Spill Contingency and Response. She pointed out that poor management of waste is the cause of 80-90 % of all marine pollution. To mitigate plastic pollution, she stressed the urgent need for action in the sectors: Development/improvement of infrastructure and waste management; phase out unnecessary single use plastic; extend liability for producers: international coordination as well as new knowledge and technology. She concluded that Climate change is the greatest threat to ocean health.
Mr Per Magne Einang, Senior Research Scientist, SINTEF OCEAN was representing an institute funded by SINTEF. The institute’s main goal was improved energy efficiency, reducing harmful emissions and strengthening Norway’s competitiveness. Their research concerned a reduction of natural gas in shipping, for instance with hybrid or electrical power. He noted that deep-sea shipping made up the most part of maritime shipping, and equipping it with environmentally friendly engines was not easy. Finding good solutions for large ships in international travel would be the primary challenge for the centre. Electricity currently looked like the best solution. The institute’s primary approach was to develop tools to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency and such measures, to be used in ocean-going vessels.
In their research, the institute was looking at increasing the energy efficiency of fuels. His institute was internationally active, including two research associates from Chalmers University in Goteborg, Sweden, and one from Copenhagen, one from the UK and one from Hamburg, Germany. The centre was also closely associated with the commercial industrial cluster of Norway.
The BSPC Standing Committee discussed the presented developments, research results and challenges for the future intensively with the experts.