As one of the keynote speakers of the 5th Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum in Brussels, Jörgen Pettersson, President of the BSPC, underlined the fundamental importance of peace and open parliamentary dialogue, highlighted the cooperation and interrelation between the Northern Dimension and the BSPC and informed about the current results of the BSPC work as well as about the priority issues for the BSPC during the Åland Islands’ presidency in 2017 – 2018.
In detail, he explained in his speech:
” Honourable First Vice President of the European Parliament, esteemed colleagues, excellences, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address the 5th Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum here on the premises of the European Parliament – where the Standing Committee of the BSPC – and I’m very grateful for that – has had the opportunity to hold our annual spring meeting for several years.
The BSPC, consisting of the parliaments around the Baltic Sea, was founded in 1991 with the primary goal of creating a platform for open parliamentary dialogue to overcome the cold war and to establish the Baltic Sea as a sea of freedom, prosperity and cooperation.
My homeland, the Åland Islands, are particularly aware of the need for and committed to international parliamentary cooperation because of our history. Åland is a great and real example of crisis management. Thanks to international agreements nearly a hundred years ago, we today have guaranteed, neutralised and demilitarised autonomy in the Baltic Sea; Åland is known as ‘the islands of peace’. It is therefore a great honour for us to have the presidency of the BSPC. We hope to inspire others with our history of peacemaking in practice and I can only underline what the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, representing the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union, pointed out 3 days earlier (in the German Bundestag):
“We are living in fortunate times of peace… We must be aware and make others aware of this every day and safeguard what we have created together, which is something remarkable and unique.
It seems (to me) we speak too rarely about peace. We take it for granted; however, it is the most important thing. Not just in Europe, but in the whole world.”
Considering the current situation within Europe, it is important to remember that a fair solution to any challenge can only be achieved by dialogue and cooperation, particularly in times of crises.
We want to live in a free, peaceful and prosperous Baltic Sea region – especially since we are once again, after more than 20 years, in a tense, perhaps an inflamed situation. It is more important than ever to follow our guidelines, to follow our principal basis which is dialogue to resolve critical and tense situations.
We must engage proactively in dialogue and cooperation. We have a responsibility towards our societies and future generations to care for our region. Participation and cooperation,
which were the sub-heading of our annual conference in Hamburg two months ago, are a common mandate for all of us.
The crucial foundation of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference is: We want to be a political platform for cooperation, for commitment and for competence in the political dialogue of parliaments, governments and civil societies in the Baltic Sea region.
We should not take for granted that we parliamentarians can always find satisfactory solutions. But we have an obligation to our citizens to contribute to solving conflicts.
In order to achieve that, we must strengthen interparliamentary cooperation as well as the influence of parliaments. Their common will is of crucial importance in order to look for answers to international challenges such as the refugee crisis and the threats posed by terrorism. We parliamentarians as representatives of the citizens in our countries need to continuously work on deepening dialogue between countries. We also have to find compromises and cooperation related to the democratic values to face future international challenges and possibilities.
We see the need for cooperation not only in the Baltic Sea area but also beyond.
We have expressively underlined in our resolution that we want to intensify the cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region, including the Northern Dimension, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Strategy for the Socio-Economic Development of the North West Federal District of Russia in addition to other regional actors by identifying common priorities and developing respective regional strategies and action plans in fields of current interest and mutual benefits.
One of the BSPC’s objectives in our work programme 2017-18 is also:
to promote the further development of the Northern Dimension, including its parliamentary dimension and the European Neighbourhood Policy, for instance by actively taking part in the relevant activities and by exchanging views and positions with relevant bodies of the European Parliament as well as further developing contacts and interaction with the Northern dimension partnerships.
This means that today, with this forum, you’re giving us the opportunity to reach our goals in a particularly efficient way.
2 years ago, the main topic of our conference was: Innovation in Social- and Healthcare. We had a very close and very successful cooperation at that conference with the Northern Dimension in Social- and Wellbeing which, in cooperation with the BSPC, had organised at the beginning of our annual conference a special event called “Health is wealth and wealth is health”, providing an overview of the very strong association between health on the one hand and the economy and other policy areas on the other.
Last year, we focused on the topic of High Quality Education and Labour and discussed this with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, and several Ministers for Welfare, Labour and Social Security. In our Riga-resolution, we called on the governments in regard to the importance of this policy field inter alia to explore the need for a Northern Dimension Partnership for Labour Market and Education. I very much welcome that the Council of the Baltic Sea States has taken up the initiative – in cooperation with the Baltic Sea Labour Forum – to establish a CBSS Expert Group on Labour and Employment – including Russia – based on the declaration of a High-Level Meeting of the Representatives of the Labour Ministries of the CBSS under the Icelandic Presidency in June this year. Since the field of labour and employment has been seen as a crucial focus area and concerted efforts will be essential in meeting the challenges we are currently facing and in the future, it is necessary from our point of view to explore the need for a stronger and more established cooperation in the Northern Dimension, even if some governments are reluctant in this matter to avoid additional costs and staff.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
despite the significant progress that we have achieved over the past years, tremendous challenges remain. These are challenges which we can only tackle jointly, especially environmental protection, sustainability, the implementation of the 2030 goals, terrorism, migration and economic development.
The priority issues for the BSPC during the Åland Islands’ presidency in 2017 – 2018 are therefore:
• To contribute to the development of sustainable societies in the Baltic Sea region and beyond in the Northern Dimension region based on democratic values, human rights and equal opportunities for all.
• To enhance cooperation and integration for a secure and prosperous Baltic Sea area. We want to further improve and develop means of democratic participation, e.g. through transparency, comprehensive information, government accountability and other instruments of citizen participation.
• To find common solutions on the topics of migration and integration based on mutual information and best practices. The issues of migration and integration pose a tremendous challenge as well as a great opportunity for their further development. This calls for intensive dialogue as well as close cooperation and also coordinated policies. Therefore, the BSPC has established a new working group that will analyse and discuss migration and integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
we are confronted with tremendous challenges which we jointly can turn into a bright future by our common efforts.
Let us – parliaments, governments and societies – continue working on a peaceful and prosperous common region, let us continue our successful and committed Nordic-Baltic cooperation in the whole Baltic-Nordic region.
Let us continue living and achieving the – for me – key message in the conference statement of the 4th Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum on 12 May 2015 in Reykjavik:
Encouraging all the partners to continue regional cooperation, as well as enhancing mutual understanding in the interests of the peaceful and sustainable development of the Northern Dimension Region.
This event here and today is a further cornerstone on this path. Therefore, let us renew this message as a promise today, here in the European Parliament. The Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in Åland on 26-28 August 2018 will continue on this path, and also offer dialogue, debate, solutions, friendship and a strong will to increase cooperation and prosperity in the region. We are the Islands of Peace and we want the whole of the Baltic Sea (and the rest of the world) to follow our example; for the benefit of hope, love and the never ending search for a better life.
You all are welcome to participate!”
BSPC President Pettersson also had bilateral talks to members of the European Parliament and other member parliaments as well as high level representatives of the Northern Dimension and representatives of other Northern parliamentary institutions on the priorities of the Åland BSPC Presidency and the upcoming 27th annual conference of the BSPC 26-28 August 2018 in Mariehamn.