Under the Chairmanship of BSPC President Valerijus Simulik, the BSPC Standing Committee gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels on 2 March 2020 to exchange information about current common issues with the CBSS, to inquire about the developments in the field of the European maritime and regional policy, and to prepare the upcoming Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in Vilnius.
About 50 participants, representatives and delegations of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and of the BSPC members from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Nordic Council, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden participated in the meeting.
The Standing Committee was greeted by Mr Andreas Schwab, MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Northern cooperation and for relations with Switzerland and Norway and to the EU-Iceland Joint Parliamentary Committee and the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee on behalf of the President of the European Parliament.
The EEA delegation, he explained, was dealing with the EU’s northern European policies and relations with various parliamentary formats in the north. During the last parliamentary term, the delegation inter alia had actively participated in activities of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference and its Standing Committee. It also hosted the fifth Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum and maintained close contacts with the Nordic Council as well as the West-Nordic Council. It was also the intention of the European Parliament to keep both the Baltic and Arctic areas high on the agenda of their work, as represented in the EEA delegation. As requested by parliament and its committees, the remit of the delegation was rather wide, making it special and interesting. The European Parliament was paying close attention to the Baltic Sea region and its own inter-governmental and sub-national institutions, including the parliamentary ones. The European Union’s Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was a fundamental tool to maximise the growth of this region, and there were many member states of the European Union that were involved but also the Russian colleagues. The European Union underlined the importance of the development of the thick network of cross-border and people-to-people programmes in the Baltic Sea region, and they were proud of their shared values, their culture and vision of life that they wanted to preserve and improve upon. Together, they also highlighted the value of practical regional cooperation, including those countries that were not part of the European Union, as well as stable development, public health and social well-being, culture, environmental protection, logistics, the connectivity of people and transport – issues of importance to the normal people in the whole region. Mr Schwab further underlined that the European Parliament was also fully engaged in protecting and improving the environmental health of the Baltic Sea and were in support of the Helsinki Commission, created for this purpose. All Baltic Sea states and the EU had to take prevention measures and immediate actions, showing determination to clean up this heavily polluted sea. They believed that it was necessary to address efficiently by doing so the urgent environmental challenges in that area. For this, he again offered his welcome to the parliamentarians to the European Parliament. He stated his conviction that they all agreed on the need to work together in facing the current challenges in their region as well as his hope that this cooperation would be made even more efficient in the near future.
BSPC President Valerijus Simulik thanked for the hospitality of the European Parliament, noting that the working group presided over by Mr Schwab was an important delegation. He further mentioned that more work was incumbent upon said delegation with the United Kingdom now joining the community of states outside EU membership, and the president expected the UK to be added to the other three nations within the remit of that delegation.
He opened the meeting of the Standing Committee, pointing out that this was the first such meeting in 2020 and indeed the first session after Brexit. The situation was changing in the European Union, but it was still too early to say how things would pan out. He went on to state that Brussels was an important player in all political affairs. He also hoped and expected that they would work well together at the upcoming BSPC conference in Vilnius which was being prepared. For the Baltic Sea countries, it was of paramount importance what would be discussed both in Vilnius and here in Brussels because their love for the sea truly marked their identity. He also offered his thanks to the representatives from the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the European Commission.
Progress Report from the Council of the Baltic Sea States
Ms Ida Heimann-Larsen, Chair of the Committee of Senior Officials of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Denmark, Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the CBSS Secretariat and Mr Bernd Hemingway, Deputy Director General of the CBSS Secretariat informed the Standing Committee about the course of implementation of the programme of the Danish presidency at the CBSS and its current activities.
Ms Heimann-Larsen started by mentioning that at their last meeting, in Oslo in August at the annual conference of the BSPC, she had noted the overriding priority of the Danish presidency to use its 12 months in the chair of the CBSS to drive through real change in the organisation. The aim was to enable it to regain some of the relevance the organisation used to have in the early 1990s. , namely that there should be more focus and flexibility in the work of the CBSS, that there should be improved cooperation with other regional cooperation formats and that better use should be made of the unique strengths of the CBSS when designing and implementing activities. During the Latvian presidency, considering work had been carried out on how to best achieve these objectives. It had been a major achievement indeed when foreign ministers agreed on a roadmap for reform in Jūrmala last year. Moving from roadmap to reality was the focus of the Danish presidency’s work. The speaker noted that they would be able to present the results by the end of the year when handing over the presidency to Lithuania. Ms Heimann-Larsen spoke about some main goals of Danish presidency in that respect:
Firstly, to increase the focus and flexibility of the organisation, they had prepared some new terms of reference for the organisation and the secretariat. This had been done so as to highlight the need for coupling the work of the CBSS to timely and politically prioritised debates in national governments and other international fora. This meant that the ministerial level meetings should be used to ensure a continuous and timely political dialogue in the region on issues of mutual concern with all Baltic Sea states around the table. The discussions would not be limited to the activities that were taking place within the CBSS but would rather use the meeting to speak more broadly, engendering a regional dialogue and embracing cooperation also in various other formats around the Baltic Sea.
The second aspect of their reform process was thinking about how to improve cooperation with the many other regional formats active in the region. Most notably, the CBSS had considered how and to which extent it should interact with the European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and with the Northern Dimension. Getting these relationships right was essential to getting the most out of their regional cooperation. The responsibility here lay within the member states which governed all these three formats. Nonetheless, the CBSS had served as a meeting platform on which to discuss possible policy alignments and best use of resources. The Danish side was very much hoping that the incoming presidency would continue this approach.
Beyond the three largest cooperation formats, Ms Heimann-Larsen underlined the existence and value of others. The CBSS could – and should – look into improving its relationships with them as well. This would include other regional councils such as the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Bering Arctic Council, the Arctic Council or HELCOM or VASAB, with very similar setups as intergovernmental organisations. But the CBSS also had many other valued partners, working at different levels. She mentioned such like the Union of the Baltic Cities or the BSSSC. These would be good examples of how they also cooperated with organisations at different levels so as to create real change in the region.
Of course, she went on, the political dialogue with the BSPC also offered scope for more cultivation. She suggested that this might require the development of new tools of dialogue between their organisations, tools to ensure a more focused dialogue with a high degree of political backing in the parliaments of the Baltic Sea states. This, she added, also lay at the discretion of the BSPC.
Regarding the third reform objective, they had worked at making explicit the unique strengths of the CBSS as a regional actor, ensuring the best possible uses of these strengths when activities were designed. She considered one of these most pronounced, namely the ability to work on projects in an integrated manner, involving all levels from the political actors to interest organisations, municipalities, academics, youth actors and others.
Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the CBSS Secretariat added an information about the youth at the Annual Forum of the EUSBR which the secretariat was co-organising this year in partnership with Turku City. She confirmed that the engagement of youths would not be as merely invited guests but rather full participants at all stages. They would not be present just for engagement’s sake but rather take part fully in all the deliberations and proceedings of the annual forum.
Mr Bernd Hemingway, Deputy Director General of the CBSS Secretariat commented on the question of the migration and integration issue. There had been discussions in the Council, but it had appeared that countries had faced very different challenges. It was his belief that the BSPC had come to the same conclusions. As for the CBSS, their focus for the time being was looking into the demographic factor in particular of an aging population. He clarified that some of the countries of the CBSS were also migration countries, adding to the demographic challenges. But this was the extent of the concerns at the moment for the CBSS; they were not discussing integration as such.
The conservation and sustainable use of the oceans
Mr Felix Leinemann, European Commission, Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, responsible for Blue Economy Sectors, Aquaculture and Maritime Spatial Planning gave a Progress report on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and also took a statement on the BSPC’s recommendations for action in the Oslo resolution, insofar as they relate to maritime policy.
He spoke about five topics of particular interest to the BSPC at present, one of them the Commission’s objective for the upcoming UN Oceans conference, the second the effects of Brexit, the third the progress made in combating marine pollution, the fourth the potential dangers from ammunition dumps, and the fifth topic concerning comments regarding the Oslo Resolution.
He began with the final topic, noting that the Commission very much appreciated this resolution as a very constructive contribution aimed at protecting the oceans and restoring them wherever possible. Specifically, his side was supporting the goal of developing a legally binding and globally reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste. The European Commission had been quite active in combating single-use plastics. They had come up with a strategy in the previous year, with one of the highlights being the ban of the ten items most frequently found littered on Europe’s beaches, but they were accompanied by several activities aimed at reducing marine littering. For example, the Commission was developing a standard for fishing gear or aquaculture gear, because such gear in its current form was wasteful and could lead to non-targeted fish or marine species becoming entangled in nets. He also noted that these nets could be lost at sea and become a nomadic hazard. For such reasons, they were trying to fit fishing gears with devices that would make it possible to retrieve them much easier than was the case at the moment. In the present, they were relying very much on volunteers or on fishermen who went out with the intent of fishing for litter. Mr Leinemann stressed, though, that this could not be enough. Therefore, they were working further to expand on these areas.
The next step would be looking at microplastics from all sources. As with normal plastics, these microplastics did not come from the sea but rather from land, such as the tires of cars on the road, and so it was necessary to address these problems on land. Mr Leinemann pointed out that his Commissioner, Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius, who was also responsible for the environment and not just the oceans, would very much work with the environmental colleagues in this area. Other fields of tackling marine plastics included a new directive on port reception facilities, currently being implemented by all member states. The speaker added that there was a strong international dimension to this issue. The Commission was very much in support of the plans of regional conventions against marine litter. The Baltic Sea Action Plan for management by HELCOM was a good example for collaboration and effectiveness in a given sea basin. The Commission invited all relevant stakeholders, such as NGOs, to actively participate in this action plan.
Mr Leinemann noted that the resolution also mentioned maritime spatial planning as an important tool to achieve clean and sustainable oceans. As the speaker himself used to be responsible for spatial planning in the European Commission, he himself very much appreciated this item. Again, with respect to HELCOM and VASAB, the Baltic Sea had become a very successful test bed in addressing maritime spatial planning from a cross-border perspective where different countries were working together. Returning to his work, Mr Leinemann stated that the Commission had been funding two projects so far in this area and would launch a third call this year for a cooperation project in the Baltic Sea region on maritime spatial planning.
With regard to Commission’s objectives for the UN Oceans conference which was to take place in June in Lisbon, Portugal, he noted that the lack of improvement over the last five years was reason for serious concern. Looking at the reports on biodiversity or the state of the ocean report by the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, none of these was painting a good picture. He cautioned that they would fail to meet the targets under the sustainable goal 14 that were due in 2020. Accordingly, this would continue to play an important role in the discussions at the United Nations. They also wanted to ensure that the conference would be successful as well as the implementation of SDG 14. The focus of the UN Ocean Conference was intended to be research and innovation. The European Commission was keen to contribute to this on a wide scale. Around 250 million euros a year were spent by the European Union’s research framework programmes on ocean research. Mr Leinemann said that they could deliver more and that they should do so. For the conference, the Commission had four main goals: They wanted more collaborative action, addressing all sources of pollution, including the plastics he had mentioned earlier. In addition, they wanted to enforce biodiversity laws and provide qualitative assessments of the marine areas which were being or needed to be restored. Thus, the Commission sought to protect these better and to manage them actively – this could be achieved through more protected areas and better management. Moreover, they wanted to ensure more sustainable fisheries and aquacultures, including from an ecosystem perspective.
There were climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as nature-based solutions that the Commission was keen to put forward, and the Baltic Sea was very strong in the area of the blue bio economy, for instance working with algae and making use of shellfish as well as other natural resources to clean the sea. This approach had proven successful in some areas, to achieve the maximum available yield in fisheries and to reduce the pressure. Unfortunately, this did not apply to the Baltic Sea but rather in the North Atlantic where they had reached maximum sustainability yield and had seen an increased economic return for fishermen. That was proof for the European Commission that if those who were fishing sustainably, could combine that with economic growth. At the UN Conference, the Commission would also push for action: They could not accept they were already failing that had been set five years earlier, and the Commission would not accept any compromise in this area. At the conference, they would also make sure that it was clear that there was no one-size-fits-all solution; every sea basin could contribute with its own characteristics and assets.
The fourth objective for the UN conference was accepting that there were no easy solutions. He qualified this general statement by conceding that there surely were a few easy solutions, but as an overall view, no sustainable solution was easy. Mr Leinemann had mentioned using mussels to clean the waters from eutrophication. This was a possibility, he acknowledged, but it might not work in all situations and settings. The speaker said that there was hope for some programmes, but he cautioned that none should think that the issue would take care of itself naturally and without any outside effort. What was needed was to develop the science, ensure that it worked and then put it into practice.
With regard to Brexit, Mr Leinemann noted that one month earlier, the UK had become a third country, but the transition period was still ongoing and would extend until the end of this year. During this period, the United Kingdom was still fully governed by the common fisheries policy; it was part of the common fisheries policy, he clarified, but it did not have any say in it since it was no longer part of the institutions governing this policy. Nonetheless, the European Commission was still working closely with the British and in constant contact, also because there was a deadline in the Withdrawal Agreement that stated that on 1 July 2020, an agreement on fisheries should be in place. Negotiations between the UK and the European Union had started on that day, 2 March 2020, and debates on fisheries were part of that negotiations package. As they had only just begun, Mr Leinemann cautioned that there was nothing he could say about these. They were working based on a mandate from the European Council and were working in close cooperation with the UK taskforce on this issue, so as to make sure that there was a link between the future trade agreement and the fisheries part.
The next topic for Mr Leinemann was progress with regard to marine pollution. Considering the recent trends and sources of concern for the Baltic Sea, which had also been outlined in the State of the Environment report published by the European Environmental Agency, there were various pressures from human activities that caused adverse effects on the marine ecosystems: nutrient enrichment from farming, contaminants, bottom trawling, overfishing. The latest assessment by HELCOM showed that 97 per cent of the Baltic Sea was affected by eutrophication, depleting habitats and food webs. Another target planned for 2020 that was unlikely to be met was the good environmental status of the Baltic Sea. Mr Leinemann nonetheless insisted that this should not stop them from recognising that there was progress on some other fronts. They had implemented measures to combat chemical pollution; there was a reduction of contamination and impacts from some hazardous substances, such as PCP, in the marine environment as well as, more generally speaking, a reduction of oil spills. In terms of marine litter, he referred back to the actions the Commission had taken. Although these had not yet resulted in measurable results, Mr Leinemann hoped they would see the results of these actions already implemented in the near future and thus less litter being produced. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive was in place, he noted, serving as an incentive to develop underwater noise monitoring surveys. This had not been studied sufficiently up to this point. Knowing more about this issue, though, would help them work on reducing its impact on the marine environment. In addition, better management of the fish stocks and shellfish stocks had contributed to a clear decrease in the fishing pressure in the Baltic Sea, and there were some signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of a number of fish stocks. He underlined that this was not a positive development on all fronts but that some fish stocks at least were registering improvements. The efforts to reduce further pressure needed to be intensified.
The conservation of Europe’s natural environment was part of the European Green Deal. Accordingly, the success of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive would be instrumental to achieving the EU’s overarching objectives, such as halting the loss of biodiversity in the sea and on land as well as moving towards a zero-pollution society. The Commission was determined to deliver on its zero-pollution ambition for both climate neutrality and a toxic-free environment. For 2021, it intended to adopt a zero-pollution action plan for air, water and soil, with actions that should prevent pollutions from being generated along with measures to clean and remedy existing pollutions.
Mr Leinemann went on to tackle the final point he was asked to present about, namely the potential emerging dangers from ammunition dumps in the Baltic Sea and other ocean waters. He stated that this had to be taken seriously, and he appreciated the BSPC doing so as evidenced by the topic surfacing in several reports. The president had also mentioned it during the current meeting. The European Commission supported the text in the Oslo Resolution, calling for more cooperation. The Commission or DG Mare Maritime Affairs had organised a colloquium on the challenges of unexploded munitions in the sea in February of 2019, seeking expert advice from all the various European seas. A further studied would be commissioned to see what could be done very concretely. The new Maritime Security Action Plan included an action point on the disposal and elimination of sea-dumped ammunitions. This was very important not just for the environment as such but also for the development of a blue economy. One point of concern here was for example how to develop offshore wind farms, another was the development of aquaculture that was more sustainable. All such activities tied into the question of whether the sea was actually safe for these construction measures.
Progress report and perspectives on the European territorial cooperation and the macro-regional strategies
Mr Jean-Pierre Halkin from the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission Macro-regions, responsible for Transnational/Interregional cooperation, IPA, Enlargement of the European Commission, informed the Standing Committee on new developments and perspectives on the European territorial cooperation and the macro-regional strategies.
Mr Halkin presented a published report on the implementation of the four macro-regional strategies and focused himself on five findings. First was that they had had a very fruitful discussion in the Council in which a very constructive presidency from Romania had supported them. That had led them to innovate this year by organising the first edition of the week of macro-regional strategies. It had been, for the Commission’s side, a good way to feel the pulse of the interest for macro-regional strategies in Brussels. The purpose of this first week had been to encourage the cooperation between the strategies themselves but also the interaction between the stakeholders of the strategies and everyone working in Brussels, in the Council, in the parliament, in the Committee of Regions, economic and social committees and in the Commission itself. For the Commission side, it had been quite a success as they had made it one of the forty thematic weeks of the Commission. The Commission had been quite well represented during this instalment; the Commissioner Elisa Ferreira had been there as had the Deputy DG Normunds Popens and the four directors, including Ms Andersson Pench, and also colleagues from twelve different DGs. It had also been extremely well attended by the member state representatives, for instance, ministers, state secretaries or deputy ministers. Furthermore, it had been a new type of event that they had organised with a social dimension. Thus, it became clear that there was indeed still strong interest in macro-regional strategies.
One of the key reasons for this interest was his second finding, namely that everyone was convinced that the strategies remained very relevant. The world was changing faster and faster. They had been speaking about climate change a lot and realised that the way climate change was understood today was very different from five years ago or even just two years earlier. Globalisation had come, the EU had a digital agenda, migration patterns were different – everything was changing quickly. The conviction of all parties had been that the strategies were the right approach to convert uncertainties into opportunities, since root causes or solutions exceeded the administrative border of a member state of the European Union.
The third finding Mr Halkin spoke about was the connection between the macro-regional strategies and the new EU priorities. Certainly, for the four macro-regional strategies, there had been a feeling that the new EU priorities offered an opportunity for the strategies. Both of these were already supporting green growth and systemic blue growth. These were completely interconnected. Moreover, it was necessary to connect the coastal regions with the inland regions. The Commission was already supporting the circular economy in transition to a carbon-conserving economy.
During the week of macro-regional strategies, they had heard that there were good ways of tailoring the Green Deal to the needs of the regions, buffered by the strategies. That was a very strong message, Mr Halkin stressed. There were also very good ways of speeding up the implementation of the new EU priorities and in particular the Green Deal, in the end increasing the ownership by EU citizens of those initiatives.
The fourth finding noted by the speaker was the importance of what they called embedding. That was how the Commission was going to take the priorities of the strategies into the EU programmes. Embedding, he explained, was a technical word but very important, nonetheless. In that regard, they expected the countries participating in the European Union’s Baltic Sea region to pave the way and be the forerunners for the four macro strategies. Embedding was something totally new. The Commission was aware that many actions were already taking place to put the strategies into motion, but they had to do more. They needed to make sure that in all national programmes and regional programmes, the priorities of the strategies were reflected where it was appropriate. The Commission had seen a great deal of interest in embedding, and that was a very strong signal. Representatives of managing authorities – those who were going to translate the plans into concrete action – had been present at the event and were interested in making sure that the strategy was enacted and was indeed moving forward. On the Commission’s side, Mr Halkin noted, they certainly encouraged this as well as the connection with all EU funds, including those put in direct management like Horizon Europe or the programme for life sciences. He added that it was very important to be sure that they were connecting to the right persons, to the changemakers. These were the people operating the programmes, extremely dedicated civil servants who were working very hard. Still, it was necessary to help them be connected among themselves, within the countries, within the regions and among the regions. That had to be supported, he underlined, and a strong signal in that direction was required. Surely, they were already taking the first actions, but government encouragement was needed.
Moving to the last finding, Mr Halkin spoke about the need to reengage with the political class. That was also vital. They had established macro-regional strategies under the inspiration of the countries of the Baltic Sea region in order to address challenges that were otherwise lacking political support. They were furthermore aware that political control rested in the states contributing to the strategy from all sides, and he also had to mention Norway and Russia in this regard. Good politicians at the start of their mandates needed to take on board new priorities, and in order to do that, they had to identify lesser priorities so that they could create space for the more pressing ones. There had to be a constant fight, a constant push in order to keep the strategies on the agenda. That mattered very much, he highlighted. In that regard, Mr Halkin mentioned the Baltic Sea Council which would co-chair the Forum of the Baltic Sea Region in Turku, on 16 – 17 June. This forum would prove very important for reengaging the representatives of the political level, and it was vital for ministers to be there.
It was equally important for young people to participate in this process, and Mr Halkin noted that he had been very encouraged to see the first draft of the agenda of the forum as it was designed for the people who would in the end be operating the strategies and making sure that they would be successful.
In conclusion, Mr Halkin noted that there had been a very strong convergence of the former regional strategies during the week of macro-regional strategies. He believed it vital for these strategies to keep moving together after this first meeting. Mr Halkin further highlighted that parliaments could also remain extremely vital catalysts in the implementation of the strategies. For some strategies, the parliaments had set up priority action funds for pilot projects, even though their resources were extremely limited compared to the regional policies; nonetheless, these were transformational. The overall goal was not just to achieve blue growth or green growth but rather to ensure that trust and confidence among the EU citizens were strengthened, and it was here that parliamentary support proved vital.
Following their presentations, the representatives of the CBSS and the European Commission discussed questions, comments and statements from the Standing Committee on the issues raised in the presentations.
BSPC Working Group on Migration and Integration
Mr Pyry Niemi, informed about the progress on the Working Group’s report. The aim was to distribute a first draft of the final report to all delegations by 7 April and to receive comments, remarks and further proposals by 23 April, so that the report could be discussed conclusively during the planned meeting in Mariehamn. The report will then be forwarded to the Annual Conference in Vilnius.
New BSPC Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity
Ms Cecilie Tenfjord-Toftby the upcoming chairwoman of the planned new BSPC Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity informed that the first draft of how the working group should function had been prepared. The plan was to have several meetings in the Baltic Sea area, looking for best practices. Focus areas had been established. In the case of the new group, one such focus area was how to meet the target from the UN. She saw a need to explore how the biodiversity was being affected and how they could adapt to these effects of climate change on biodiversity. The third focus point was almost more important, she noted, as their goal was to have an optimistic view on these issues. The working group should set out to beat climate change, although it could not accomplish this task all the way. They had to adapt to climate change, they wanted to preserve biodiversity, but they had to meet the changes in biodiversity. Moreover, this should be done with an optimistic tone, aiming to use the technology already available in a good way. That was the current plan, she concluded, noting that they were open for further input.
Peter Stein informed the Standing Committee on his activities and his further plans as BSPC Rapporteur on Sea-Dumped Munitions and made suggestions regarding experts during the annual conference.
The Standing Committee approved the 2019 Financial Report including the Financial Result as per the Fourth Quarter of 2019 as well as the budget plan proposal for 2020. The Financial Report was published on the BSPC website.
The 29th BSPC, Vilnius, 23-25 August 2020
BSPC President Valerijus Simulik once more invited the members of the BSPC to the annual conference in Vilnius. He underlined that they would have to work there. Welcoming them as friends, they were looking forward to continue working with each other in Vilnius in their conference.
The attendees would arrive on 22 August 2020, with the meeting of the Drafting Committee and the Standing Committee set for 23 August 2020. On 24 August, a very special opening ceremony was expected as the President of the Republic of Lithuania had sent a confirmation that he would attend the ceremony. The Speaker of the Parliament would participate as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Danish minister of foreign affairs as well as the Norwegian Minister of Foreign affairs, had also been invited.
The topic suggested by the Lithuanian Presidency was to work on a strategy for 2030, the future of the Baltic Sea region. The first session was set on the Vision 2030 and the development of the Baltic Sea region. For the second part, Vision 2030 on seas and oceans the EU Commissioner was expected to attend. The third topic was migration and integration, in which the working group would provide a report. The following day, 25 August 2020, would deal with science and technology as a driving force behind the development of the Baltic Sea region. He proposed that the president and the vice-presidents, would sign the BSPC resolution.
The Swedish Presidency 2020/2021
BSPC Vice-President Pyry Niemi, Chairman of the Swedish Delegation to the BSPC, informed that the Swedish delegation was currently in the process of creating a draft proposal to be presented in Vilnius, at the Standing Committee meeting. Due to the fact that the Swedish parliament and the general right to vote in the country was now one hundred years old, with a century of democracy in Sweden, that would be a focus of the Swedish presidency. More specifically, it would concentrate on sustainable democracy and how to face a changing world. In some countries, it could be seen that the space for democracy was shrinking; therefore, the Swedish delegation suggested to focus on sustainable democracy, with some major elements and issues that would be presented in Vilnius.
Further topics of the Standing Committee meeting among others included the Follow-up to the 28th BSPC Resolution.