Under the chairmanship of BSPC President Valerijus Simulik, the BSPC Standing Committee held its first Digital Meeting.
Delegations from the Åland Islands, the Baltic Assembly, Denmark, the German Bundestag, Finland, Hamburg, Kaliningrad, Latvia, Lithuania, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Nordic Council, Norway, Poland and Sweden participated in the meeting.
Current situation in the BSPC
BSPC President Valerijus Simulik, in his welcoming speech, recalled the extraordinary circumstances of the previous Standing Committee meeting in Brussels. Right after that meeting on 2 March, the President of the European Parliament had announced that until further notice no more meetings of international bodies would be held in the European Parliament. At that time, no one had been able to say with sufficient certainty how drastically the situation of this pandemic would affect the population in nearly every country of the world. Currently, there were attempts to return to a new normal through a plethora of individual measures at different speeds. Mr Simulik stressed, however, that the situation in different BSPC member countries varied significantly and that this divergence would prevent all members from physically meeting again for an unforeseeable period. In this context, the Standing Committee meeting initially planned for 29 May in Vilnius had been rendered unfeasible. Accordingly, Mr Simulik had proposed a Standing Committee meeting in digital form in its stead to discuss the further procedure within the BSPC.
The COVID-19 pandemic – the situation in the BSPC member countries
TheStanding Committee members reported on developments of the corona crisis to date, the current situation and the assessment of further steps in their countries. Mr Pyry Niemi and Ms Cecilie Tenfjord Toftby presented the case in Sweden, Mr Simon Påvals in the Åland Islands and Mr Christian Juhl in Denmark. Mr Johannes Schraps spoke from the perspective of the German Bundestag, Mr Alexander Musewitsch about the situation in Kaliningrad, Prof Jānis Vucāns from the point of view of the Baltic Assembly and Mr Arne Fogtby in the name of Mr Michael Tetzschner from the perspective of the Nordic Council. Mr Arvils Ašeradens talked about Latvia and Mr Jarosław Wałęsa about Poland.
The topic turned out to be of high interest for the participants; therefore, the Standing Committee agreed that the members of the BSPC would be asked to deepen the meeting’s survey through written reports on the subject.
The 29th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference
BSPC President Valerijus Simulik regretted that due to the unpredictable situation related to the spread of COVID-19, the Board of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on 21 May 2020 had been forced to cancel the events that had been planned as part of the 29th Baltic on 22-25 August 2020. This decision had been necessary to protect the citizens of all countries against the possible spread of the virus. Information about that decision had been sent to all parliaments immediately and published on the website.
The President pointed out that the Seimas in that situation was determined to take over the Presidency from Sweden and hold the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in 2022. He proposed discussing the question of whether, given the current situation, the 29th BSPC should be held in a digital and condensed form.
In careful consideration of all circumstances, the BSPC Standing Committee unanimously decided that the 29th BSPC annual conference will be held in a digital form on 24 August.
This decision started the usual path for also preparing a BSPC Resolution which will be discussed in a digital Drafting Committee meeting on 20 August.
BSPC Vice President Pyry Niemi informed about the issues of the upcoming Swedish Presidency which will be part of the BSPC Strategy and Work Programme for 2020/2021.
The Standing Committee welcomed that subsequent the Presidency of Sweden set to begin right after the 29th BSPC and following the elections in Lithuania, the Lithuanian Parliament will consider if it would be possible for the BSPC Presidency to return to Lithuania.
BSPC Rapporteurs and the new BSPC Working Group
The Standing Committee has left it to the rapporteurs to decide whether they will also submit a report this year which would be published on the website or – due to the cancellation of many international events – whether they will report next year on a two-year period.
Ms Cecilie Tenfjord Toftby from the Swedish Parliament, the designated Chairwoman of the upcoming BSPC Working Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity, reported that a significant amount of preparations had been implemented before the pandemic; therefore her team was ready to start working. She encouraged the delegates to join the working group and invited the members to the first meeting of the group in November to Stockholm.