Baltic Development Forum's 20th Annual Summit "Time for a BSR 2.0?" was held on June 4 in Tallinn. At the Summit, two new publications by Baltic Development Forum were presented, which served as the basis of the Summit's discussions.

The 20th Annual Summit provided a good opportunity to take a longer-term perspective on the economic development of the Baltic Sea Region, and the results of the analysis can be read in the report "The BSR Economies: Progress and Priorities – A 20-year Perspective" written by Dr. David Skilling. The report was published by Baltic Development Forum with the support of the Nordic Investment Bank.

Another publication was The 2018 Political State of the Region Report “Flexible Europe – what does it mean for the Baltic Sea Region” published by Baltic Development Forum and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. The report discusses the concept of flexibility in today's Europe understood as Europe of different speeds. The concept of flexibility is also extended to cover security and defence. In addition, flexible Europe is analysed from the viewpoint of Russia. 

As the Baltic Development Forum will cease its activities by the 31st of July 2018, this was the last Political State of the Region Report published.

The main theme of the 9th Annual Forum, organised in Tallinn on 4-5 June 2018, was the Baltic Sea Region After 2020. The Forum discussed how to improve the implementation of the EUSBSR in the framework of the future EU Cohesion Policy. It discussed also the current state of the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea as well as how to advance the Region as a global digital hub.

Almost 800 participants from governments, international organisations, NGOs, universities, local and regional administrations and businesses came together to discuss developments and challenges in the Baltic Sea Region.


Before the EUSBSR Annual Forum, Baltic Development Forum held their 20th and last BDF Summit. Among other high-level speakers, the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, came to close the Summit. The President stated that the Baltic Sea Region has taken regional cooperation to next level and thanked Baltic Development Forum for providing a platform for that.


How does the future of EUSBSR look like in the framework of future EU Cohesion Policy?


EU’s Cohesion Policy post-2020 and what it means to the EUSBSR was the main theme of the opening plenary and panel discussion of the 9th Annual Forum. Before the panel debate, high-level opening statements were heard from the Prime Minister of Estonia, Mr Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Latvia, H.E. Mr Māris Kučinskis, Prime Minister of Lithuania, H.E.Mr Saulius Skvernelis, Foreign Minister of Poland, H.EMr Jacek Czaputowicz, Foreign Minister of Poland and EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Ms Corina Cretu.

The opening statements reflected the themes of the Forum. For example, Prime Minister Ratas suggested that the Baltic Sea Region could become an example in digital governance: "Aside from the Baltic Sea, our people could be connected also by data flows moving quickly between government institutions, which would enable to use domestic services also in a cross-border manner -- such as buy medicines at a pharmacy in a neighboring country with a digital prescription issued in the home country."

Commissioner Cretu touched upon the Commission’s proposal for Cohesion Policy post-2020, including INTERREG funding which provides direct link to EU macro-regional strategies. Having listed the main points of the proposal, Cretu concluded: “[…] macro-regional strategies are not just about INTERREG. All relevant EU and national funding should be mobilised by the participating countries and their regions. This will ensure that adequate funding is available to implement the strategies.”

The opening plenary recording is available at EUSBSR YouTube.


Digitalisation and state of the Baltic Sea discussed

Two other plenary sessions of the Annual Forum were dedicated to the themes of digitalisation of the BSR and the state of the Baltic Sea.


In the plenary “EUSBSR and the digital world - a coherent digital Baltic Sea Region” keynote speech was delivered by the Vice President of the European Commission, Mr Andrus Ansip. He talked about the Commission’s aim of building a European Digital Single Market and Baltic Sea region’s opportunity to lead the developmet: “[…] digitally speaking, the region is well placed to embrace technological progress and thrive on it. However, there are substantial differences between countries that are holding back regional progress.”

The second plenary recording is available at EUSBSR YouTube.

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The environmental state of the Baltic Sea was discussed in the third plenary “EUSBSR and marine environment - safeguarding the ecosystems of the Baltic Sea”. The plenary was opened by video greetings from the European Commissioner on Environment, Mr Karmenu Vella. The keynote speech was delivered by Mr Lasse Gustavsson, the Executive Director of Oceana in Europe and in the panel. It was noted that the goal of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021, is unlikely to be achieved. However, the need to move forward, “a little less conversation, a little more action”, was emphasised.

The third plenary recording is available at EUSBSR YouTube.


21 parallel seminars to cover EUSBSR policies, projects and processes

The extensive programme of parallel seminars during the two days of the Annual Forum covered EUSBSR themes, policies, projects and processes from many angles. In addition to the seminars, there was a networking village and a speaker’s corner providing a platform for more in-depth conversations.


At the Seaplane Harbour of Tallinn a live demonstration of a rescue exercise with vessels and divers was organised. The exercise was broadcasted on the Policy Area Secure’s Facebook page and is available there.


EUSBSR National Coordinators welcomed new Danish chair

The day after the Annual Forum the National Coordinators had their meeting and welcomed the new Danish Chair who will start in their position on 1st July.

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The National Coordinators' group



The Forum was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia together with the Baltic Development Forum in close cooperation with the European Commission, Ministry of Environment and other partners. The Annual Forum was co-financed from the programme of Interreg Baltic Sea Region.


Laying the foundations for the discussion in the 9th EUSBSR Annual Forum, the organiser has produced a report looking to the future of the Strategy: "EUSBSR after 2020: governance remastered".

EUSBSR after 2020


The report has been prepared by Spatial Foresight and the findings of the study will be discussed in the first Plenary session of the Forum, on 4 June 2018.

Prior to the discussion the authors of the study wish that the participants would think how they imagine the EUSBSR in ten years time. Their own foresight, based on the findings of the study, can be read from the imaginary press release from the 19th EUSBSR Annual Forum.


Looking back from the future

Tallinn, June 2028

Welcome to Tallinn for the 19th EUSBSR Annual Forum. The focus of the 2028 Annual Forum is

“A retrospective of the 2018 discussions ahead of the 20th EUSBSR anniversary”.

As we prepare to celebrate twenty years of EUSBSR, let’s look at the developments of recent years. What was done to implement EUSBSR objectives? Were the capacity building workshops reduced in the last five years because administrative capacity improved enormously? How did EUSBSR implementation evolve in the last ten years?

Let’s look at the example of ‘Save the Sea’.

In 2018, ‘Save the Sea’ was implemented through four sub-objectives and five policy areas. This was mainly through flagships, in the form of projects, processes and networks. However, obtaining flagship status was not always harmonised and could be cumbersome. So flagship processes were enhanced and sometimes even developed into thematic partnerships. This idea is also used today and the improved version is more in line with the EUSBSR idea of a being a policy coordination platform.

And for governance of the ‘Save the Sea’ objective? This used to be way more complicated than today. The extensive implementation layers of EUSBSR created confusion on what drives policy change. Of course, the Steering Groups, or Steering Committees, used to play an important role in 2018. They were often misunderstood as a separate governance element, but they remain an important meeting platform.

2018 was also a time when discussions started about ways to take EUSBSR forward. In view of the 20th EUSBSR anniversary, let’s recap. What were the main points of those discussions?

Simplification of the wide thematic focus and complex governance structure was obvious, but adjusting EUSBSR priorities to future challenges and trends was the first discussion point.

Another idea was to develop Thematic Partnerships. Inspired by the EU Urban Agenda partnerships, EUSBSR built on the commitment and ownership of its implementers, while further cultivating the macro-regional mind-set.

Another idea was to use Article 70 of the Common Provisions Regulations (2013) from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Firstly, this initiative was being explored by EUSBSR, so it was not in unchartered waters, and secondly it aimed to make the most of available funding sources for cooperation.

Last but not least, was the idea to develop a Macro-regional Integrated Territorial Investment (M-ITI) based on the ESIF tool of Integrated Territorial Investments. This allowed EUSBSR to have its ‘own funding’ as well as administrative support from its intermediate governance body.

Ten years on, EUSBSR is going strong. It is part of the policy loop, influencing policy changes in the region. Ten years on it is again time to discuss future trends, future challenges and future implementation. The first seeds were sown in 2018. Now the EUSBSR is even more flexible and is implemented with even more open processes and even more committed players. It is preparing for the future, post 2030.

If there is one lesson to be learned from all this progress, it is not to be afraid of change, but to be bold, be open, be flexible.


Download and read the study "EUSBSR post 2020: governance remastered" below and join the discussion in the EUSBSR Annual Forum on 4-5 June 2018 in Tallinn!

At the 23rd General Assembly of the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, held on 16 May in Oulu, member regions adopted a political declaration in light of the negotiations on the future of the EU budget and policies, and ahead of the revision of the Action Plan of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).

The political declaration conveys messages aimed at EU decisions-makers and stakeholders, with a particular focus on a strong post-2020 EU budget delivering sustainable regional growth and a more resilient EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

The Oulu declaration calls for:

  • Reinforcement of the multilevel governance of the EUSBSR
  • Stronger synergies between the EUSBSR and Cohesion Policy
  • Interregional cooperation to be fostered in Smart Specialisation Strategies
  • A stronger maritime dimension in EU policies
  • Reinforcement of connectivity and accessibility in the Baltic Sea Region

CPMR news


Jari Nahkanen, member of the board in the Regional Council of Oulu and newly elected President of the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission, stressed the further commitment to the EUSBSR and transnational cooperation in his final speech of the General Assembly. He also stressed that if local and regional stakeholders are to take further ownership of the strategy, multi-level governance and adequate funding programmes are a nescessity:

“According to preliminary information, existing internal cross border programmes could be merged which is very worrying. Regions are part of the governing structure and the projects funded are enabling local and regional stakeholders to link their own regional development with stakeholders from other countries. A necessity in the fields of transport, innovation and environment.

If we want to achieve a stronger ownership and more action on local and regional level for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, these programmes are important. The transnational programmes are different in nature. At its worst a merger could leave subregional level cooperation without funding”.

Read the Oulu Declaration here.


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More photos from the General Assembly available on Flickr.


On 18th May the European Commission published the results of the 2018 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). The Baltic Sea region is the leading area in digitalisation as Denmark, Sweden and Finland form the top three followed by Estonia on the 9th place.


DESI aims to monitor the performance of Member States in digital connectivity, digital skills online activity, the digitisation of businesses and digital public services. It also helps EU countries to discuss their economic and budget plans and oversee progress at specific times throughout the year.

Increasing number of the Europeans use the internet to communicate. The highest increase in the use of internet services is related to telephone and video calls. Almost half of Europeans use the internet to make calls and it is almost a 20% increase compared to last year.

By the Digital Economy and Society Index, the EU is getting more digital, but progress remains unequal between different Member States even though EU has tried especially to improve digital growth. Europe’s development is insufficient and it has a major challenge to catch up the global leader. This calls for new investments in digital economy and society and a quick realization of the Digital Single Market.

Read the whole article at the Commission's website.


The 9th Annual Forum of European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region will take place on 4–5 June in Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel), which will host nearly 700 participants from Estonia and Europe. The main topic to be discussed is the Baltic Sea region after the year 2020.

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At the Forum the study "EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region after 2020" commissioned by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be introduced. The study analyses the activity of networks and projects of the EUSBSR and the effectiveness of fulfilling the goals of the Strategy.

Additionally, the Forum will discuss the contribution of the Strategy to improving the condition of the Baltic Sea ecosystem and will be looking for possibilities to develop the region as a global digital centre. 21 thematic seminars will be held at the Forum in the key areas of the strategy, for example the protection of the sea environment, safety, energy and transportation sector and digital development of the region.

"The EUSBSR Annual Forum will look for solutions to the three goals of the Strategy: how to improve the living environment of the Baltic Sea, unite the Baltic Sea region and increase its well-being. I can personally assure that the governments of the Baltic Sea countries are co-operating in order to promote a sustainable, inclusive and environment-preserving economy“ states Sven Mikser, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia.

Preceding the EUSBSR Annual Forum, co-organisers Baltic Development Forum will host their 20th Annual Summit – Time for a BSR 2.0? Join leading experts, politicians and researchers from 09:15 on 4th June to discuss the latest political and economic analysis of the Baltic Sea Region, and gain an insight into what’s next for the Region. View the programme here.

You can register for BDF Annual Summit by marking your attendance on the Annual Forum registration form.

Registration available at the event website.


The Annual Forum is organized by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Baltic Development Forum and other partners in co-operation with the European Commission. The Annual Forum is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund programme Interreg Baltic Sea Region.