Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)
Speech of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the 18th Ministerial meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Pionersky, Kaliningrad Oblast, 6 June 2013
I will talk in Russian, because today is the day of the Russian Language. Let me congratulate Mr Bildt with the Day of the Swedish flag and to express a hope that you like it here.
I think I will not be mistaken, if I say on behalf of all participants and guests that we are thankful to heads of Kalinindrad Oblast and all organisers for today's and yesterday's events.
We are gathering in Kaliningrad Oblast under presidency of Russia for the second time. Today in Pionersky, but in 2002 the meeting was accepted by Svetlogorsk. In my opinion, the choice of this region of the Russian Federation is not arbitrary, because its unique geographical location predetermines active participation of Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia's links with European partners.
Last year we celebrated 20 years of CBSS. In these years, the Council proved its relevance, demonstrated its ability to renew, find adequate answers to challenges of the changing world.
Today CBSS is a fully-fledged international cooperation forum ensuring the diversity of inks between its participants and contributes to the formation of a space of stability, neighbourly relations and sustainable development in the Baltic Region.
The Council is certainly acting not in vacuum. Team work is also conducted in other formats of regional interaction, in particular, within the framework of the "Northern Dimension", the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, the Arctic Council, and the Nordic Council of Ministers. To that end, we need to further reinforce links between these mechanisms, to build-up synergy and coordination in their activity.
We deem it important to continue the search for fields of connection of the Strategy of social and economic development of the North-West Federal District (NWFD) until 2020 and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Seemingly, CBSS along with other regional arenas could also make its contribution to this process.
During the period of Russian presidency, we strove to act in the spirit of succession and to solve task related to the reformation of CBSS formalised in decisions of Riga (2008) and Vilnius (2010) meetings of Baltic Sea States Heads of Government. During our work, the emphasis was laid on the transfer to applied activity, search of new lines of combination of regional efforts. We are convinced that the implementation of specific projects having actual "added value" for citizens of our countries, should remain our joint priority to develop noticeable results already reached on this path.
Thus, we launched the program of Partnership for Modernisation or South East Baltic Area (SEBA) together with German colleagues. Within the framework of it, projects of creation of an innovative environmental and tourism cluster "Lake Vistytis", the inclusion of the area into the regional network of water touring, the organization of a youth camp "Baltic Artek", the promotion of the mechanism of a public-private partnership, the creation of the Baltic Network Law Institute on the basis of Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kalinindrad have already been selected for implementation.
A Conference summarising the results of the course of the first stage of implementation of SEBA will open tomorrow. We reckon that it will give an impulse to further development of this programme in different regions of the Baltic Sea.
It is evident that stable funding is a ticket to successful implementation. We are satisfied that in the period of Russian presidency a mechanism of support of projects was formed in March 2013 – Project Financing Fund in the amount of 1 million Euro for the period 2013-2015. The amount is certainly modest, however, this financial instrument will allow CBSS to independently allocate the starting capital and stimulate co-financing of projects of region-wide importance.
At the end of May, decisions about allocation of funds of the Funds for four projects, two of which are implemented within the framework of SEBA programme were approved in Moscow.
During our presidency, we paid considerable attention to the arrangement of the network of public and private partnership in the Baltic Region.
In autumn 2012, a Pilot Financial Initiative (PFI) was launched by signing the Memorandum of Understanding between two National Banks – German KFW and Russian Vnesheconombank, as well as the Permanent International Secretariat of CBSSit in May 2012.
On these grounds, a credit facility agreement for 110 million US dollars about financing of projects in the field of SME in the North-West of Russia, and a similar agreement for 65 million US dollars envisaged for construction of a modern solid waste disposal and recycling plant in St Petersburg (in the line of public and private partnership) at the end of 2012.
These steps are a clear signal to business circles implementing or ready to implement projects of regional importance and striving to gain support not only at the national, but also at the international level.
We hope that other regional financial institutes, primarily the Nordic Environment Finance Cooperation (NEFCO) and the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) wee be interested in public and private partnership in the region, which would contribute to its geographical distribution also outside the borders of the Russian North-West.
The reinforcement of links with civil community, the development of non-government dimension of Baltic cooperation was a noticeable line of work in the period of Russian presidency. This April, the XI Forum of NGOs of the Baltic Sea Region was held, the topic of which was "Tolerance and Cultural Diversity".
300 people visited the Forum, but its topic embraced problems of multicultural communities, tasks of combating racism and xenophobia, youth policy, environmental protection, legal framework of the activity of NGOs. The Forum has already proved that it is a sought-for arena for discussion of a wide range of issues of regional cooperation in the Baltic Region by civil community.
We welcome the decision of the Forum about establishment of the network of youth cooperation in our region. I am convinced that youth contacts should become a valid channel of formation of the space of trust and neighbourly relations.
We advocate for further development of direct contacts between people, including through easing applicable visa restrictions. Although this issue is formally not included in the agenda of CBSS, our organisation may make its contribution to this process, the final goal of which is removal of visa barriers existing in Europe, including in the Baltic Region. An example of Russian-Polish agreement about local near-border movement is a good "beacon" for further collective work on this track.
One of the assets of Russian Presidency is also the beginning of the second phase of the EuroFaculty-Pskov project in October 2012 the purpose of which is to introduce modern education standards in the leading higher education institutions of the Russian North West and Baltic States.
Environmental protection cooperation is one of most significant lines of interaction. Fragile ecology of the Baltic Region – our joint home – makes us draw constant attention to this topic. The Conference of Heads of Governments of CBSS on the protection of environment of the Baltic Sea on 5-6 April, St Petersburg became a meaningful event of the Russian presidency in CBSS.
The approval of St Petersburg initiative proposed by the Russian party was a practical result. Its nature is to create a regional network combining business and scientific communities, as well as non-governmental organisations within the framework of public and private partnership to develop near-border cooperation and public monitoring of fulfilment of decisions aimed at protection of Baltic ecology.
CBSS enters the third decade of its existence as a mature regional organisation, able not only to generate ideas, but also to implement them using own financial instruments. I am convinced that this a ticket to viability of the Council/
We wish Finland – the next Chair of CBSS – success in its efforts on further consolidation of our interaction.