Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)
Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia S.V. Lavrov to the Amber Bridge magazine, № 3 (7), 2012
Question: Sergey Viktorovich, on one of the recent international conferences which was conducted by the Amber bridge fund, the Baltic region was characterized as a showcase, and it was claimed that its experience of cooperation is worthy of application in other regions of Europe and rest of the world. How do you assess the quality of the international interaction in Baltic and in Northern Europe?
S.V.Lavrov: Geopolitical changes of last two decades did not bypass the region of Baltic sea. The new possibilities for cooperation that opened after end of the period of ideological confrontation have been rather effectively used by the states located here, and have brought a lot of benefits to the entire region.
Today Baltic is one of the most prospering, innovative and competitive regions of the world. Region gross national product proves the level of its development – according to the recently published data, in 2010 its volume constituted a little more than 1.3 trillion euro. For comparison, it approximately corresponds to 11 % of the total gross national product of the member countries of the European Union. Besides, this market is capacious enough: here lives about 57 million people, 27 million of which are economically active. The Baltic occupies a considerable share – 15 % – of the global cargo flow.
The solid contribution to the increase of living standards of the population in the north of Europe is made by cooperation within the limits of regional structures. In Russia we presume that consolidation of efforts of the countries of the region in fighting the modern challenges and threats and searching the efficient solution of tasks that are actual for everyone promotes forming here a space of stability, mutual trust and sustainable social and economic development.
Interaction in the Northern Europe can be compared with a mosaic of thematic and regional fragments. We refer it to the advantages of the regional model. Four regional councils form its framework – the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), the Arctic Council (AC) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM). The activity of these structures is successfully supplemented by the work of other specialised organisations, unions and associations at various levels.
The variety and originality of the "landscape" of the cooperation in the Northern Europe determines the importance of constant enhancement of coordination of actions, elimination of possible duplication between the main actors with a view of increasing the productivity and practical effect. We have already achieved a lot in this field. Meetings of the representatives of regional councils are annually held, regular contacts between their working and expert groups, as well as secretaries of councils, have been developed.
Along with this, as it seems, the time has come to make a step towards a more advanced and qualitatively new stage of coordination of efforts. Multilateral formats of interaction in the region are facing more and more problems which bear universal and sometimes even global character. Development of joint or, as we call it, "thorough" projects can give in this case an even bigger return, bring more convincing results, and promote synergy. The success of the INDIGEE project that was dedicated to the assistance for entrepreneurship among the indigenous people of the North, performed jointly by the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), became the good proof of it.
We believe that more active interaction between councils, as well as with Nature protection partnership of Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) and the Helsinki Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission is in high demand in the field of ecology, which is very actual for all structures. In particular, we could discuss the protection of the marine environment, including the context of prevention of oil spillage, and the organisation of interaction in liquidation of such spills.
In the development of the results of the Action Summit which passed in Helsinki in February, 2010, during the presidency of Russia in the Council of the Baltic Sea States it is planned to convoke the high-level Conference on the protection of the ecology of Baltic in St.-Petersburg in the end of this year, in which the countries of the Baltic region will participate. Undoubtedly, these problems touch the interests of all countries that participate in Northern councils. We will elaborate the possibilities of consolidation of efforts on the advancement of one or two "thorough" projects, for example, on sewage water treatment. The Russian party has good practical experience in this field.
The issues of radicalism, xenophobia, counteraction to nationalism and extremism, tolerance strengthening are actual for all regional councils. We are sure that finding the solutions for these problems demands coordinated efforts. We have already included in the Council of the Baltic Sea States agenda a topic dedicated to the necessity to bring the contribution of every region to this important work. Certainly, it will demand our views to be as wide and open minded as possible, and require the analysis of existing possibilities. We are prepared for it. We expect the same approach from our partners.
A great potential exists in the field of escalation of coordination of efforts in culture. Corresponding structures are also created within the limits of Baltic, Barents and the North European cooperation, as well as in the Northern Dimension, and they are elaborating the solutions of problems that share a lot in common. Establishing direct contacts between them in order to coordinate actions, such as the implementation of possible joint projects, is the imperative of our time. As far as we understand, in general, all structures are interested in it.
However, we proceed from the idea that coordination should not become a goal in itself. In each case it is necessary to apply a pragmatic approach that takes into consideration the unique character of each of the councils. We need a reasonable approach towards the consolidation and coordination of efforts, applying it only to those directions where it will allow bringing practical advantages. It is also necessary to avoid the temptation of building any complicated hierarchies or integration schemes, as well as luring in forming artificial platforms for coordination. All cooperation structures, including the Northern Dimension, should be considered as equal in rights, independent and complementary partners. Only thus can we provide the advancement that would meet the interests of all the region of the Northern Europe, and bring benefits to our countries and peoples.
Question: In 2012 we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. How does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation assess the results and outcomes of the two decades?
S.V.Lavrov: For the international organisation the 20th anniversary means the beginning of the stage of maturity. During the years that passed since the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration, we have managed to achieve a lot.
The plan which laid in the basis of the creation of the CBSS has completely proved its value. It assumed the assistance in elimination of dividing lines in Europe on the tide of the largest geopolitical changes in modern history. The Council of the Baltic Sea States became one of the first instruments of overcoming of the Cold War heritage, and eliminating the confrontation between the blocks in the region.
Today the CBSS has become a sound international cooperation forum, has proved itself as the mechanism that provides multidimensional and diverse communications between its participants, and promotes building a space of trust, good neighbourhood, stability and sustainable development.
Such questions, as economic, including near-border, cooperation, sustainable social and economic development of the region, environment protection, power industry, the marine policy, public health services, fighting against the organised crime and human trafficking, high education, cultural exchanges and tourism, youth affairs lie in the sphere of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Thus, the organisation activity generally covers the full spectrum of issues that are vital for the citizens of our states. Council is both the generator, and the result of deep qualitative shifts on the European arena at the same time.
Other major result is that CBSS has not only proved its necessity, given an impulse for the creation of other specialised regional organisations, unions and associations on various levels. The principal thing is that it has seriously evolved, has shown capability for renovation, for finding the adequate responses to the challenges of the ever-changing world. Its activity, according to the decisions of the meetings of heads of the governments of the states of the Baltic sea that took place in Riga in 2008 and in Vilnius in 2010, acquires more and more pragmatic and purposeful character.
Implementation of the Eurofaculty educational project in 2000-2007 in Kaliningrad, and in Pskov since 2009 became a demonstrative example of practical benefit for Russia from regional cooperation. Its purpose is to increase the competitive ability of the regional economy by the means of enhancement of structure and content of the bachelor, master and additional educational programmes in the field of Business and Economics, bringing them in conformity with the European quality standards and requirements of the regional labour market.
Question: Russia was among the initiators of the reorganisation of the Council of the Baltic Sea States that is taking place nowadays. One of aspects of optimisation of its work is the strengthening of continuity in Council activity. Thereupon, what accents of the German presidency will be apprehended and deepened by Russia?
S.V.Lavrov: As the chairman of CBSS we plan to make an emphasis on the continuity and modernisation as a new important stage of Council reorganisation, promote its focus on the applied project activity, and the further search of breakthrough directions for the consolidation of regional efforts.
During the twenty years of existence of CBSS it is for the first time possible to speak about the beginning qualitative shifts resulting in transformation of this organisation to the mechanism of effective coordination of efforts of the states, regions, municipalities, business and public circles on the implementation of the joint transboundary projects aimed to make the Baltic region one of the leaders in innovative development.
At 9th meeting of the heads of the governments of the states of the Baltic sea, which took place on May, 30-31th of this year in Stralsund, the decision on the multiple increase in project financing was adopted. It will be carried out within the limits of the budget of the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States for 2013-2015 and will amount to 1 million euro. Earlier - on May, 14-15th of this year in Berlin – the Ministers of Energy of the countries of the region that cooperate within the frames of the BASREC (Baltic Sea Energy Co-operation) profile forum, have prolongated the activity of the similar fund till 2015.
We also intend to continue the work within the frames of the projects of modernisation of the southeast area of Baltic sea initiated together with our German partners (SEBA), with a stress on the Kaliningrad region and its neighbours, and also forming a network of cooperation in the sphere of Public Private Partnership (PPP) within the region. We see in it the possibility to uncover the CBSS potential following the interests of the Russian regions on the priority directions designated in the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Northwestern Federal District for the Period up to 2020, of November, 2011, adopted by the Government of the Russian Federation.
By the way, the main part of the mentioned project funds is planned to be directed for SEBA financing. Now we are elaborating such projects as the "Vyshtynetsky lake – Krasnoles'e" tourist cluster, integration of the Kaliningrad Oblast' into the regional network of water activities, development of Public Private Partnership network, the youth camp «Baltic Artek», creation of the European Institute of Law on the basis of the I. Kant Baltic Federal University, and publishing maps and guidebooks for young travellers.
Funds of the abovementioned mechanisms are also considered as the necessary starting capital for attraction of large credit and investment resources.
Just as the preceding German presidency, we will pay great attention to the subject of power industry. Basing on the regulations of the Russian draft of the International Power Safety Convention, we will make an emphasis on the provision of energy safety in the region of the Baltic sea on the basis of integration of power supply systems of the neighbour countries. In the given context we consider the task of successful completion of the installation of the second line of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and the industrial launch of the BPS-2 oil pipeline to be of exceptional importance. We will encourage our partners to consider objectively the benefits from joining the implementation of the project of the Baltic Nuclear Power Station in Kaliningrad and to listen to our arguments on the costs of the European Union's Third Energy Package.
Question: The government of Russia has adopted the Plan of Actions for the presidency in the Council of the Baltic Sea States. What novelties will be introduced in its activity?
S.V.Lavrov: Presidency in the Council will give us the additional opportunities for the advancement of the Russian interests in the Baltic region and in the Northern Europe, in order to strengthen the active role of Russia in providing stability, partnership and good neighbourhood.
The main task of the Russian presidency should consist in giving new impulses to multilateral interaction, in strengthening the role of the Council of the Baltic Sea States as the basic coordinator of development of regional cooperation so that all the major issues for this region questions were solved with Russian national interests taken into due consideration.
The efforts on the preparation of the main events of CBSS that will be held in Russia during the period of our presidency are aimed at the achievement of these objectives. We are speaking about the already mentioned high level Conference of the countries of the Baltic region on the protection of ecology of the Baltic that will take place at the end of 2012 and the 18th Session of Council at the level of Ministers for Foreign Affairs that will be held in June, 2013.
During the presidency it is planned to lay the ground for the establishment of a large-scale Innovative Direct Investment Fund in the region of the Baltic Sea, which will use the PPP mechanisms with a view of strengthening the competitiveness of the economies of the region, solving the acute infrastructural problems, improving the living standards of the population of our Northwestern areas.
We are pleased by the increased efficiency of the interaction of the multilateral state-to-state diplomacy with business circles. Large financial structures are already showing readiness to extend the usage of advantages of the Public Private Partnership for the benefit of the region. In particular, it is proved by the adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding between the CBSS Secretariat, the Russian State Corporation Vnesheconombank and the German State Bank KfW on the sidelines of the Stralsund meeting in the presence of the First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation I.I. Shuvalov. Within the frames of the abovementioned initiative the CBSS for the first time receives an open platform for attracting the partners and means of financing for the innovative small and medium businesses, and also the Public Private Partnership projects in the spheres of sustainable development of municipal and regional infrastructure, including social infrastructure, energy efficiency, nature protection, and complex development of the Northwestern territories of Russia.
Now the process of primary forming of the applications file on 2012 for a total amount of more than 7 billion rubles is finished. A broad variety of interesting projects is being developed in St.-Petersburg, including, for example, the construction of a garbage recycling plant. It is expected that the Kaliningrad Oblast' will become the next region where large programs in the spheres of nature protection and energy efficiency will be implemented.
The success of the implementation of this initiative will largely determine the strengthening of the status of the CBSS as an organisation that possesses its own financial leverages. We hope that in the nearest future such influential regional institutes as the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) and the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) will pay attention to the abovementioned mechanism of interaction with intergovernmental structures.
Among the other initiatives, we intend to suggest our partners to intensify the work on making contacts between people easier, on the further simplification of the visa regime, to begin an exchange of views on the subject of promotion of traditions of tolerance as a means of counteraction to radicalism and extremism trends in the countries of the region.
The period of the Russian presidency will also include other large events. The events that are planned in St.-Petersburg include the 21st Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference that will take place in August this year, as well as the meetings of the ministers of regional development (September, 2012) and ministers of transport of the Baltic region (second half of 2012). The annual Baltic forum of nongovernmental organisations (first half of 2013), a number of representative international conferences in the CBSS format devoted to the various aspects of practical interaction in the Baltic region – from economy and education to response to the emergency situations, as well as the new global challenges and threats - are going to become other significant events.
Question: Russia is a Baltic country. Our fellow citizens consider themselves as Europeans. And we are not indifferent at all to the way how the situation in the European Union is developing. In 2009 the European Union developed its own Strategy for the region of the Baltic Sea. In 2011 Russia adopted the Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Northwestern Federal District till 2020. What are the prospects of interaction of these two strategies for the benefit of the people living in the Baltic?
S.V.Lavrov: Indeed, in 2009 Strategy of the European Union for the region of the Baltic Sea was adopted. Various mechanisms of the European Union on the Baltic are brought under its aegis. They are dedicated to such issues as preservation of natural environment, ship navigation, safety, and transport. As far as we know, this strategy is being implemented, and the EU has recently summed up the results of the first years of its implementation.
As far as our attitude to the given strategy is concerned, we assume that Russia cannot act neither in a role of its subject, nor in that of its object. It can be explained very simply: this strategy is not an international document. It was worked out on the sole basis of internal European Union rules and standards, it is focused on the implementation of regulations and aspirations of the EU in the region, and, as a state which is not a member of the European Union, we simply cannot follow it unconditionally. We have our own legislation and priorities. First of all, it is the recently accepted Strategy of Social and Economic Development of the Northwestern Federal District up to 2020. We have informed our European Union partners about our position for many times.
In our opinion, the international formats of interaction which have proved their efficiency in the solution of regional problems throughout many years should play the leading part in the Baltic. They were initially formed as international platforms, with the interests of various actors of the region taken into consideration, and work in them is carried out on the basis of equitable partnership.
We are having consultations with the European Commission on the development of interaction in the region of the Baltic sea within the frames of our cooperation with the EU. A large-scale work, both at the state-to-state level and with the participation of the regions of the Northwestern Federal District and the engaged Russian ministries and agencies has been already done in this direction. As a result, a preliminary list of project concepts was formed and the fields of the future Russia-EU cooperation were outlined. In particular, we are speaking about natural environment, transport, power industry and safety. A number of specific projects has already entered the stage of implementation, including the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power station in the Kaliningrad Oblast' and the development of the International youth educational complex Baltic Artek.
I would also like to underline once again – we are not speaking about the involvement of Russia in the Baltic strategy of the European Union. On the contrary, we have reached understanding with our partners that the already known formats of multilateral cooperation will become the platforms of project implementations. In particular, they include the CBSS, the Northern Dimension, the Helsinki Commission and, probably, the Baltic Sea programme of transboundary cooperation in 2014-2020, with a condition of involvement of Russia in its implementation.
In February this year the next round of consultations on the subject of cooperation in the Baltic with the participation of the representatives of the Russian ministries and agencies, as well as the Pskov and Kaliningrad Oblast' and Saint-Petersburg, and the profile Directorates-General of the European Commission took place. Besides, the Partnership of Northern Dimension and the Council of the Baltic Sea States were invited. The meeting has passed in a productive atmosphere, the parties managed to discuss in detail the projects and the ways of their implementation, and to plan further steps. For the acceleration of the work productivity it was agreed to create dedicated working groups at the expert level. We hope that they will start working in the nearest future.
Question: Sergey Viktorovich, you have a reputation of keen collector of jokes. What joke would you like to tell to the readers of the Amber Bridge?
S.V.Lavrov: In connection with our contribution to development of the Public Private Partnership network on the Baltic I would like to share the reconsideration of the very PPP concept. It is said that the ideal Public Private Partnership is the partnership where the two institutes – the institute of private bank secrecy and state diplomatic immunity are harmoniously interacting.
Thank you for the interview.