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Statement by Urmas Reinsalu at the high level meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

19. Mai 2020 - 15:24

Dear Jeppe, dear colleagues,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

The COVID-19 outbreak has created many challenges to all of our countries with restrictions introduced to counter the spread of it. It has prevented us from travelling to Bornholm, a beautiful island in the Baltic Sea on which you, Jeppe, grew up and were so kindly to host us. We definitely visit Bornholm one day in the near future!
Today, we will mark the  successful conclusion of the Danish Presidency with accomplished CBSS reforms 2018-2020, initiated through the 2018 Vision Group Report and  the Stockholm Declaration, and endorsed in Jurmala, June 2019.
My sincere congratulations to our Danish colleague and his able Presidency team for safeguarding the successful implementation of the Roadmap of the CBSS reforms! You have succeeded in reviving the Council as a relevant and efficient platform for high-level intergovernmental dialogue and practical cooperation on issues of common interest and relevance! Well done!

Dear colleagues,
allow me now to tackle some of the topical issues for the Baltic Sea region that I would like to highlight from Estonian perspective:
First, the challenges related to countering the spread of COVID-19 virus demonstrate clearly the need for our continued, even more deepened coordination and exchange of information in the field of civil protection. Strengthened regional cooperation is the key for better preparedness in the face of serious ramifications of the virus and when mitigating the impacts of the restrictions introduced. I would like to highlight our interest for closer coordination at every format to help to restore long - awaited free movement and much needed economic activities, while maintaining focus on protecting public health.
In Estonia, we have seen the COVID-19 crisis underlining the importance of digitalization as a tool to strengthen the functioning and resilience of affected countries and societies. E-services, including public services, e-platforms for data-exchange, e-school, advanced e-health solutions (like e-prescriptions for example), have made it feasible to continue many activities during the lockdowns. We should collectively prioritize and support the developments of modern digital technology and find an effective mechanism to share each-others’ experience and best practices. Estonia is ready to share the experience gained!

Secondly, I would like to highlight the importance of fostering the systematic and overarching engagement of young people and youth organisations on all levels in the Baltic Sea region. In this context, we welcome the recent establishment of Baltic Sea Youth Platform managed by CBSS Secretariat with Estonian Youth Council as an associated partner.
Empowering the young, and enhancing their political impact in different levels of policy-making has been a long-time priority for Estonian government. Estonia is among the few European countries where from 2016, people from the age of 16 have the right to vote in local elections.

We also support the creation of advisory panels of young people at all municipal governments, encouraging their more substantive inclusion into the national policy-making.

In this context, allow me one more example that demonstrates the enormous potential young people have, their willingness to think along and act once they are entrusted with the role and encouraged to voice their opinion. In early April, young people in Estonia organised the world’s first online youth hackathon Hack the Crises: Youth, where young people came up with the ideas how to ease and fight the effects of the COVID-19. Initiative turned into the world wide e-movement and I am sure had a remarkable contribution from young people in the Baltic Sea Region.

Thirdly, as regards the environment and climate-related challenges, let me first reaffirm our full commitment to the ongoing regional initiatives in line with the 2030 Agenda to promote sustainable development, address climate change and protect The Baltic Sea marine environment. I would like to emphasize the good work of HELCOM in renewing action plan that aims at significantly improved environmental status of the Baltic Sea (by 2030).
(As you know, we are guided by the EU target of climate neutrality by 2050 with our ambitious national target to reduce the total GHG emission by 70% compared to 1990 by 2030).

Dear colleagues,
Let me now ponder upon the opportunities we see in the European Green Deal, which is meant to boost resource efficient and competitive economy in Europe. Among other goals, it supports transition to renewables in energy production. There are several ways to increase the share of renewable energy in Estonia as well as in the whole Baltic Sea region. We can use our common sea to harness the potential of wind. In Estonia, we have identified the marine areas suitable for offshore wind parks and they alone cover an area of 1,800 Think about the potential of regional co-operation!
That´s why our grid operators have launched the Offshore Grid Initiative, an all-Baltic offshore wind energy network. Large-scale wind energy projects are competitive and cost-efficient, they will diversify the region´s energy mix, integrate the markets and contribute to the energy security. It would also make a good investment along the lines of Green Financing. Isn´t it our common goal? It would be an excellent example of regional co-operation.  Estonia and Latvia have made the first steps and are preparing a common offshore wind project in the Gulf of Riga. I hope the Offshore Grid Initiative will gain broad political support around the Baltic Sea. In this context, I would also mention the potential of hydrogen, another area Estonia is working on. 

Fourth, as regards the fight against cross-border organised crime,
we would like to underline the growing importance of our enhanced cooperation, rapid exchange of information and joint investigations in the format of the Baltic Sea Task Force on Organized Crime.

The nature of organised crime is changing: the proportion of cybercrime is rapidly growing, corruption is getting more and more hidden, new forms of complex international cross-border crime like hybrid and financial crimes are emerging. Not to mention the new threats related to technological development like virtual currencies, cyber security and artificial intelligence.
We have to start to focus more on combating the new areas of crime. It is an increasing priority for Estonian government and should become a priority for our cooperation on the regional level!

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to confirm Estonia’s continuous political commitment to the work of the Council that aims at fostering mutual understanding, trust and stability and stands for overall development and well-being of our region so pertinent to our citizens.

To that end, we are happy to support the adoption of the revised Terms of Reference of the CBSS and of the CBSS Secretariat, as well as Bornholm Declaration at today’s meeting.

In conclusion, allow me once again to thank our Danish colleagues for the excellent work done and for organising today’s video conference! The Presidency will be taken over by our Baltic friend Lithuania whom we wish productive year and every success and in taking this cooperation further!

Finally, yet importantly,
we would like pass our thanks to Ambassador Maira Mora, who is completing her assignment at the CBSS in the end of the summer, for her dedication and outstanding work as Director General of the CBSS Secretariat!

Thank you!

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