17th Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Ministerial Meeting
Remarks by Mr. Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
7th June 2011, Oslo
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is always good to be in Oslo and to discuss the challenges standing before our region in such an inspiring and informal atmosphere. I would also like to thank our good hosts for a successful chairmanship and to wish much strength to Germany’s Presidency.
During the last 12 months there has been significant progress made in the fight against trafficking, maritime policy, and organisational reform – the priorities of the Norwegian Presidency. The CBSS has been able to create synergy with projects of the European Union’s Baltic Sea States Strategy making co-operation more structured and adopting guidelines for co-operation with different regional organisations.
Moreover, we have become more visible by updating our communication strategy and starting to use new media tools. After all, these days if you are not in Wikipedia, Twitter or Facebook, you practically do not exist, at least in our area of highly advanced new technology.
I believe our next big challenge is to implement the advantages of new and innovative technology more broadly for the sake of developing advanced cross-regional infrastructures in other fields of life as well, especially in transportation and energy. For this to happen, co-operation between universities, academics, and scientists, as well as student exchange, should be promoted even more strongly.
For this reason Estonia supports the Eurofaculty Project in Pskov, which is indeed an outstanding example of how combined efforts in the CBSS area can achieve very tangible and hopefully also lasting results.
Another area where similar results are needed is the sustainable management of our common sea. In light of the CBSS reform towards a more action-oriented and visible organisation, some important steps have already been taken in this direction. In this context I would like to commend the work of the Expert Group on Sustainable Development for drafting the relevant CBSS Strategy as well as launching the BALTADAPT project, which seeks to prepare a climate change adaptation strategy for the whole Baltic Sea region.
In addition to new initiatives, there are good examples of our effective long-term actions as well, such as in the fight against human trafficking. The co-operation in this area has been going on for years and yielded good results. Estonia welcomes the emphasis of the task force in the coming period upon the issues of labour exploitation and would like to emphasise that other forms of exploitation, especially those concerning women and children, should also be kept on the table. In Estonia we have recently commenced work on creating a guardianship system for unaccompanied and trafficked children and drawn up a new form for gathering information on victims of trafficking in order to receive more reliable data. We have also committed to introducing a separate provision on human trafficking in the Penal Code.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased that Germany, as the incoming President of the CBSS, has set cultural co-operation as one of its priorities. Since I represent this year’s European Capital of Culture I appreciate this decision very much. No matter how intertwined we are in this region, there is always room to increase cultural exchange. But of course, for much more as well.
Estonia’s late president Lennart Meri said: “The Baltic Sea area is not only a geographical concept, but also a mental, cultural, and economic one. /.../ Our economic culture and structure have quickly readjusted themselves to those of our Northern and Western neighbours.”
Although these words were said ten years ago and by today Estonia is best known as a country with advanced ICT solutions, not a subcontractor, I believe this phrase encompasses the very essence of our region, pointing accurately to our assets. We are indeed able to adapt and adjust relatively fast in order to meet the emerging challenges. Consider, for example, our response to the global economic downturn or our joint efforts to protect the Baltic Sea.
Furthermore, we should use every opportunity to grow as a region by introducing the best practices and experiences of individual countries. There is a lot more we can and should achieve, for example in becoming a world leader in smart growth and promoting a green economy.
The Riga Declaration on reform followed by the Vilnius Declaration, embrace a far-reaching vision for our region by setting ambitious goals, the fulfilment of which would benefit the whole Baltic Sea area and beyond. We should follow this path and try to reach out as well. Based on the history of the Baltic Sea area during last two decades, I am certain that we have a lot to offer. In the light of the Arab spring, for example, the lessons from our successful transition would serve as encouragement for all the countries pursuing an open society, democracy, and the rule of law.
Estonia’s fast transition into the most integrated country in Northern Europe would not have happened without you, our close friends and neighbours around the Baltic Sea. This year, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our independence and the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with your countries, it is my pleasure to express our gratitude.