Address by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the seminar on Finnish-Polish Baltic Sea Partnership in Gdansk on 1 April 2015

It gives me great pleasure to address this Seminar on Finnish-Polish Baltic Sea Partnership in the historic city of Gdansk. This is truly a historic city. It played a key role in the fundamental change of our region and of whole Europe for more than 25 years ago. As a birthplace of Solidarnosc, the first independent trade union in the former socialist block, this was the city where the famous call for freedom, democracy and human rights was voiced out.

The cold war that had separated the nations around the Baltic Sea, came to its end. The three Baltic states regained their independence, their borders opened and a fresh dynamic development started towards open societies, stable democracy and economic growth. There was much hope in the air.

This change also made it possible for the Baltic Sea countries to come together and start a fruitful cooperation. In fact a whole new cooperation network was soon established – and here again the City of Gdansk played a central role.  In 1990 this City hosted the first meeting of the prime ministers of the Baltic Sea countries.

The Gdansk City Council, that had been elected in the first free and democratic elections in the same year, adopted as its first resolution “a declaration of intention to stimulate cooperation between Baltic cities” – as you Mr. Mayor being a member of that Council very well know. As a result the Union of Baltic Cities was founded here in 1991. The city has generously hosted its secretariat ever since.

In accordance with this spirit of cooperation, the European Union adopted the strategy for the Baltic Sea Region five years ago as the first macro regional strategy within the Union. The purpose of the Strategy was, and still is to find solutions to our common challenges, especially in saving the Baltic Sea and in levelling differences in economic welfare in the region. These are the same challenges we are addressing here today.

Saving our sea is certainly an objective where our actions will be measured by the people of our region. Much has been achieved in the recent years through improved waste water treatment. But much needs still to be done to reach the good status of the Sea by 2021 as we have together agreed in HELCOM. Finland and Poland have implemented good joint waste water treatment projects. New common plans will be presented in this seminar.

Finland and Poland also share a special responsibility as our ministries for environment together coordinate the policy area “Nutri”, reducing nutrient emissions within the EU Strategy. In fact allowing nutrients to flow through rivers to the sea is a huge waste of valuable resources. There will soon be scarcity of phosphorus in the world. Recycling of nutrients would truly benefit our economies. We need to stop wasting our valuable waste!

Thanks to the increased exchange and opening of new markets the Baltic Sea Region has been one of the fastest growing regions in Europe. This region produces 11 per cent of the GDP of the European Union and its growth is above the EU average. The relatively high competitiveness, productivity and employment rates, as well as the high level of education and investments in research and development form a good basis for our future.

Finland and Poland are neighbors united by the Baltic Sea. Both countries are very dependent on the exchange in this region and on the transport routes provided by the sea. In Finland we should recognize the dynamic development of the Polish economy and look for business opportunities here. And the other way round I hope that Polish companies would pay attention to the Northern shore of the Baltic Sea. We have knowledge, skills and resources in our countries that can very well complement each other and bring welfare to our societies.

We look forward to the Polish Presidency in the Council of the Baltic Sea States beginning next July and wish it all success. We appreciate the contribution of Poland to the Baltic Sea cooperation and share your views of the need to strengthen the CBSS as the most important intergovernmental institution in the region. 

We have an established cooperation structure in our region, many networks have been created, projects implemented and much has been achieved. It is vital that we keep these networks and channels alive even when times get rough on international level. This is why Finland and Poland must work together for maintaining the Baltic Sea Region as a model of cooperation.

Thank you! Dziękuję bardzo!