Text by CBSS Communications
The Council of the Baltic Sea States was established in 1992. The Secretariat was established in 1998 and back in the 90s was in many ways a pioneering and entrepreneurial organization. It tried out new cooperation mechanisms, creating and closing structures as necessity demanded and exploring new areas of practical expertise that needed to be skilled-up. In addition to the work happening on the ground there were regular high-level political events where structure and guidance was given to the work. To date there have been 18 Ministerial Sessions, 9 Baltic Sea States Summits and numerous other Ministerial gatherings.
The region today is not where we thought it would be back in 1992. In some ways the region is a paragon of success but in other areas challenges persist. In the beginning only two members of the CBSS were European Union members but by the mid-2000s the regional architecture had developed at such a pace that the organization needed new impetus and priorities as some of the actions were subsumed by the European Union.
In 2008 the organization agreed on a reform and in 2010 this was complemented by a Vision until 2020, which served the CBSS well until the delineation of tasks between actors changed again with the much fêted arrival of the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.
Currently the organization is well represented within the EUSBSR, the organization co-coordinates and a Policy Area and two Horizontal Actions and is well equipped as a project leader. However, apart from a revision and streamlining of priorities in 2014 there was a realization that the CBSS on the approach to 2020 still needed to decide what it was best placed to achieve from 2020 onwards towards 2030.
It is here where the Vision Group steps onto the stage.
In order to solve this apparent connection between what has been achieved, what is being accomplished currently and what is the potential moving forward a decision to establish a Vision Group for the future of the CBSS was taken in Reykjavik on 20 June 2017. The Foreign Ministers and a High Representative of the European Union invited the CBSS to appoint an independent group of wise women and men with the task to elaborate a report with recommendations for a vision for the Baltic Sea Region beyond 2020 and especially on the future role of the CBSS. The Vision Group met for the first time in December 2017 and subsequently met twice more.
A year later on 18 June 2018, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, centred the Ministerial in Stockholm around the future reforms based on the findings of the CBSS Vision Group. The report was presented to the delegations by the Chair of the Vision Group, Mr. Petteri Vuorimäki. The Member States expressed their continued support for the mission of the CBSS, while emphasizing the need to focus on restoring trust in the region.
It is up to the Latvian and Danish Presidencies to take these discussions forward though in addition to these deliberations a number of other forums are encouraged to also engage in building a new and rejuventated vision for the Baltic Sea Cooperation of the future.
The CBSS Vision Group paper will be further reflected in a half-day seminar “The future of Baltic Sea Region Cooperation” on November 23 in Turku, Finland. The event is organised by the Baltic Area Legal Studies (BALEX) in cooperation with EUSBSR HA Neighbours.