Written by Let’s communicate!
As defined in EUSBSR Action Plan, flagship is frequently the result of a policy discussion within a policy area or horizontal action. It fleshes out the ambition to achieve EUSBSR objectives in a specified field. Flagships in form of project and processes are being implemented by EUSBSR countries in cooperation with their non-EU neighbours.
Horizontal Action (HA) Neighbours, which aims to bring together stakeholders in the EU and neighbouring countries, North Western territories of the Russian Federation, Norway, Belarus and Iceland, also coordinates actions of developing and implementing practical cooperation processes and flagships beneficial for the development of EUSBSR and horizontal action ‘Neighbours’ goals
Create a network and try to reach the whole region with the best medium suited for the given problem at hand
According to HA Neighbours coordinator Juhani Ailio, there are currently roughly 70-80 ongoing flagship projects or processes in different fields and with different countries participating. “The ideal is that all BSR countries are involved, and all levels of society are activated in some ways while implementing flagship. However, considering that ideal structure in numbers could explain why it is so difficult to reach practically. There are 12 countries in the region and if we want to even come close to having a truly multi-level approach to the issue, we need to have around 8 organizations from each country involved. Consequently, that is nearly 100 different actors, whose work someone would have to coordinate. In just one flagship,” Mr. Ailio illustrated.
However, numbers are numbers and reality is reality. The best solutions, offered by HA Neighbours coordinator, is to have the most suited possible sample of all the possible partners in the region, create network out of them and try to reach the whole region through them with the best medium suited for the given problem at hand.
HA Neighbours coordinator provided some great examples of implementation of EUSBSR through regional cooperation. “For example, the Baltic University Programme works towards developing university level education and their network reaches throughout the region and beyond. Cooperation in education at all levels is extremely important in connecting the region and in solving many other issues of the region,” Juhani Ailio observed.
It is a very specific issue that cannot be solved by just one part or level of society
“As the Baltic University Programme is tackling their issues “horizontally”, STM BALTSAFE, funded by Interreg BSR, is doing it vertically. The task of the project is to contribute to increased safety of navigation in the Baltic Sea by providing Sea Traffic Management (STM) enabled maritime services to the tanker traffic in the Baltic. It is a very specific issue, which cannot be solved by just one part or level of society. There is a need to involve maritime businesses, which would be the end-users, universities or research institutions to be part of the creation of the system, maritime interest groups to assess the big picture from an expert point of view and many different authorities to make sure that the technical solution created can and will be implemented all over the Baltic Sea. Finally, a third example could be BSR Water Platform, funded by Interreg BSR, which is flagship jointly supported by FOUR different EUSBSR Policy Areas. The objective of the project is to enhance cross-sectoral cooperation in smart water management by providing a possibility for transnational experience exchange, sharing of good practices and solutions, as well as delivering comprehensive overview of the current and future regional policy. The platform is bringing the countries and levels of society together in water management related issues and at the same time solving both climate, environment and hazardous substances related problems.” Project platforms, a funding instrument of Interreg Baltic Sea Region, support EUSBSR policy area and horizontal action coordinators by linking results of EU funded projects and feeding them to policy development in their thematic areas.
As Juhani Ailio noted above, for a flagship to be successful, respond to the needs of the entire region and provide the greatest potential for regional problem solving, joint action and contribution of both EU and non-EU BSR countries with different expertise are needed. Maxim Balanev, Executive director of St. Petersburg Foundation for SME Development, which is involved in implementation of flagship projects, agreed that BSR shares the same challenges that requires joint forces and expertise, since environment protection, sustainable development and improving living standards are the most vital for a steady economic growth and overall social stability in the region. “Thanks to HA Neighbours, NGOs and SMEs, as well as administrations of the North-West regions of Russia, can get a unique opportunity to discuss the challenges with other countries of the region. This multilateral approach contributes to the development of solutions, which are efficient for the whole region. The best practices of one country may be adopted and scaled up in the others creating the synergy effect of the partnership. As we work to help small and medium-sized businesses as well as start-ups to keep up and grow, we appreciate all the insights and experience that the cooperation in the framework of HA Neighbours is providing,” Maxim Balanev said.
Exchange of observations, ideas, experiences, brainstorming and foresight sessions provide unique integral solutions
St. Petersburg Foundation for SME Development, as non-EU partner, is involved in two ongoing EUSBSR flagship projects: INBETS BSR and Smart Up Accelerator. INBETS BSR, funded by Interreg BSR, addresses the problem of business transfer, since today majority projects have a focus on creating new companies rather than maintain existing ones, even though business transfers have a higher impact on the economic growth than start-ups. Partners from 9 different BSR countries aim to examine, further develop and design innovative and transferable models and tools for facilitating SME business transfers, make them widely available and implement them in companies. According to Maxim Balanev, this topic is very important in Russia as well, since business owners gets older and are looking for successors to continue running their company. Moreover, through collaboration project Smart Up Accelerator, funded by Interreg BSR, project partners focus on building consumer cleantech ecosystems, activating its innovation actors and improving their skills to identify brilliant ideas and foster teams committed to creating new businesses. Maxim Balanev pointed out that due to the projects’ active participation in major events in St. Petersburg, more and more Russian stakeholders get informed about the importance of HA Neighbours key objectives and regional cooperation opportunities.
According to Maxim Balanev, there are some differences in the way BSR countries perceive the challenges, and they take various approaches to deal with them. “We do not consider our differences as an obstacle to fruitful cooperation. Due to the exchange of observations, ideas, experiences, brainstorming and foresight sessions it is possible to provide unique integral solutions. Therefore, we are trying to use all the opportunities to make the life in our regions better,” M. Balanev concluded.
The regional cooperation between EU and non-EU BSR countries allows to foster economic development, create more jobs and protect our environment using joint forces. It is essential to keep in mind that togetherness and joint actions open full potential to all BSR countries to contribute to improvement of whole region.
The projects mentioned in the text are financed by Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme.