Written by Ann Irene Saeternes, Head of European Affairs, Eastern Norway County Network
Norway is closely linked to Baltic Sea Region (BSR) and has taken active part in Baltic Sea Region cooperation on national, regional and local level for many years. Norway is also closely linked to EU through the EEA agreement and supports the economic, social and sustainable development of the BSR among others through the EEA and Norwegian financial instruments. Norwegian regions are actively involved in Baltic Sea Region co-operation through different Baltic Sea organisations, through participation in cross-border and transnational cooperation programmes (Interreg) and by taking part in projects as well as bilateral cooperation measures.
The base for our policy work is the belief that balanced, sustainable, democratic and safe development in our neighbouring areas forms an important basis for economic growth and value creation, while dialogue and close cooperation with countries and regions in Northern Europe provide input and inspiration for the development of our societies.
The EUSBSR is therefore an important strategic framework and tool also for Norwegian Baltic Sea interests and actions.
Being a partner country the awareness and knowledge of the EUSBSR in Norway is not high. To raise awareness we have over the past years focused on communication and knowledge of the EUSBSR among Norwegian public and private actors. Our aim has been to encourage more involvement from Norwegian authorities – national and regional – into the work of PACs and HACs and to involve more Norwegian actors in flagship development processes and projects.
In addition, it has been important for us to better promote the participation of Norway as a partner country in the EUSBSR towards the EU member countries. To raise awareness in the countries and regions that Norwegian actors can add value to the work of the Policy Area and Horizontal Action coordinators as well as to Flagship initiatives. To do so we have among others used our participation in the “Let’s Communicate!” project to open doors. We also use existing arenas and partnerships to make our participation more visible in the BSR within the EUSBSR structures.
Through participation in the “Let’s Communicate!” project, we have been able to establish a Norwegian communication point for the EUSBSR. In addition, we have arrange three thematic seminars to promote the strategy and to reach out to a broader audience in Norway with information about the strategy. Using a thematic approach – we have been able to present some of the key policy areas – how they work and what they focus their priorities on. As Norway is part of the Interreg programmes – practical cooperation projects are used to show the value added of BSR cooperation and thus the EUSBSR for Norway.