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Prime Minister Sipilä's Speech at the 7th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region in Stockholm, 8 November 2016

Government Communications Department
Publication date 8.11.2016 15.07

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Vision for the Baltic Sea Region 2030

In our vision, the Baltic Sea Region in 2030 is the world leader in the circular economy and the bioeconomy. The Baltic Sea is much cleaner and we have taken actions that have helped to reduce the effects of climate change.  The region is also in a leading position in the use of digital services, big data and the Internet of Things. Moreover, it will continue to support a world-class sustainable maritime industry. 

Our region offers great potential in both the circular economy and the bioeconomy. The move towards the circular economy is likely to cut carbon emissions by almost 70% by 2030. We will have new bio-based, reusable and clean products and services. Through ecological leadership we improve competitiveness. And we will see remarkable gains in employment.

In the government programme of Finland, the bioeconomy and clean solutions are high priorities. The transition is bigger than ever. We will find solutions and adopt regulations that promote circularity. Firstly, in the circular economy, resources are used as long as possible. Secondly, we are replacing fossil fuel-based resources with renewable ones.  And thirdly, we are investing in the promotion of clean technologies and we are applying resource-efficient and less-polluting innovations.  

Six years ago Finland committed to becoming a model for recycling and improving the Archipelago Sea in 2020. So far, more than 50 projects have been implemented. These projects have resulted in greater recycling efforts and better water quality in this sea area.

The transition to the circular economy will also lead to a reduction in marine waste. If we can replace plastic packaging with bio-based materials and if we can reduce and recycle plastic products more, we can also reduce marine waste. It would be also an important step forwards to ban the use of microplastic particles in cosmetics and hygiene products even though they are only one source of marine waste. I call upon all Baltic Sea member states to jointly support it within the EU.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has taken on the work of implementing the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. The focus areas are bioeconomy, innovation and sustainable cultural relations.

The Council is also supporting the transition away from fossil fuel dependency towards a sustainable bio-based economy in the Baltic Sea Region.

I welcome the establishment of the Baltic Sea Region Bioeconomy Council.  This new council will provide a platform for policy dialogue and development. The aim is to learn about and share the best bio-based business development practices and to provide opportunities for business-to-business cooperation and trade. It is also essential to engage with civil society, because the end-users of all products and services are the consumers.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The countries of the Baltic Sea Region perform well in the Digital Economy and Society Index, especially in citizens’ engagement in the digital economy, eGovernment and digital business. This provides a sound basis for the Baltic Sea Region to be a leading region in the Digital Single Market of Europe.

Digitalisation will allow scaling and trading of services, regardless of geographical location, while digital platforms will enable more efficient use of resources. Mobility as a Service will also extend across the region. By 2030, the Baltic Sea Region can serve as a model for the world in these issues as well.

The adoption of new technologies demands a stable, coherent framework of regulation and support, so that the private sector has the confidence to invest in them. We, the Baltic Sea states, must promote legislation within the EU and all other international recommendations and agreements that are favourable to new technologies.

The expanding energy transmission network in the Baltic Sea Region provides a basis for better integration of energy markets. The transition to renewables and the highly localised production of energy will increase the need for smart grids. The region should lead the development of smart grids and the use of renewable energy by 2030.

Our goal is that data will flow freely across the region and that fibre-optic cables will connect it to other parts of the world. In this way, our region could become a significant hub for hosting data and providing data management expertise. Even more importantly, we should be able to use the data efficiently that we have access to, which will help in improving the welfare of our people and the competitiveness of our economies.

Another important issue is shipping, which is expected to double on the Baltic Sea in the next 20 years. The downside to this is an increase in the risk of accidents.  By means of safe-shipping routes, intelligent navigation services, seamless cross-border cooperation and information sharing, we will certainly tackle the risks and make maritime traffic on the Baltic Sea even safer than it is today. In our vision, the Baltic Sea will be a leading region in 2030 in safe, sustainable and profitable shipping. The maritime industry can provide thousands of new jobs, inspire our youth and benefit our industries.

Within the next 15 years we will be building and operating ships of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. These will evolve from digital ships to intelligent ships and eventually to autonomous ships. As the building of these new generation ships is highly sophisticated, more and more of the production will shift from the Far East back to Europe. At the same time, there will be more focus on sectors where the Baltic Sea countries are very competitive, especially in the cleantech industries, including recycling, renewable energy, information technology, green transport, electric motors, green chemistry, and energy efficiency. In fact, Meyer in Turku is already building the next generation cruise ships, with LNG fuelling and other revolutionary technologies.  

The Nordic Council of Ministers works closely with the European Union also in business development and innovation. The Council’s institution, “Nordic Innovation”, has implemented a number of efforts to develop a single Nordic digital market and to support innovative digital solutions.

Next year, the Nordic–Baltic ministerial conference will address the achievements made so far in the digital economy.

Dear friends,

I’m delighted to emphasise the need for all relevant countries to engage as partners in implementing the EU Baltic Sea Strategy. Norway and Iceland have already joined the cooperation.

The recent developments in Russia and tensions in the relations between Russia and its neighbours cause some concern. To promote stability, we need unity, determination and strategic patience. But we also need dialogue with Russia, on topics that we choose and that we consider relevant.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has an extensive network spanning 20 years of experience in cooperation with North-West Russia. In our vision for 2030, Russia, as it is today, is an active partner in Baltic Sea cooperation, to the benefit of us all.

Dear friends of the Baltic Sea,

I wish you all an inspiring forum and the best of success in your work for the future of the Baltic Sea Region!