The third meeting of the Euroregion Baltic Executive Board this year has taken place on 9th June in Gdańsk. The meeting focused on the future cooperation within Euroregion Baltic.
The session began with a special address by the President of Euroregion Baltic, Mr Jacek Protas in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the democratic changes in Eastern and Central Europe, and fifth anniversary of the 2004 EU Enlargement. After contributions from the other members of the Board, the discussion focused on the main topic of the meeting, i.e. future cooperation within ERB.
The central objective for the ERB cooperation has been the implementation of the Joint Development Programme. It has been reflected in our strategic initiatives, e.g. involvement in the South Baltic CBC Programme, as well as in more practical endeavours, such as the establishment of thematic reference networks within the Interreg Seagull II project, which were transformed into the Working Groups.
ERB Working Groups will now implement specific tasks of the Programme. The four projects developed and submitted to the South Baltic CBC Programme deal with the issues related to the development of a network of labour market organizations (BaltNet), the establishment of a knowledge exchange network of incubators and science and technology parks (DISKE), the increase of energy saving though conversion to LED lighting in public spaces (LED), and modern water management (MOMENT). 35 project partners and 15 associated organizations will implement projects which will last up to three years. In total, the budgets of these projects amount to 6.8 MEUR (with the ERDF funding of 5.5 MEUR). The Joint Development Programme also remains the prioritised objective within the ERB action plans which are adopted every year by the Council at the beginning of each new presidency in Euroregion Baltic.
In the coming years Euroregion Baltic will also commit itself to further integration of local communities and youth. To this end, a Youth Board was incorporated into the organizational structure of Euroregion Baltic, giving the young representatives of the member regions an opportunity to influence the work within ERB. Initiatives at the local level and people to people cooperation projects will be coordinated by the special Working Group established in February 2009.
Current and new challenges related to such EU policies as EU Cohesion Policy, Baltic Sea Strategy, European Neighbourhood Policy, and Eastern Partnership will constitute a natural arena for Euroregion Baltic to test its institutional and organizational capacities. In this respect, closer cooperation with the Working Groups as well as more coordinated efforts among the ERB member regions seem crucial in order to continue to enhance ERB’s role as an important actor in the Baltic Sea Region.
The aim of the discussion was to find best possible solutions to the management of joint ERB resources (both administrative and financial) to face the ever-increasing intensity of the cooperation, and at the same time enable continuous build-up of the ERB brand. Opinions and arguments voiced during the debate highlighted first of all the necessity of ensuring an effective flow of information between the ERB Council, Executive Board, Working Groups, and secretariats. Growing pressure to coordinate a number of joint initiatives on the part of the secretariats is in the opinion of many a major challenge in our future work.
It was also generally recognised that ERB’s external activity in EU and BSR debates will not only help us acquire necessary knowledge of current issues but also result in better visibility and higher profile of Euroregion Baltic on the international arenas. Therefore, focus will be placed on joint initiatives with other key players in Europe, e.g. Committee of the Regions, Baltic Development Forum, Baltic 7 Islands or Baltic Sea States Sub-regional Co-operation.
The Board took time to discuss other issues related to the cooperation within Euroregion Baltic, including a request to extend the composition of the Board with a representative of the Association of Polish Communes and a thematic scope of a future joint ERB project. Such a project, it was agreed, should bring added value to the ERB cooperation. It was noted that the two previous projects – Seagull devERB and Seagull II – apart from the facilitation of the JDP–related goals, were generally considered to have brought in a unifying element into the work within the organisation. In addition, the technical capacity of providing financial assistance to special activities within the ERB has also a more pragmatic aspect. It makes Euroregion Baltic an efficient organisation able to generate funds with the membership fees allocated by its member regions. It seems extremely important, especially when these membership fees need to be defended among other costs borne by the regional administration.
Another aspect concerned the added value that such a project should also bring to the member regions themselves. Thus, the regions had been asked to forward their project proposals. Two ideas were presented to the Board:
1. a Key Study on the Creation of ERB Business Promotion System, and
2. a BSS Pilot Project Aiming at Decreasing CO2 emission.
Since the Board could not reach unanimity the ERB secretariats were asked to work on a compromise proposal which would then seek approval of the Board at its next meeting in October 2009.