11th Ministerial of the Council of Baltic Sea States
Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, 5-6 March 2002
Statement by H.E. Mr. Halldor Asgrimsson,
Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Iceland
Let me congratulate you on convening this meeting here in Svetlogorsk in the Kaliningrad Oblast. It is both significant and in a way symbolic to convene this ministerial here, now that we are commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) under the able Chairmanship of Russia. Kaliningrad Oblast is certainly a central and important part of the Baltic Sea region and looking ahead to the future work of the CBSS, it is evident that a substantial part og our efforts will be focused on the special situation of Kaliningrad.
This ministerial is also an appropriate occasion to pay tribute to the two founding fathers of the CBSS: Mr. Hans Dietrich Genscher and Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, who I am very pleased to see here among us. Although Iceland was not a founding member of the CBSS as we were not able to join until 1995, we were from the outset very much in favor of the establishment of the Council and we joined in at the earliest possible convenience. We were and still are of the opinion that it is in the interest of both the CBSS and Iceland that all Nordic countries be members of this important organisation, not least bearing in mind the vast experience of the Nordic countries in longstanding, regional cooperation. I am confident that Nordic cooperation has served as an impetus to the work of the CBSS.
I believe that we will all agree that the CBSS has proven to be a success story when we look at its many achievements during the past 10 years. The need for regional cooperation in the Baltic Sea region was clearly necessary to enhance stability and prosperity in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the regaining of independence for the Baltic States. The Copenhagen Declaration of 1992 and the establishment of CBSS was therefore both timely and necessary.
The situation we have today is very much different from what it was in 1992. The Baltic Sea region is today developing into one of the most dynamic regions in Europe. Stability is now a characteristic of the region, cross-border cooperation is ever increasing, economic development is thriving and peaceful cooperation is becoming a natural part of daily life.
Looking to the future, all CBSS states except Russia, Norway and Iceland will most probably be members of the European Union within two years time. Furthermore, Norway and Iceland are parties to the EEA Agreement and the Schengen Agreement. This means that all member states of the CBSS, except Russia will be part of the common market and the focus of our cooperation may shift from cooperation between CBSS member states to more focus on cooperation between EU and Russia.
The integration of the prospective new member states of the EU into the common market and other areas of EU cooperation opens for even more possibilities for wide-ranging cooperation across the borders between EU and Russia and will most probably enhance prosperity, stability and democracy in the whole Baltic Sea region, including Russia. The future importance of the CBSS as an instrument in facilitating such cooperation cannot in my view be overestimated, including its potential for facilitating the realisation of the goals of the Northern Dimension to enhance sustainable economic growth in the whole Baltic Sea Region.
I believe that we can all agree that these developments will enhance good neighbourly cooperation in the region and that this will help make the Baltic Sea Region one of the most dynamic regions in Europe for the benefit the 60 million people living in the area.
I would like to offer a few comments on the special situation of Kaliningrad Oblast in our cooperation. The CBSS has played a significant role in facilitating cooperation between the EU, individual CBSS Member States and Kaliningrad. I welcome the Priorities and Projects, presented by the CBSS within the framework of EU}s Northern Dimension Action Plan, as a significant element in facilitating sustainable economic development of Kaliningrad. It is also interesting to note the BAC}s (Business Advisory Council}s) recommendations for increased trade and investments in the Kaliningrad Region, which is useful with its pragmatic approach to the special situation here in this part of Russia. I certainly will urge Icelandic enterprises to look into the trade and investment possibilities here. I should also in particular like to mention that the CBSS has been instrumental in promoting the development and harmonisation of National Emergency Call Services as part of the EUROBALTIC PROJECT in the field of Civil Protection, which includes practical Icelandic Proposals. There is every reason to believe that such a project could be implemented here in the Kaliningrad Oblast and also in other parts of the region for that matter.
We are aware of the problems that have to be solved parallel to the enlargement of the EU. This concerns in particular cross-border movement of people and goods between Kaliningrad and other parts of the Russian Federation. I am confident that both the Russian Federation and the European Union are both willing and able to overcome the problems at hand. This has to be approached in a pragmatic manner and a solution has to be found so that the sustainable economic development of Kaliningrad will not be hampered.
Let me conclude, by saying that as we commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the CBSS we have every reason to praise it}s success and achievements during the past decade. To the founding fathers I would only like to say that this has been worthwhile. In looking ahead to the near future we can easily reaffirm that the CBSS will continue to play an important role. We should take care to adapt it to new and changing circumstances in order to secure peace and prosperity for the well-being of all those living in the region.
Finally, allow me to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, for a successful Russian Chairmanship. I would also like to thank you and the respective Russian Authorities for the excellent arrangements here in Svetlogorsk and for your hospitality. My gratitude and appreciation is also extended to Governor Egorov.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
11th Ministerial of the Council of Baltic Sea States