Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen at the seminar on the future of Europe in Turku
A country by the sea is never a small country!
(subject to changes)
Mr Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Estonias late President Lennart Meri has said that a country by the sea is never a small country.
For Estonia and Finland, the Baltic Sea has always offered an open route for trade. Moreover, ships used to bring news and new ideas to our harbours. To this day they remain essential for trade and tourism.
We suffer from long distances to European and other markets. And even if globalisation and the digital revolution have shrunk the distances for people and business, we continue to depend on seafaring.
The Baltic Sea region is our home field. The players around it range from the small and dynamic Estonia to the leading EU Member State Germany and to the vast Russian Federation. However different we are, geographic proximity is a natural reason for close cooperation.
Today I will approach Baltic Sea cooperation from three different angles: European, economical and environmental. The three Es are interlinked and inseparable.
The European Union provides both Estonia and Finland alike with an internal market and strength in international trade negotiations. As Member States, we have wider shoulders in foreign and security policy.
The Baltic Sea members of the European Union have joined forces within the European Union. The creation of the Northern Dimension and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region are the sweet fruits of our common efforts.
We need to keep the Baltic Sea Strategy high on the EU agenda. It is crucial for the future of the Strategy that its objectives are clear and even more specific. More detailed and concrete objectives motivate the Member States and local partners to implement the strategy more effectively. Finland calls for even stronger commitment among the Baltic Sea States.
The future funding for the Strategy is important. The EU's Multi-annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020 is currently under preparation. In this context we need to be innovative when looking for funding for the implementation of the Strategy.
The Baltic Sea Region has a tradition of cooperation in the sector of competitiveness and the single market. This cooperation needs to be strengthened. The Baltic Sea area is a natural reference for cross-border business.
In the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region we have existing mechanisms to prevent and remove obstacles of implementing the EU internal market. I know that Estonia is working hard as coordinator of the strategy's Priority Area six, which aims at removing hindrances to the internal market in the Baltic Sea region.
We already have structures in place to share best practices regarding the implementation of the Services Directive and implementation of the Commissions important recommendation on improving the functioning of the single market, among other things.
The Baltic Sea area should be made an area that fully utilises the Single Market framework. This will mean:
1. Identifying and removing remaining Single Market barriers;
2. A high level of commitment for the ongoing work to boost implementation; and
3. Intensified problem-solving cooperation.
All this will require resources, which of course are scarce in all countries. The investment will, however, pay us back. If we manage to develop the Baltic Sea area into a true Single Market, it would benefit not only us but the whole of the Union.
It would serve as a pilot area for a well-functioning Single Market, creating a model of best practice for all other Member States to work from.
A well-functioning single market relies on good implementation. The method for enhancing the single market in the Baltic area should be built on tight cooperation between the EU countries around the Baltic Sea. I call for the relevant ministries in our countries to establish an expert network a high level single market task force that would work on the implementation of single market legislation and other policies relevant to business. The aim should be a uniform regulatory environment that would make cross-border business as easy as possible.
Dont get me wrong: I am not suggesting a competing market inside the Single Market. This is not a diversification of the Single Market; it is simply a way of strengthening it.
I have already mentioned long distances.
In order to make the Baltic Sea area really connected, transport infrastructure is of major importance. One target of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy is to make transport connections faster and travel times shorter.
The next Financial Framework will hopefully place stronger emphasis on transport corridors such as the Bothnian Corridor and Rail Baltica. These corridors will improve the integration of Baltic Sea States into the EUs single market.
To improve the competitiveness of the area, cross-border links with neighbouring Russia should work smoothly. It would be wise, also within the EU financial framework, to pay attention to these cross-border connections.
Inexpensive energy is another basic requirement for competitiveness.
Finland has highlighted the importance of developing the EU´s internal energy markets. Well functioning energy markets give the best signals for investment and improve energy security.
Estonia has taken the lead on implementing the internal electricity market reform in the Baltic States. The launch of the Estlink power market area in the spring of 2010 was a great success. This enabled the implementation of the Estlink 2 power cable with financial aid from the European Union.
We are willing to support efforts to find positive solutions for electricity imports from third countries, and especially from Russia, to EU Member States. However, from the Finnish point of view, it is necessary that the rules for trading electricity with third countries are agreed simultaneously with the de-synchronisation plan for the Baltic States electricity grid.
The third E on my list was environment.
Another area where we need to put our money where our mouths are.
The health of the Baltic Seas ecosystem remains of great concern.
Recently, however, some positive developments have been reported: the number of protected areas has increased, currently covering over 10 per cent of the Baltic Sea marine area. This means that the Baltic Sea is the first sea region in the world to reach the 10 per cent target set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
Nutrient input remains one of the key threats to the Baltic Sea ecosystem. It is quite clear that agriculture, airborne nitrogen input from both land and sea-based activities, and untreated municipal wastewater are the main sources of excessive nutrient input into the Baltic Sea. In this regard, progress has been made in reducing point source discharges. For diffuse sources, the situation is far less satisfactory.
Illegal oil spills have decreased. However, the remarkable growth of maritime traffic in the Baltic increases the risk of potential major pollution accidents. Safe navigation is the basis for protection against oil and chemical pollution. Additional measures to further improve maritime safety are still needed.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset I mentioned Russia.
The Baltic Sea is not a sea within the EU. Any meaningful cooperation in the area will require cooperation with Russia.
Soon, we will see an end to an 18-year long process, when Russia finally becomes a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is likely to happen as soon as mid-2012.
A country outside the WTO is for many an unpredictable partner in economical terms. This is about to change with Russia.
Its value cannot be overstated. Both Russia and its trading partners like us benefit hugely from Russias integration into the global, rules-based system of trade relations.
We expect their WTO accession to give a new boost to the overall investment and business climate in Russia. This will certainly raise interest among foreign investors and this in the current economic turmoil will help us all in the region.
The Northern Dimension is a concrete tool for cooperation between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. It has not appeared on the front pages lately, but it has actually been a success story, with new cooperation and new partnerships. It also gives us a good structure for equal cooperation with all our partners.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I see great potential in the Baltic Sea cooperation with the three E´s Europe, the economy and the environment. On this occasion I would especially like to underline the potential that lies in removing the remaining Single Market barriers.
And now I would like give the floor to another great E, namely Estonia and its Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.