The heartbeat of the conference
"Let’s talk about achievements – this is the overarching objective, the soundwave, the heartbeat of the conference. Let’s prove that by collaborating, regions and cities around the Baltic Sea get better at tackling challenges that go beyond borders," announced Susanne Scherrer, director of Interreg Baltic Sea Region’s managing authority and joint secretariat when welcoming all participants in Lübeck. The two-day event gathered more than 300 people from 13 countries, who demonstrated that their hearts beat strongly when talking of the well-being of the Baltic Sea region.
"All of you contribute to regional cohesion, better understanding and peaceful and prosperous coexistence in our region,” highlighted Sabine Sütterlin-Waack, Minister of Justice, European Affairs, Consumer Protection and Equality of Schleswig-Holstein. "We will see that collaboration is the only way to make the Baltic Sea cleaner and safer for the benefit of the people in the area," added Erk Westermann-Lammers, CEO of Investitionsbank Schleswig- Holstein, the joint managing authority of Interreg Baltic Sea Region. Both speakers opened the floor to a more in-depth analysis of what the projects achieved towards a more innovative, better accessible and sustainable region.
Are we on track?
Eeva Rantama and Ronald Lieske, team leaders at the Managing Authority and Joint Secretariat, presented the current project portfolio, synthesised key figures and illustrated achievements. Monitoring Committee members from Poland, Norway and Russia discussed the Programme achievements from their perspective. "The Programme is a very good example that we can work together across EU and non-EU members; it has always been adaptable to the changing situation," stressed Ann Irene Saeternes, Eastern Norway County Network. "Out of theoretical concepts, the projects managed to develop very interesting ideas and tangible results," added Teresa Marcinów, Ministry of Investment and Economic Development of Poland. "We came for the first time with own funding to this Programme. It is a new spirit based on ownership and responsibility," said Igor Kapyrin, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Baltic Sea region challenges in 16 themes
Interreg projects pitched their achievements in twelve parallel sessions. Not an easy bit as some of them were thoroughly challenged by experts and conference participants. Sessions covered a wide variety of topics, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, smart specialisation, circular economy, urban mobility, hazards to the sea. It was all about identifying practical project results and learning what kind of impact Interreg projects can produce.
In parallel, six Interreg Baltic Sea Region project platforms presented their concept of this new instrument. Again, the thematic coverage was broad and included clean shipping, blue bio-economy, water and nutrient management, interoperability as well as maritime emergency preparedness. In a separate plenary session, platform partners, policy makers and business discussed how platform work can influence policy making.
The conference wrap-up
"Our project partners are standing on their feet and know what they are doing," said Margarita Golovko, Monitoring Committee, Ministry of Finance of Estonia, when telling about her impressions during the conference. “Transnational cooperation is like 'super' cooperation. It creates possibilities to involve policy makers and change things in the countries," she added. "Interreg is about sharing tangible results and processes," explained Anna Bäckman Arminen, Monitoring Committee, Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation of Sweden, after attending various sessions. Pekka Jounila, European Commission, DG for Regional and Urban Policy, Policy Coordinator, put his emphasis on the people involved in the projects: "I saw commitment of people involved in Interreg projects and their urge to deliver useful results for the regions. I observed that the people active in Interreg projects see the bigger picture of their activities in the context of the Baltic Sea Region, and through Interreg they participate in the European project."
Elina Hakonen-Meddings, Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission, DG for Regional and Urban Policy, said that she was impressed by the variety and the broad scope of the projects. She also commented on project platforms, which is "an excellent concept to keep project results alive and bring them further." She encouraged people to think outside the box when preparing for the next programming period in the spirit of "enthusiastic and professional drive."
"Interreg is not about cooperation in certain sectors; it is about a cooperation culture, about tools and methods of cooperation in Europe – this is our unique selling point," concluded Jens Kurnol, Monitoring Committee chairman for 2019, Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, Germany.
Susanne Scherrer, inspired by three Nobel Prize winners’ close affiliation to the Baltic Sea region, wrapped up that "together and beyond borders we can do more," encouraging all conference participant to make everybody invest in transnational cooperation.
For more information about the event as well as video footage of keynote speeches, please visit the event page.