The 13th EUSBSR Annual Forum organised in the city of Lappeenranta at the end of September, invited participants to move from plans to practice. The week-long series of events brought the EUSBSR family together for the first time after the pandemic.

The participants of the forum were invited to join numerous webinars, seminars, workshops, and plenary sessions, which brought on stage experts from every level of EUSBSR implementation. To highlight the EU year of the youth and as an act of direct involvement of the youth, the Baltic Sea Youth Platform presented the brand new Baltic Sea Youth Declaration 2022.


Regional cooperation is a stabilising power

The EUSBSR was designed and renewed in a world very different from the one we are living in now. Societies are still in the process of recovery after the pandemic, Russia is illegally invading Ukraine, and the whole continent is facing winter in a situation where energy has turned into a ball in the game of power politics. The only thing which has not come as a surprise is the ongoing climate crisis, as Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Interior of Finland pointed out in the closing plenary session.

Among the participants and speakers, there was a strong consensus on the power and relevance of multilateral, multilevel cooperation.


"Regional cooperation is a stabilising power during volatile times. The multilevel governance is what makes it so powerful." Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland


In his keynote speech, Minister Haavisto pointed out that the foundation for political stability is shaking and that the security situation in the Baltic Sea region is now more unpredictable than it has ever been after the cold war. In his view, having not only the national governments working together but also the regional authorities, the academia, and the civil society is the key to success.


28Sep Opening plenary session2 photo Minna Kivistö

Opening plenary session. Participants from the left: Krista Mikkonen, Jyrki Katainen, Silva Laure, Bettina Martin, Pekka Haavisto. Photo: Minna Kivistö


Putting plans into practice

The theme of the forum Putting plans into practice was very present throughout the week. Not only because the strategy has obtained a certain level of maturity and is ready to be embedded in regional and national policies but also because the climate crisis and the energy crisis, the green recovery after the pandemic, and the war, all call for urgent actions for a more united and green Baltic Sea Region. 


"We are ready with planning and talking. It's time to focus on concrete actions." Magda Leszczyna-Rzucidło, Policy Area Coordinator, PA Tourism, Pomorskie Tourist Board


Elisa Ferreira, EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, and several other speakers emphasised that all possible tools should now be mobilised. The youth, the civil society, both national and international non-governmental organisations, regional and national governments, and the academia.

The National Coordinators and the Policy Area Coordinators are in a central position in coordinating the actions and attracting new stakeholders to take part in the implementation of the macro-regional strategy. Starting from October, this work is supported by the Baltic Sea Strategy point, which will be providing administrative and technical support for EUSBSR management, development, and communication.

All in all, successful implementation of the strategy demands more political leadership, more coordinated actions, breaking the silos, and working together more inclusively.


29Sep morning3 photo Minna Kivistö

Closing plenary session. Partipants from the left: Elina Hakonen-Meddings, Magda Leszczyna-Rzucidło, Helena Tuuri, Elena Kolosova, Grzegorz Poznański, Jürgen Krempin, Kirsi Ahlman. Photo: Minna Kivelä


Tapping into a variety of funding sources

The second day of the forum started with a funding session, opened by Elena Kolosova and Sebastian Hentsch from the Interreg Baltic Sea Region. Interreg 2021—2027 focuses on innovative societies, water-smart societies, climate-neutral societies, and cooperation governance. The aim is to attract new stakeholders to join the strategy implementation and to call the actors for more coordinated endeavors for the shared goals. 


"We are more than just money. Interreg is also a network for cooperation." Elena Kolosova, Adviser for external cooperation, Managing Authority/Joint Secretariat of Interreg Baltic Sea Region


To support the actors in extending their professional network and preparing for the next round of funding opportunities, Interreg organises a Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference on 19—20 October.

To mobilise more resources, all actors are warmly advised to tap into other funding sources outside the Interreg Programme, such as cohesion policy programmes and centrally managed funding programmes.

There is more competition for these funds, but as Johan Magnusson, from Directorate General Regional and Urban Policy reminded, the five policy objectives guiding the use of the cohesion funds are well in line with the macro-regional strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: more competitive and smarter Europe, transition towards a net zero carbon economy, more connected Europe, more inclusive Europe, and sustainable and integrated development of all types of territories. 


The EUSBSR Annual Forum 2022 was co-organised by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), in conjunction with the City of Lappeenranta, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the EUSBSR’s communication point.