5 May 2023

Continuous enhancement of transnational cooperation in the region! 

#25yearsIBSR

Interview with Mr Erk Westermann-Lammers, Chairman of the Management Board of the Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein, the hosting organisation of the Managing Authority/Joint Secretariat of Interreg Baltic Sea Region for the past 25 years. 

 
What is in your opinion the biggest benefit of Interreg Baltic Sea Region for the people in the region?

In my opinion, the biggest benefit comes from the continuous enhancement of transnational cooperation in the region. The Programme is rooted in the democratic values of the European Union, whose importance cannot be stressed enough, especially in these current times of geopolitical crisis.

The comprehensive transnational economic possibilities the Programme is offering foster wealth and growth. As important as this might be, the Programme additionally creates a unique intercultural sense of belonging for the Interreg Baltic Sea Region. This effect really stands out for me.

We definitively experience it in Schleswig-Holstein, given the bridging function our state fulfils between the two Seas—in a literal and figurative sense. IB.SH and the central public funding mandate as well as responsibilities conferred upon us reflect this from an institutional viewpoint as well.

In which thematic topics do you find transnational cooperation the most important in the region?

The answer is quite easy: All of them. The combination of all four priorities is exactly what makes the Programme so unique and appealing. Especially here in Schleswig-Holstein, the interconnection of all four priorities is tangible. Starting with our geographical location within the Baltic Sea region, the interweaving of all four priorities is, to begin with, very well reflected by our close proximity to the Sea(s), hence our inherent affinity to fostering blue economy as well as climate-neutrality through renewable energies, especially wind energy.

Additionally, the universities here in Schleswig-Holstein provide excellent preconditions for the constant advancement of innovation, and our intercultural civil society, for example with regard to our Scandinavian neighbours, is a perfect driver enabling the multi-level cooperation that is at the heart of transnational projects. „Liveability“, „BSR Cultural Pearls“, and „BalticSea2Land“ are among the examples reflecting this interconnection of all four priorities very well in my opinion.

 
What is your best memory connected to Interreg Baltic Sea Region?

Programme Conference 2014 ©IB.SH

It seems nearly impossible to refer to one particular memory. 25 years include so many important projects, the Programme evolved throughout time, thematic priorities changed and new states joined. In this regard, the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference 2014, which was hosted by the Muranów Convetion Centre at the Museum for the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, is among the numerous events that I remember especially well. The setting of the conference venue alone added to and in itself, for me, exemplified the essence of European transnational cooperation, specifically against the backdrop of European history and the need to preserve our historical awareness by means of democratic dialogue and cooperation. The importance of the implementation of our shared European ideals through the work and projects of Interreg Baltic Sea Region can therefore not be emphasized enough.

So the best memory is the continuous value Interreg Baltic Sea Region added for the region and the people, its constant contribution to the economic development and the intercultural exchange. Interreg Baltic Sea Region has led to a cross-border understanding of the challenges and needs of the regions and delivers answers and solutions. It catalyses an invaluable integration process – 25 year ago, now and in the future.

Congratulations to the Programme and to the colleagues who have kept up the great work since 1997 and make this intercultural, transnational endeavour possible, every day anew.

What do you wish for the future of the Programme?

If there was anything I could wish for, it would be a change in the current geopolitical circumstances. A “back to normal” and a return to peace in Europe would help to keep up the exceptional work in the Baltic Sea region. Stable democratic institutions and an open dialogue are essential for our transnational cooperation, economic growth and overall prosperity. The continuous dedication to enhancing international understanding forms the value-based bedrock that enables organizations and individuals to get in contact with one another, connect, and build up transnational projects together, as if there were no borders. This is what fundamentally constitutes the EU, and this is what Interreg Baltic Sea Region has been fostering throughout all these years.

#25yearsIBSR

This year, our Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme is celebrating its 25th anniversary. For more examples of #MadeWithIBSR project results and testimonials of great people who have helped shape the regions with us,  visit our birthday celebrations page!

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