10 October 2023
Interreg Baltic Sea Region at the EUSBSR Annual Forum 2023
Written by Eeva Rantama
Cooperating across the borders is the only way forward. At the Interreg Baltic Sea Region session projects showed the added value of cooperation and the participants agreed on the need to continue this work.
“Make your voice heard in the discussion of the future Cohesion Policy” said the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira in her video message at the opening session of this year’s Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR) in Riga. “We have to show that territorial cooperation shows results” continued Normunds Poppens, DG Regional and Urban Policy of the European Commission (DG REGIO), in his opening speech. Interreg Baltic Sea Region is already in action in line with both of these requests.
At the Annual Forum of the EUSBSR the Programme was part of the busy Networking Village. In addition, it organised a session “Past achievements, new solutions and opportunities for future cooperation” illustrating how Interreg projects help implement the EUSBSR. After 25 years of cooperation within Interreg Baltic Sea Region the added value of this work is clear. In parallel new topics needing transnational cooperation appear as the region faces new challenges.
IBSR stand at the Networking Village
The representatives of former projects at the Programme session, PURE and SEMPRE, as well as the ongoing Waterman and KidsLikeUs, were all on the same line regarding the added value of transnational Interreg projects. They highlighted the joint learning on how to deal with existing challenges in a better way and how to deal with new challenges. For instance, in PURE project operators of water treatment plants across the Baltic Sea learned the most cost-efficient ways at the time to treat wastewater. Waterman tackles a new challenge.“We need to change the mindset and learn to use, not only fresh water, but water of different quality for different purposes.”, said Tobias Facchini from Waterman. Björn Grönholm representing the PURE project saw that “Interreg BSR has an important task in putting into practice this new approach to look water as a resource.”
“Interreg BSR opened the doors to people.” said Anna Broka from SEMPRE project. In SEMPRE and KidsLikeUs the supporters of disadvantaged groups like the unemployed in rural areas, migrants or children have learned to work in a more holistic way to achieve durable change in people’s well-being. “Interreg provides a unique possibility to join the scientific world with practitioners representing municipalities, public institutions, and NGOs which gives an extreme boost in generating ideas and seeing them implemented in the real world for the real people.” formulated Beata Fabisiak from KidsLikeUs.
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Project representatives stressed also the importance of new partnerships, networks, and trust-building.“Projects create an invisible net that connects people, bringing the habit of cooperating beyond borders.”(Beata Fabisiak). Esa Kokkonen, Policy Area Innovation Coordinator, found new networks and partnerships of hundreds of people participating in projects important for the implementation of innovation policies in the region. Both Policy Area Coordinators in the session, Esa Kokkonen and Elsi Kauppinen (Policy Area Nutri) saw the Interreg projects as cornerstones of the implementation of their policy areas. “They bring up challenges and solutions” (Elsi Kauppinen).
Looking towards the future, Iruma Kravale from Latvian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, saw that “It is our destiny to cooperate.” Nathalie Verschelde from DG Regio shared this opinion “It is quite clear that cooperating with each other, working across borders, is the only way forward.” She stressed the relationship between the Programme and the EUSBSR. “We need projects with solutions on the ground and strategies to influence the policy framework.” Ronald Lieske, Director of the Managing Authority and Joint Secretariat of Interreg Baltic Sea Region (MA/JS), concluded that the main task of the MA/JS was to ensure that the Programme delivered projects that brought the said added value. The ongoing projects would get the best possible support from the MA/JS, and at the beginning of 2024, the MA/JS would start to guide new applicants for the Programme’s third call for applications.
The 2023 Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region with the motto “Safe and Sustainable Baltic Sea Region for Future Generations” took place in Riga 4-5 October. It gathered some 400 participants from all over Baltic Sea region.
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