From 01 October 2010

Baltic Sea Region - Archipelago of Innovation?

The objective is to create a seamless working environment for fast growth innovative SME all over the Baltic Sea Region

Working language: russian


Baltic Region: history, problems, prospects.

1. Terminology

First it is necessary to clarify terminology. The notions of “the Baltic Region” and “Baltic Region Countries” are frequently used today in various spheres of modern life. Until recently they were used by historians and culture experts who were later joined by environmentalists. Only on the threshold of the 1980-90s they firmly entered international politics which undoubtedly happened due to global political changes in the years.


Intuitionally the Baltic Region and Baltic Region Countries notions seem simple and clear however as soon as they move from everyday perception to scientific language they turn out to lack a clear definition despite frequent use.


Let’s begin with the Baltic Region Countries term. As a rule, there are two main interpretation options: narrow and wide. Wide understanding also reports certain differences. The narrow understanding of the Baltic Region Countries notion includes states with direct access to the Baltic Sea which grants them a possibility of direct maritime communications between any two of them without crossing third-party borders.  They comprise nine countries which from the highest to the lowest population figures are Russia, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. (N.M. Mezhevich, The Baltic Region and Russia in the Baltic: Positioning Specific. 2004, or V. Korneevets, The Notions of Baltic Region Countries and The Baltic Region. Kosmopolis #2 (21) 2008).


In a wider interpretation eleven countries are usually meant which are members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) created in 1992. Besides the already listed nine countries, Norway has been a CBSS member since the date of its foundation, and Iceland – since 1995. We shall report on the CBSS in detail below.

And finally, the wide interpretation also includes Belarus into the notion of Baltic Region Countries.  The Baltic Region Countries term suggests that states are the subjects of political, economic, and cultural activities provided a state is a specific political organization of society that spreads its authority to the whole territory of the country and the population, has special administrative machinery for that, issues binding orders for all, and possesses sovereignty.

However in modern world with growing globalization and integration of states into international processes the center-regions vertical of power is becoming less strict as certain areas acquire increased autonomy.  It is specifically characteristic of European Union member-states. In the EU the perception of united Europe as a Europe of regions is becoming more popular. Therefore, the Baltic Region Countries term is becoming less relevant. It is being ousted by the Baltic Region notion which stands for a trans-border region that comprises micro regions of various countries and does not coincide with state borders as a result. 


There are several substantiations of the notion. Depending on each concrete approach the borders of the Baltic Region change, although insignificantly.


The most evident substantiation of the Baltic Region is physical and geographic. It is based on the “basin” principle, which refers to the Baltic Region the drainage basin territories of rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea. This approach includes into the Baltic Region the whole of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, practically the whole of Poland, most of Sweden and Finland, over a half of Denmark and nearly a half of Belarus, the northeast of Germany, and small parts of Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. It would be logical to refer to the region the northwest of Russia which is adjacent to the Baltic Sea – St. Petersburg, Pskov region and Kaliningrad enclave, most of Novgorod region, a part of Karelia, small areas in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions, as well as Tver region in central Russia. This is the composition of the Baltic Region offered in the Baltic University international program initiated by the Uppsala University in Sweden.  The Baltic University program networks 225 higher educational establishments in 14 countries of the Baltic Sea basin. The network is coordinated by the Baltic University Secretariat, which is part of the Uppsala Sustainable Development Center at the Uppsala University.  The Baltic Region strengthening instruments section speaks about the program in detail.

There also exists a historic development principle according to which numerous peoples inhabiting the area around the Baltic Sea have contacted each other in various ways for thousands of years. Historians speak about a circum-Baltic region which can be considered as a north European similarity of the Mediterranean civilization. However the historic approach provides an excessively amorphous understanding of the Baltic Region which can be hardly used to determine concrete borders of the region, if any at all. Unfortunately, it has to be admitted that historic research often pedals the issues which are most vital from the political point of view and vice versa.  Therefore, to fill in the Baltic Region notion with concrete contents that can be expressed in political and administrative borders it would be appropriate to stake on the realities of political life, first and foremost.


Modern international life offers several options for the Baltic Region apprehension that do not limit themselves to ephemeral declaration of the existence of the region as it is, but shape out concrete borders of the region. In general the options are alike and differ in details.

The basic perception of the Baltic Region notion in modern international practice is the interpretation offered by the international program Vision and Strategy around the Baltic Sea 2010 (VASAB). We shall speak about the program in detail below in the section Baltic Region Strengthening Instruments.

According to the program, The Baltic Region comprises Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Belarus, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Brandenburg federal states in Germany, as well as Berlin and Hamburg, and Russia’s St. Petersburg, Leningrad, Pskov, Novgorod, Murmansk regions, Kaliningrad enclave and the Republic of Karelia. 

V. Korneevets, the author of the specialized research The Notions of Baltic Region Countries and The Baltic Region outlines a certain nucleus of the Baltic Region or narrows the general notion to Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Baltic republics, only Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern states in Germany, a part of Poland comprising Warminsko Mazurskie, Pomorskie, and Zachodniopomorskie provinces, and as well as Russia’s St. Petersburg, Leningrad, Pskov, Novgorod regions and Kaliningrad enclave, leaving Norway and Belarus outside.  To additionally substantiate the inclusion of the areas adjacent to the Baltic Sea coast Korneevets recalls that many cities on the territories are members of the Union of the Baltic Cities, while the mentioned provinces are often referred to as the Baltic Belt. 


The issue of terminology is not exclusively theoretical as it may seem at the first sight. Various interpretations can be used in political rhetoric and affect political planning. A simple example: if the talk is about Baltic Region Countries, the Russian Federation becomes the major player due to the size of the population and Germany is the leader among EU countries. If we speak only about the Baltic Belt which is the narrowest interpretation of the Baltic Region, Sweden will automatically occupy the leading positions.


2. Political contents in terminology

The first attempts to formulate the idea of Baltic regional integration can be referred to the end of World War One which resulted in the emergence of five newly independent states on the political map of the region: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. (A.A. Volodkin, The Making of Baltic Regionalism. International Law and International Relations magazine 2006 - #2). “Except for the two first of the countries they have not had any experience of a statehood of their own. They had to find a place in the system of international relations to ensure their security… That conditioned the emergence of numerous projects to create various Baltic regional alliances.” Attempts to create a regional bloc continued until the beginning of World War Two however differences in the interests of involved countries dominated integration trends and, as a result, they succeeded only to set up a semi-ephemeral Baltic Entente which nominally united Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. 

After World War Two a nearly half a century long bipolar standoff began in Europe which divided the countries of the region into two opposing groups. There were no grounds for integration in the Baltic Region.

In the meantime, Scandinavian countries designed a regional development model used in the modern concept of European regionalism. The Scandinavian countries offered a model of socially-oriented state which abandons aggressive foreign policy, adheres to human rights, and pays specific attention to environmental protection. Without creating supranational bodies the Scandinavian countries closely cooperated through regional partnerships, in which non-governmental organizations and local self-government bodies played a key role.

“Institutionalization of Nordic cooperation began with the creation in 1952 of the Nordic Council which became a forum for inter-parliamentary interaction of Nordic countries. Its major achievements comprised free movement of labor in the region, provision of equal rights to labor migrants in all Nordic countries, and expanded visa cooperation. Social policy issues, uniform legislation, development of cultural contacts and environmental protection were also discussed. The next step was the creation in 1971 of the Nordic Council of Ministers. It provided a possibility to make binding decisions for all member-countries. Unanimous approval by the Council and subsequent ratification by national parliaments were necessary for that.”
(Möttölä, K. Nordic Security Policy Co-operation: A New Regional Role in the Making // Small States and the Security Challenge in the New Europe.
London; Washington, 1996. P. 150—169, according to А.А. Volodkin. The making of Baltic Regionalism. International Law and International Relations magazine 2006 - #2).


In 1960—1970 Nordic countries reformed municipal governance system. Local self-government enjoyed greater autonomy and even received certain political powers, in particular, the right to maintain international contacts (with municipal authorities of other countries) and take on international commitments. (A.V. Kurochkin. Municipal Reform Experience in Baltic States of Europe // Polis. 2003, #3 P. 89-97).


In the late ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed Nordic countries took real steps to incorporate former Soviet republics into inter-regional Baltic cooperation. Yet in the end of 1989 the Nordic Council Presidium sent delegations to the Soviet Baltic republics to study the domestic political situation in detail. In November 1990 a delegation of the Nordic Council paid official visits to Baltic capitals and in March 1991 the Nordic Council Presidium invited prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to address its conference in Copenhagen. In early 1991 Finnish parliament initiated the convocation of the first Baltic conference on inter-parliamentary cooperation. At the same time the Nordic Council considered the possibility of involving the Baltic republics into regional cooperation of Nordic countries up to their admission to the organization. The structuring of non-governmental organizations in the Baltic republics was actively supported by Denmark. Modern activities of Scandinavian banks in Baltic republics can also be considered in that respect. 

However, it is common knowledge that Baltic regionalism chose another way of development. Several processes catalyzed European Union enlargement and strengthening. Nordic countries that remained adhered to non-alignment policy which perfectly operated in the bipolar world now risked staying on the periphery of European life. They had to join European globalization processes through EU membership and partially reject independent political course.

The Europe of opposing blocs and non-aligned countries was replaced by a united Europe according to the plan of the European Union. Disputes about European Union buildup principles have been going on since its creation. They are ongoing also today however the dominating concept at present is definitely the so-called neo-regionalism. A detailed review of the ideology is provided in an article by A.A. Volodkin The Making of Baltic Regionalism published in the International Law and International Relations magazine 2006 - #2.


He lists O. Wæver, P Joenniemi, B. Hettne, and M. Smith as classics of modern neo-regionalism (Wæver, O, Joenniemi, P. Region in the Making — A Blueprint for Baltic Sea Politics // The Baltic Sea Region: Conflict or Co-operation? Region-Making, Security, Disarmament and Conversion. Kiel, 1991. P. 13—60. Williams, L.-K. The Baltic Sea Region: Forms and Functions of Regional Co-operation [Electronic resource] // Humboldt-University of Berlin. Mode of access: <>. Date of access: 19.01.2006.)


Wæver and Joenniemi outlined four approaches to the understanding of the region. The first one depends on the presence of common topographic or cultural specifics, i.e. internal similarity that differs the region from other territories. The second says regions are the result of interacting policies of great powers and local reaction to them.  The third one says regions emerge due to revolutionary changes in technologies, specifically in transport and communications, which result in the creation of new economic structures. The fourth approach says regions are the product of political planning.

“The last approach seems to be most appropriate for the study of trans-border regions, which also include the Baltic Sea region,” Volodkin writes. “The regions of such type do not emerge spontaneously as decentralized cooperation frameworks and their formation cannot be explained by a simple geographic and cultural necessity. They are most likely a result of targeted political activity. To comprehend why the emergence of this region became possible instead of another one with different borders and cooperation principles, you have to study not only its history and geography, but also political projects of regional cooperation in countries that participate in its formation. History and geography provided sufficient arguments both for supporters and opponents of Baltic regionalism. It depended only on political will whether a regional buildup concept would synthesize and take into account the international situation and  be acceptable for all participants in the process.”  

Among European Union leading powers Germany is most interested in the creation of Europe without Borders, in which a major element will be a network of overlapping cooperation regions rather than national states. The model will allow Germany to efficiently use its federative structure. According to the German Constitution, the federal states enjoy considerable autonomy and even carry out their own foreign policy at the regional level. For example, Schleswig-Holstein federal state has actively designed and participated in Baltic regionalism projects.  In July 2000 German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech timed to the beginning of German presidency in the Council of the Baltic Sea States that the Baltic Region is a “laboratory for Europe” thus confirming the Baltic Region can be viewed as a test range for the German model of trans-border ties.

It should be also born in mind that “soft” German penetration into various European processes by means of inter-regional cooperation plays down potential fears of Europe, which since World War Two has been cautious regarding any foreign policy activity of Germany that considerably enhanced its potential after post-war border revision.
Despite specific attitude of several European countries to Baltic regional cooperation it is a part of European integration rather than a result of interests of a group or of one of EU countries. The Baltic inter-regional cooperation aims at creating in the region a functional framework of economic, cultural, and political contacts that are more intensive and solid than international ties which continue to unite existing national states of the European Union so far.

For Russia, which is not an EU member, enhanced ties inside the Baltic Region in the EU framework can lead to an isolation of the country on the regional arena and develop it into an outside player in the Baltic Region. Bigger autonomy of Kaliningrad enclave in several issues can be considered as a response to the challenge.


3. History

The basic history of peoples and countries of the Baltic Region began over a thousand years ago in the ancient epoch of the early Middle Ages (VII-XIII centuries). Numerous small and big tribes belonging to various language groups developed into young feudal states where early Middle Age nationalities appeared. Historic chronicles say little about the period. Archaeology and linguistics are the main sources of its study. The shortage of materials does not allow even to reliably identify various ethnic tribes. The ethnic picture of the region developed slowly, much slower than in the so-called “contact zones” directly bordering on the Hellenistic world.


Since the Paleolithic age the formation of Teutonic tribes has been underway in Scandinavia which acquired tribal names on the threshold of the Common Era. Tribe emergence process was also long and ancient for Finno-Ugric peoples. Besides Finns, Estonians, and Karelians, islets of the ancient Finno-Ugric world were reported also among Livonians in Kurzeme and Setos in Pskov.  Special programs have been drafted to preserve the former and the latter. Latvia has the Livonian Coast program. Baltic-Slavic language family tribes closely interlinked. According to various experts, they were so close that the term of Baltic-Slavic Unity has become commonplace. The closeness does not allow historians to strictly determine the origin of several tribes. It remains an issue for researchers. For Latvia it is the origin of the Krivichi people, who are either called Slavs influenced by the Balts or Slavic Balts, and of the Vends, who are called western Slavs or Finno-Ugric people influenced by the Balts. The works by B. Infantyev and Pavel and Mikhail Tyurins shall be distinguished among the latest Latvian research. 

B.F Infantyev paid great attention to Slavic-Baltic ties in his research and said the Balts and the Slavs were the last whole of once common Indo-European community that came to Europe. Later the gradual differentiation resulted in a constant diffusion that conditioned a specific closeness of the Balts and Slavs. Father and son Pavel and Mikhail Tyurins studied the origin of the tribe of Vends or Veneds who they called western Slavs. This is the first set of vital issues in the study of the Baltic Region history.

The epoch of great resettlement of peoples was replaced by the epoch of Vikings. Menacing incursions of coastal militants who mostly comprised Scandinavians, but also had Slavs and Finno-Ugric peoples were commonplace.  But constant flow of goods was also commonplace between Baltic Sea ports in the Middle Ages. Any novelty that appeared in one of Baltic Region centers quickly developed into a common value. Minor arts make it difficult and even impossible to determine local differences and the exact place of origin of numerous artifacts, for example, bronze or silver bracelets (31-56). There also was outside influence on the region from the Mediterranean, Byzantine, Karoling Empire, Arab Halifat, Kievan Rus, Bulgaria and Khazaria. Although it differed in scope depending on the part of the Baltic Region, it still spread through a common communications system to the whole region and developed into a melting pot of various influences that became a specific trait of the Baltic culture in the early Middle Ages.

Sustainable economic and cultural ties at the dawn of the Middle Ages developed the Baltic Sea from an obstacle dividing the countries and peoples into an “inland sea” due to such pan-Baltic centers as Rugen, Hedebo, Birka, Ladoga, etc. At that time the Baltic Region reported processes similar to those which two thousand years ago took place in the epoch of European civilization emergence on the Mediterranean coast. Pirate-like incursions by Vikings can be compared to the crusades of the Finicians and early Greeks. Local tribes underwent the same evolution on the path from military democracy to statehood as the Greeks and Romans did at the dawn of their history, although the Baltic Region failed to acquire the high Mediterranean level of linguistic, economic, cultural, and religious integration. The formation of the Baltic economic and cultural region was not accompanied by the emergence of a uniform Baltic culture, to say nothing about a common Baltic nationality. Nevertheless, it included practically all Baltic peoples living on the coast of the Baltic Sea and accelerated their social and economic development (123).


Relations between tribes and peoples of the Baltic region at the stage of the formation of early feudal states comprise another complex of issues for archaeological research. The spread of stones with runic writs, localized archaeological finds that came to the Baltic region from other places and determination of their “supply” routes, and the Dvina Stones offer the most apparent issues that can be followed by the spread of agricultural crops and animal breeds, soil toiling methods, agricultural, handicraft, and trade instruments, and construction methods. And finally there was reciprocal influence during the period of social stratification (e.g. the origination of Latvian “bayars” from ancient Russian ‘boyar” and Latvian “keninsh” or “kungs” from Scandinavian “konung” as the idiom acquired concrete social meaning). 


Late Middle Ages. The epoch of Hansa trade. Hansa issues cause specific interest in European mediavistics not only among professional historians, but also among broad public. They comprise numerous tourist routes of interest for foreigners from the countries of the Baltic Region, various related events, such as Hansa Days, numerous reconstructions up to the re-production of Middle Age vessels used by international teams to sail along ancient itineraries. Besides events targeting a wide audience, it is necessary to mention the research which analyzes reciprocal influence, such as the impact of Genoa and Venice municipal self-government on the Novgorod and Pskov republics, the influence of Roman architecture on cathedral architecture in the Russian northwest, etc.

The next epoch is the time for the emergence of national states on the coast of the Baltic Sea which work to maintain Baltic Balance with each other and against each other. The Baltic Balance means that as soon as the influence of one power on the Baltic coast begins to outweigh the capabilities of the others, the weaker countries unite against the dominating power. The result was the Livonian War, which was a war among the countries of the Baltic Region to a major extent, the Polish-Swedish and Northern wars, as well as other standoffs that were resolved either diplomatically or on the battlefield.


In late XIX century some historians already tended to consider the history of the Baltic Region in the XVI-XVIII centuries not as the history of concrete Baltic Sea littoral countries, but as the history of a common region. (G.V. Forsten. The Fight Due to Supremacy in the Baltic Sea in the XV and XVI centuries. St. Petersburg. 1884; G.V. Forsten, The Baltic Issue in the XVI-XVII centuries (1544-1648) vol. 1-2, St. Petersburg, 1893-1894).

This is what Forsten wrote in the introduction to the book published in 1893: “The new guideline in the whole European trade resulted in the discovery of the New World. The event dealt a decisive blow to Hansa, the collapse of which, in its turn, resulted in the rise of several new states that acquired the status of European powers.  Denmark, Russia, Sweden, and Poland worked to overtake each other and seize the rich Hansa wealth. They engaged in a protracted struggle. The winning ruler would dominate the whole of the north. The struggle for the supremacy on the Baltic Sea acquired both mercantile and political meaning. The Baltic issue entered a new stage of development and no longer limited itself to trade and commercial dominance at sea, but expanded to include politics and religion and eyed territorial possession of the Baltic Sea coast. The whole history of Nordic countries, Russia, Poland, Sweden, and Denmark as European states coincided with the history of the Baltic issue in the new stage of development. The foreign policy of the countries was their Baltic policy. An event can be correctly assessed only if you bear in mind its European significance rather than view it as a purely local development.”


The Baltic Issue in the XVI and XVII centuries (1544 – 1648): The Struggle for Livonia. V. 1 / Forsten G.V. – St. Petersburg. Balashev & Co. Publishers, 1893. –  p. 733.

The wars in the period and subsequent XIX-XX centuries did not promote the strengthening of the Baltic unity, however the military history of the Baltic Region can be considered by the modern vision as a factor of enhanced Baltic unity conscience.


It is first necessary to pay attention to numerous foreign military necropoleis on the territory of the countries of the region. Advocating respect to military cemeteries and monuments to warring parties and various epochs is the necessary guideline that ensures major work, which nevertheless cannot be considered as minimum sufficient.  A vivid example of the positive experience that eases ideological confrontation is offered by a joint publication by the Lithuanian Republic, the Russian Federation, and the Federal Republic of Germany devoted to the 60 years of the end of World War Two. In 2006 the Album of WW2 military graves in Lithuania was published in Vilnius in the Lithuanian, Russian, and German languages. 

In this connection it is necessary to recall the military-historic reconstruction which became a large-scale event in modern world. In Riga major international military-historic festival Dole-2007 was held on the island of Dole on September 15-16, 2007. The festival involved military-historic reconstruction clubs from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, and Sweden. In the eastern part of the Baltic region such festivals are so far held occasionally, while in the western part the events timed to various dates are held regularly, are included into all tourist reference books, and promote interest in history, as well as tourism. 

The framework of expanding ecotourism in Europe also includes growing-popularity tours in Western Europe of military objects beginning from combat places to fortresses that offer an example of military fortifications of their epoch. Latvia, besides widely advertised tourist trips to Middle Age castles, has three major fortifications dating back to various periods of the XIX century – Ust-Dvina (Daugavgriva) (which was founded earlier but the current state preserved the outline of XIX century construction), Dinaburg (Daugavpils) and Libava fortresses. The fortress in Daugavpils is the biggest of all that preserved in Europe. The historic study of the objects and of their role in the wars and the design of tourist itineraries there are the general tasks which have yet to be fulfilled. So far the heritage is used to a small extent and only a tourist center was set up at the guardhouse of Libava military township.


4. Baltic Region strengthening instruments

The following regional cooperation methods and mechanisms that strengthen inter-regional ties can be listed:

International program Vision and Strategy around the Baltic Sea 2010 (VASAB) ( The program is being implemented along the lines of the European Union and the Council of Europe. The basic document Vision and Strategy around the Baltic Sea 2010 (VASAB 2010) was adopted by the conference in Tallinn on December 7-8, 1994. From Vision to Action Report followed in 1996. VASAB 2010 concept unites four basic values into a common system and 14 goals and programs of direct action in the Baltic Sea region. VASAB 2010 is supported by 7 action programs fixed in From Vision to Action document.
Basic values: 1. Development, 2. Environmental sustainability, 3. Freedom, 4. Solidarity.
The values can be grouped in two: Development and Freedom, Environmental sustainability and Solidarity.


Municipal system of international significance

1. Competitive municipal system increases its significance through cooperation across the Baltic Sea and with Europe.

2. Municipal system guarantees spatial accord.

3. Ties between municipal areas and internal rural districts help maintain regional economic and environmental balance.

4. Municipalities create attractive urban environment for residents and investments.

Efficient and sustainable municipal ties

5. The transportation network of the Baltic Sea region uses environment-friendly vehicles.
6. The transportation network creates conditions for effective integration within the Baltic Sea region and of the region with the world.
7. Power generation increasingly targets renewed and environment-friendly energy sources.

The spheres promoting dynamism and quality of life
International cooperation promotes spatial economic and social accord.
9. Islands function as tourism nucleus in the Baltic Sea region.
10. The coastal zone is planned through a thin balance between development and protection.
11. Baltic Network of nature areas has been designated and protected.

All-round spatial planning in action

12. Spatial planning promotes harmonizing and spatial cohesion across borders.
13. Spatial planning is based on principles of subsidiarity, participation and transparency.
14. Spatial planning promotes coordination of industry and regional planning.


1. Drafting a program for sustainable settlement and urban networks development.
2. Unification of European transport network development with sustainable regional development.
3. Design of a set of pilot projects to manage sustainable development in various spheres.
4. Creation of a harbor network taking into account the criteria of regional and environmental efficiency.
5. Design of a maritime transport program involving hinterland ports and concentrated at multi-level transportation centers.
6. Creation of a system to control spatial development in the region.
7. Holding of regional conferences to present key projects and permanent supervision of projects promoting VASAB 2010 implementation.


The European Commission is actively promoting the concept of short-distance sea shipments the main aim of which is to switch cargo flows from overloaded means of land transportation to environment-friendly maritime transport.  A component part of the concept is the project of maritime routes, which also includes the Baltic Sea.


Council of the Baltic Sea States
The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) is an intergovernmental organization created by the ministerial conference of the Baltic Sea countries in Copenhagen on March 5-6, 1992. It unites Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, and a representative of the European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union. Belarus has enjoyed the observer status in the CBSS since July 1, 2009.


The Council aims at encouraging all-round cooperation between the countries of the region.

The tasks and guidelines of Baltic cooperation were stipulated in the Declaration on the creation of the Council of the Baltic Sea States adopted in March 1922.


Priority guidelines in CBSS activities include provision of economic and technical assistance to requesting countries; the fight against transnational crime, illegal migration, human and drug trafficking; development of transport and communications, and the energy sphere; support to national democratic institutions;  cooperation in humanitarian issues, health care, environmental protection, culture, education, information, and tourism. 


The organization possesses no supranational powers and is an intergovernmental forum for member-countries to exchange opinions on issues of regional cooperation development. 

The CBSS is an “umbrella” organization with close to 60 various structures created under its auspices. The most prominent are the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, the Conference on Subregional Cooperation, the Union of the Baltic Cities, the Baltic Sea Chambers of Commerce Association, and the Consultative Council of business circles of Baltic countries.

An example of concrete CBSS activities is offered by the Tolerance program of the government of St. Petersburg which was presented on March 10-11, 2008 in Riga (Latvia) at a meeting of the working group for democratic institutions of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (website of St. Petersburg government). The Program aims at creating and developing hospitality industry that meets international standards.


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