Centre-right politicians from all over Europe gather in Turku
Turku focuses on the Baltic Sea region
Above: The EPP Group panel. L–R Finland’s Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb; EPP Group Chairman, Joseph Daul, EPP Secretary-General, Martin Kamp; the Chair of the Finnish EPP Eija-Riitta Korhola; and the Mayor of Turku, Aleksi Randell.
Representatives of the EPP absorbed in questions about current international affairs
Mayor Randell explaining the factors behind the successful Capital of Culture year.
Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb jokes about being on Logomo's Voice of Finland stage.
Relations between the EU and Russia as well as the Baltic Sea Strategy were on the agenda of the European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Turku. The significance of the Baltic Sea and the growth corridor between Stockholm-Turku-Helsinki-St Petersburg are equally important issues for Turku.
–Turku is located at the hub of the Baltic Sea in perhaps the world's most beautiful archipelago. Our history and our future is inextricably linked to the Baltic Sea region, which is our "near abroad" – our pathway to the world, said Aleksi Randell, the Mayor of Turku, when he welcomed the European Parliament’s EPP members.
– We want to continue to have a strong influence on cooperative activities in the Baltic Sea. That is why we devote such effort to the region, he added.
EU Baltic Sea Strategy has provided a strong impetus to the development of the Baltic region. The strategy has three main components: A clean sea, the improvement of transport connections and regional economic development.
– The importance of the Baltic Sea is well recognised, but the political will power is still being sought, stated Petri Sarvamaa who sits on the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee.
Eija-Riitta Korhola, Chair of the Finnish EPP Group, pointed out that at present the political power to save the sea is at its greatest.
– The EU can save the Baltic Sea, but can the Baltic Sea also save the European Union? asked Korhola of her EPP colleagues at Logomo.
The question is based on the fact that the saving of the Baltic Sea is a concrete act which could restore Europeans' confidence in EU institutions. At the same time an operation to save the Baltic would result in a regional nature conservation project that would become a leading EU level project.
Turku’s cooperation with Russia is on a concrete level
From the outset, MEPs have particularly tackled the question of cross-border cooperation, especially with Russia. In the panel discussion the Finnish European Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Alexander Stubb and the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, and others, presented their views.
Turku has already taken cooperation with Russia to a very concrete level by opening its own Turku Centre in St. Petersburg.
In addition, Turku has now taken the initiative to instigate closer cooperation and integration between the Nordic countries and St. Petersburg. The Stockholm-Turku-Helsinki-St Petersburg growth corridor between the cities is an ambitious, long-term, future-oriented project for developing the Baltic Sea region.
Similarly, The Turku Process aims to enhance regional cooperation between decision-makers in the St. Petersburg area and EU countries. Turku has responsibility for the co-ordination of the project together with St. Petersburg and Hamburg, and the European Commission’s DG REGIO.
In Randell's opening speech describing the importance and success of Turku’s year as European Capital of Culture, he also emphasised cooperation as well as a shared vision.
On Thursday and Friday the EPP members will focus on increasing Europe's competitive ability, and the challenges of an aging population as well as taking a cruise on the Baltic.
The EPP Group is the European Parliament's largest group with 271 members and 3 observers from Croatia. The group combines centre and centre-right pro-European political parties from within the European Union Member States..