Held in Turku in March for the 12th time, the Baltic Sea Region Forum will once again delve into the heart of topical issues. The challenges of the Baltic Sea region will be examined in a ministerial level panel dis-cussion, while labour mobility and the development of circular economy will be discussed with the latest views by experts in the aforementioned fields.

Ruslanas Iržikevičius, editor-in-chief of the Lithuanian Tribune online news portal, analyses the chal-lenges of the Baltic Sea region on a global scale: “While US-China relations are going to heat up, the US attention to this region, and to Europe at large, is going to decrease.” Iržikevičius also contemplates the post-Brexit situation by saying that the Baltic Sea region may even become a soldier in the “chess game” between the Kremlin and Paris/Berlin. “Without a unified defence policy and a strong presence by the US, Europe may be subjected to the threat of Russia,” Iržikevičius comments.

The Baltic Sea to become a common commuting area?

“The free movement of people is just as important as the free movement of goods, services and capital, both within and in-between countries,” says Nils Karlson, Director of the Swedish Institute for Business Studies, when asked about the current state of labour mobility. According to him, labour mobility is re-stricted in many countries of the Baltic Sea region. However, from an economic perspective, free movement of labour would have very beneficial consequences.

According to the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, increasing labour mobility and migration pres-sures are to be expected in the future. This development poses challenges for the relatively small and open economies of the Baltic Sea region with an ageing labour market. Accordingly, the aim is to support labour mobility and remove obstacles.

The 2017 high-level meeting of Ministers of Labour of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Berlin called for more effective mechanisms and measures to enhance co-operation on labour mobility and employment. This would promote a sustainable labour market in the Baltic Sea region and ensure the region's competitiveness and social well-being.

Meyer Turku Communications Manager Tapani Mylly gives a practical example of the situation: “Over the course of the next five years, we will need 10,000 new designers and builders for the shipbuilding in-dustry, and it is self-evident that it will not be possible to find such a number of skilled workers in Finland alone.”

Sustainable competitiveness for the Baltic Sea region from circular economy

“There are areas in the Baltic Sea where the level of eutrophication is very alarming. The main nutrient discharges into the sea are still caused by agriculture. Therefore, agriculture must be seen as a solution to improve the state of the sea. I believe that the circular economy, through nutrient cycles, for example, can save the Baltic Sea.” This is how Saara-Sofia Sirén, Vice-Chair of the Finnish delegation to the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, and participant of this year’s Baltic Sea Region Forum Circular Economy Panel, sees things.

In all countries of the Baltic Sea Region, bioeconomy is involved in the top themes and political programs of the smart specialization strategy in one way or another. In Finland, bioeconomy and circular economy have been made focus points in the government programme. According to Sitra's report, circular econ-omy is an important opportunity for Finland to improve the competitiveness of the national economy. En-hancing the circulation of resources could provide the Finnish economy with a potential annual growth of €1.5–2.5 billion by 2030.

The 12th Baltic Sea Region Forum will be held on March 25 2019 at Turku School of Economics. Key-note speeches will be given by Minister of Finance of Finland Mr. Petteri Orpo and Member of European Parliament Ms. Miapetra Kumpula-Natri.

Read more about the event here

Text: Juhani Ailio
Photo: Juha Laurila