- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

With the upcoming enlargement of the European Union and NATO, the Baltic Sea region finds itself in a position to become a valuable political partner for the U.S. and an exceptional source of economic growth and entrepreneurial activity.

Furthermore, the region could play a crucial role as a leader in research and development. It is no exaggeration to say the region has the potential to serve as an example for other parts of Europe in search of solutions to the challenges of our times in politics, business, governance, science and communication. Now is the time to generate all the best the region has to offer from its wealth in human talent and all other resources.

The region's 10 countries are committed to international engagement and regional cooperation. This provides a strong foundation for new and more effective structures in the new European environment after the enlargement of the EU and NATO.

The results of the closer cooperation among the countries of the region, have given Baltic Development Forum the possibility to identify five key priorities that will open the path to a even more prosperous future for the Baltic Sea region and thus, for the global economy. We recommend:

• Further development of the optimal framework conditions for regional and international investments and business.

• Sound economic and physical environment based on the principle of sustainable development.

• Cleverly and regionally coordinated transport infrastructure.

• Increased investments in and circulation of research.

• An even more active civic participation than today and strong democratic institution building.

It is necessary now that leaders from business, politics and academia take a look beyond the enlargement of the European Union and NATO and offer their views on what the Baltic Sea region, including Russia, should look like by 2005. This is a collective effort for all of us who care about the region and want to strengthen its competitiveness and contribute to its leadership role.

At the Baltic Development Forum summit in Copenhagen, we ask regional leaders to point out exactly how and where to exploit our potential at an optimum. We want them to point out how we can best organize our efforts in the years to come.

Today, our region is well on its way to become one of the most dynamic and prosperous regions in the world with integration, partnership and mutual benefit at the top of its regional agenda. Integration will occur with enlargement of EU and NATO. Partnership will occur through investments, a dedicated business community and continued political focus on Northern Europe. Mutual benefits will occur when the region makes the most of the fact that our total population of 100 million has a gross domestic product is of $3.5 trillion dollars and expected growth rates between 3 percent to 6 percent.

In a message to the participants at last year's Baltic Development Forum summit in St. Petersburg, President Putin stressed he was convinced the Baltic Sea region can and must become the symbol of constructive international partnership.

I agree with the Russian president. The EU-Russia border will within a few years be extended to include Russia's borders with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The Russian exclave, Kaliningrad, will find itself within the EU's territory.

Thus, co-operation with Russia will have to be tackled primarily in the Baltic Sea region. And there is no doubt in my mind that Russia feels committed to strengthen her co-operation with the Western countries and, in particular, the Baltic Sea countries. Let's not waste this historic moment. Let's all use it to the full. Not just the countries around the Baltic Sea but all Western countries.

The U.S. and the countries of the Baltic Sea region have common interests. We have common values. We face the same challenges. We face the same threats. We should of course strengthen our ties and work together in the years to come both when doing business and on a political level.

In our region, we listened carefully when President Bush visited Berlin in the spring. In his remarks during the Special Session in the German Bundestag, he pointed out that when Europe grows in unity, Europe and America grow in security. When Europe integrates its markets, we are creating the conditions for security and common purpose.

With the enlargement of the European Union and NATO, with Russia committed to co-operation with all Western countries, with a focused agenda and dedicated development of the Baltic Sea region, we are on the right track. The Baltic Sea region is a true rising star in the new Europe.

During the Fourth Annual Baltic Development Forum Summit in Copenhagen next week, we will ask this year's participants to help us lift this enormous task even further and assist us with identifying the road ahead. We also invite U.S. politicians and the U.S. business community to help us along. Together we can create the most dynamic and prosperous region in the world to the benefit of all.


Uffe Ellemann-Jensen was Danish foreign affairs minister, 1982-1993, and a member of the Danish Parliament, 1977-2001. He was leader of the Danish Liberal Party from 1984-1998. He is chairman and co-founder of Baltic Development Forum, and a trustee of Reuters Founders Share Co. in London and a member of the International Crisis Group and of the International Commission on Missing Persons.


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