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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2003 > November

Rethinking the Top of Europe - Visions for the Baltic Sea Region

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Chairman of Baltic Development Forum
The Chiefs of Mission Breakfast Hosted by the H.E., Ambassador Stuart Bernstein Co-organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Denmark
Copenhagen Marriott Hotel, Copenhagen Waterfront, Denmark
November 4, 2003

Excellencies, members of the American Chamber of Commerce, ladies and gentleman,

I want to thank our hosts for being given this opportunity to share with you some thoughts and visions for the future of the Baltic Sea Region – and for the way in which we can all add to the efforts already carried out to strengthen the connections between this region and the United States.

I also want to express my admiration for what the U.S. has done and continues to do to promote the ideas and values which we all cherish – those of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

This is the real basis for the strong friendship that exists between our two countries.

As George Washington once said, true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.

And it is indeed also true that the plants that are the slowest to grow, bears the best fruit.

I would like to compare the friendship between Denmark and the United States to an old, solid and vigorous tree.

And allow me to pick one tree in particular: The pine tree!

Pine trees are mostly evergreen and are very common in the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere.

The seeds from the pine tree mature in only two years. And the matured seeds have winged parts that twirl and float in the wind.

This allows the seeds from the pine tree to travel away to nearby locations and from here grow into new beautiful, solid and vigorous pine trees.

Yes, the friendship between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Denmark is indeed like that of a pine tree. Our friendship has through out the last 13 years spread to Denmark’s neighboring countries around the Baltic Sea. Just like the seeds of the pine tree.

So – I see a special meaning in the fact, that the new framework for U.S. activity in our region – introduced a few weeks ago – is called “e-PINE”.

I welcome the fact that the United States has revised its existing policy and is introducing the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe as its framework for U.S. activity within and in cooperation with the eight Nordic and Baltic States.

The U.S. Government's previous policy framework for the Baltic Sea area, the Northern Europe Initiative, was launched in 1997 and has achieved great success.

The Northern Europe Initiative's foremost goal, the integration of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia into the western community of democracies, has been achieved.

In November last year, the decision was taken to enlarge NATO – and in December, here in Copenhagen, the enlargement of the European Union was decided under the leadership of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

It was a great achievement for the Baltic Sea region, for Europe and for those of us who believe in the ideas on which the European Union (EU) was founded.

I agree with the U.S. Administration that dramatic changes in the world and the positive evolution in Northern Europe symbolized by the enlargement of NATO and the EU, requires an updated U.S. approach to the region.

Although the initiative is still very fresh, I am sure that it will strengthen the relations between the Baltic Sea countries and the United States.

Over time, I am convinced that the initiative will help assure that our friendship continues to be a solid and vigorous friendship based on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In our region, we found the strength to fight for these ideas two decades ago. And we did it together with the United States.

In our region you find the compassion and the determination to make them universal. Because the peoples of the Baltic Sea region knows what it is like not to have them.

In our region, we have certainly come along way since the historic years that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

But, please let me use this opportunity to remind you that our region also does have a tradition of cooperation.

It is not unfamiliar territory for us.

Apart from the 20th century, where the Baltic Sea region more than any other region was challenged by Great Power rivalry, we actually have a tradition of trade and cooperation.

It was obvious to those who came here during the Middle Ages.

From the 11th Century to the 13th, a time of growth was started that we can learn from even today.

The merchants of the Northern German cities depended upon this trade and gradually they developed a cooperation to protect free trade.

From this cooperation grew the Hanseatic League of cities, seen first in the early 12th Century – and which also included cities like Bergen, London, Bruges and Novgorod.

The Hanseatic League never became a nation or a proper state but remained a loose union of cities that bonded together using meetings and Hanseatic Days to discuss common problems and challenges in a peaceful manner.

Especially in the middle of the 14th Century the Hanseatic League completely set the agenda for the economy and policy of the region.

I think we can learn from the Hanseatic League, but we also need to understand why it collapsed.

The cause of the collapse was that as time went by, the Hanseatic League was no longer competitive. And as the competitiveness went from bad to worse, the cooperation went the same way, which then reflected onto the growth of the Hanseatic cities.

So – what we can learn from the Hanseatic period is this: As long as the cooperation was active and ongoing and the advantages of the Baltic Sea were exploited to mutual benefit, the region stayed very competitive.

Therefore, my vision is crystal clear: We must create a Single Market in the Baltic Sea region.

With the enlargement of the EU, we are breaking down trade barriers between the eight new EU member countries in the region.

Our task must be to avoid new ones from being created between the EU and Norway and Russia.

Therefore, the road to an expanded Single Market is for us to support Russia’s ambitions towards membership of the World Trade Organization – and simultaneously help the new member countries integrate in the EU's Single Market, as well as encourage Russia to harmonize and adjust its legislation to the EU.

What we are talking about is the removal of barriers – barriers for the free exchange of goods, capital, people.  And as we all know there are plenty of them, even among old friends and neighbors like the Swedes and the Danes in the Oresund region.

In order to deal with this challenge, we should attack the problems in the same way that was used in the White Paper on the EU’s Single Market, which we negotiated back in 1985.

I have often praised Russia for its willingness to reform and also, the stability which has characterized the country the last couple of years.

I see no reason not to do that also today – though recent event in Russia is causing a lot of anxiety with regard to the rule of law.

This demonstrates that although the laws and conditions for investment have improved greatly in the past few years, there remains an underlying conflict between capital and the Russian state.

Let me emphasize that economic reform will not solve that – only economic diversification.

But Russia’s economic diversification must not happen with a speed that compromises the rule of law or the civil society.

That certainly is not the road to a membership of the World Trade Organization.

The Baltic Development Forum has gradually grown to become the most important networking and agenda-setting forum of the Baltic Sea Region.

Our members represent businesses, organizations and cities, which all know how important their participation is in setting a new and visionary agenda for the Baltic Sea Region.

Not only for their own benefit, but because they all have something to offer to the development of the Baltic Sea Region.

I urge American companies to become more involved. And let me also use this opportunity to invite all of you to our next summit, which will be held in Hamburg on 12-14 September 2004.

During Baltic Development Forum's summit in Riga last month, we defined which areas the Baltic Sea Region as a whole should prioritize in the future.

Areas that should be developed and researched are:

  • Information and communication technology;
  • Transport and infrastructure;
  • All areas within health care;
  • Energy and environment; and
  • Tourism.

Within these sectors we are already at the cutting edge of the development. And the outside world seems to know of our advantages in these areas.

But in order to make the Baltic Sea Region more interesting from a global point of view, we must prioritize these areas to an even larger extent than before.

Also, the Russian Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, which from May of next year will be completely surrounded by the EU, when Lithuania and Poland become members, was the object of attention at the summit in Riga.

Baltic Development Forum was asked to consider taking on the task to coordinate some of the different efforts to establish a strategy for Kaliningrad.

We are seriously considering doing that. However, we can not do it alone.

At the summit, I myself stressed that we must try to do something constructive and of lasting value for Russia and Kaliningrad.

And allow me to emphasize to you today: It is not worthy, neither for Russia or the EU nor for any of us to close our eyes to the problems of Kaliningrad.

Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,

I would like to ask you for a favor.

When you leave, take a look around. Try to count how many pine trees you see on your way to and from the airports or in front of your Embassy.

Try to measure it with how many pine trees you have back home in the U.S. in your back garden or in front of the State Department on 2201 C Street in Washington.

I am sure you will find that there are just as many as there are here.

May those pine trees continue to be a symbol of our friendship and our shared values and ideas.

And may those pine trees continue to spread their seeds around the world. Thank you.

Released on January 28, 2004

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