B Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Kaikkonen, rapporteurNote
1. People, and with them their culture, have from time
immemorial been using the Baltic Sea to expand into new areas. The
sea has brought the states around its shores closer to each other
and united them to form a distinctive region. Then the regional
development of the Baltic was interrupted for decades by the East-West divide
that came into being after the Second World War. Political antagonism
and the difference between social systems set limits to trade and
other contacts between East and West and created other problems
in the relationship. Trade always benefits both parties and creates
a mutual dependence between them. This was perceived as a problem
in East-West trade, in which the aim was often to limit the advantage
that the other party gained and one’s own dependence on trade.
2. A new reality came into being in the Baltic Sea region in
the early 1990s, when all the countries around the shores of the
sea declared themselves to be market economies and democracies or
at least to be aspiring to achieve that status. Another revolutionary
development has been the accession to membership of the European
Union of all the Baltic riparian states – with the single exception
3. The core and unifying element of the Baltic Sea region is
the inland sea itself. The region also has other features that are
unique to it, but perhaps this natural geographical fact explains
why the Baltic Sea region, albeit within varying borders, has become
an established entity on the map of Europe. The Baltic Sea region has
not been defined officially, unambiguously or within precise borders.
There are several valid definitions – none completely satisfactory.
One definition that can be considered justified is that by which
six riparian states are included in their entirety, but only the
coastal areas of Russia, Germany and Poland. The latter three countries
are indeed often included, because they share “Baltic” characteristics
with all riparian states. Also Norway and Belarus, and sometimes
Ukraine and even Iceland, can in some contexts be counted as belonging to
4. As one of Europe’s sub-regions (see the appendix), the Baltic
Sea region is a necessary and beneficial expression of internationalism
and a focus of co-operation. By no means all phenomena and problems
fit within national frontiers. For example, the environment is a
current concern, both nationally and internationally. It makes sense
to develop transport connections and energy management through international
co-operation. Trade can be livelier with neighbours across a border
than with one’s own compatriots. The fact that for all riparian
states, with the exception of Germany, the most important trading
partner is another riparian state, testifies to the Baltic Sea region’s
real existence and benefits.
5. While the need for cross-border co-operation has increased
in various sectors, changes in technology, telecommunications and
production, as well as progress towards European integration, have
created better preconditions for a functional sub-region. Maintaining
and improving the competitiveness of the countries, economies, sectors
and companies in the region involves networking that assumes many
forms. Regional integration may be an incentive for outside companies,
but above all the region’s different areas and companies need integration
in order to exploit new opportunities and solve shared problems.
6. As already mentioned, there is an acute awareness in the Baltic
Sea region of interdependence. But there are also unexploited linkages.
For example, ecology and economy are two sides of the same coin:
all economic activity pollutes the environment, which is why improving
the situation will require changes in the economic behaviour of
people, companies and communities. However, an economic approach
to environmental problems remains unusual, even though the objective
of sustainable development calls for it. The objectives sought through
the co-ordination of ecology and economy are greater efficiency
in the use of energy, the lowest possible level of pollution from
all economic activity as well as sparing use and recycling of resources.
2 The diversity of
the Baltic Sea region as a challenge and a resource
7. A special feature of the Baltic Sea region has been
its unique diversity as a European sub-region. Although it is not
particularly extensive, it contains examples of state disintegration
following the collapse of socialism (the Soviet Union), unification
(Germany) and continuity (Poland). Adding to the region’s diversity
is the fact that the nine riparian states have built their relations
with international organisations in different ways.
8. Eight of the countries with Baltic coastlines are members
of the European Union. At the beginning of the 1990s, only two of
them belonged to the European Community: a reunited Germany and
Denmark. Sweden and Finland joined the Union in 1995, followed by
Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia in 2004. Among the riparian
states, only Russia remains outside the European Union. All of the
European Union (EU) countries except Finland and Sweden are NATO
9. All Russia’s EU neighbours are in the Baltic Sea region. This
physical contact gives the region special opportunities and responsibilities
with respect to these two major European actors, Russia and the
EU. Adding to the challenging nature of the situation is the fact
that there are major differences in relations between Russia and
the eight riparian states that are EU members. The relations between
Russia and the Baltic States as well as with Poland are characterised
by a painful inheritance from the socialist era and which developments
of later years have failed to alleviate. Germany is not a neighbour
of Russia, but – as its biggest trading partner – has wanted to
cast aside the shadows of history. Neighbourly relations between
Finland and Russia can be characterised as normal, and even good.
Sweden and Denmark do not have the same ballast of recent history in
their relations with Russia as do the other states in the Baltic
Sea region, nor does Russia have the same importance to them as
a trading partner as it does to the others.
10. The debate engendered by the Nord Stream gas pipeline project
well illustrates the different points of departure and objectives
of the states in the region with respect to Russia. The idea is
to bring gas from Vyborg in Russia to Greiswald in Germany through
a pipeline running along the bed of the Baltic Sea. The gas will mainly
supply German needs. The central considerations in assessing the
project are, naturally, calculations to do with energy policy, economics
and technical features. However, associated environmental, political
and security issues, to which the riparian states accord varying
degrees of emphasis, have equally assumed great importance. What
is positive is that the two heavyweights in the region, Russia and
Germany, are capable of long-term co-operation because, without
their good mutual relations, the Baltic Sea region as a functional
entity would not exist at all. Of course, a partnership of two must
not discriminate against outsiders nor harm the interests of the
other countries in the region, something that is feared in some
of the other countries.
11. Relations between the EU and Russia are most comprehensively
covered by the 1994 Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA).
Its replacement with a deeper strategic partnership has proved elusive
so far (like Russia’s long-planned WTO membership) despite progress
made at the latest EU–Russia Summit in Stockholm. When assessing
the prerequisites of the EU and Russia for a strategic partnership,
a key question is to what degree the EU and Russia are similar or
different as partners. The fundamental question is whether the partners
can be regarded as so similar with respect to their social and economic
systems that co-operation between them can produce a strategic partnership.
Do the EU and Russia see themselves as representing the same values?
Even when partners do not share a sufficiently similar foundation
of values, co-operation can work well without a strategic partnership
as long as the parties recognise the differences between them. Perhaps
the delay in creating a strategic partnership reveals that the prerequisites
for a relationship of this kind between the EU and Russia do not
12. An agreement providing for a strategic partnership or even
a somewhat more modest relationship between the EU and Russia would
be especially significant for the Baltic Sea region, where its role
in promoting the development of co-operation would be comparable
to the constant deepening of EU integration.
13. The Kaliningrad region, cut off from the rest of Russia, is
an interesting potential link between Russia and the EU, although
the role that it could play in that capacity remains undefined.
The opportunities and problems stemming from the Kaliningrad region’s
special status have long been weighed up in Moscow. But it remains
unclear whether what Russia primarily wants there are commercial
centres or garrisons. If the Kaliningrad region is to have a significant
military role for Russia, it will be difficult to implement a major
contact corridor between Russia and the EU, planned on the same
site as a military base. Looked at from the angle of economic relations,
of course, it would be preferable for the Kaliningrad region to
be a channel between Russia and the EU rather than a thorn in the
side of the NATO countries that are its neighbours.
14. The Cold War division that still lingers in the Baltic Sea
region shows itself in the per capita incomes of the different countries,
but also in, for example, international comparisons of competitiveness.
On average, the Baltic Sea states are quite competitive: four of
the old market economies in the region (Sweden, Denmark, Finland
and Germany) are generally placed among the top 10 in global comparisons.
This is unique as a regional achievement, because several of the
other most competitive countries are located in different parts
of the world. A worrying development has been a relative weakening
of Russia’s and Poland’s competitiveness in the 21st century.
15. The same division into two groups has been revealed in a comparison
of corruption. The same situation prevails in comparisons of research
and development. In this sector, the Baltic Sea region as a whole
is above the EU average.
3 Prerequisites for regional
16. The competitiveness of both the entire region and
the individual countries and companies within it derives great benefit
from the fact that the markets of the Baltic Sea economic region
are still integrating. Indeed, until the present recession at least,
it has been possible to operate in the region in the context of
falling barriers to trade, growing integration and advancing globalisation.
National domestic markets have given way to new home markets covering
the entire region, which have been subjected to growing competitive
pressures from outside.
17. In the final analysis it is companies and people – as entrepreneurs,
employees, tourists, students, and so on – who implement, or fail
to implement integration. What is of primary importance from the
perspective of trade is that states have eliminated obstacles and
unnecessary costs from international business operations. A study
conducted in Sweden in 2007 revealed that eliminating all of the
remaining obstacles and other factors impeding international economic
links could increase the GDP of the region by 1%. This assessment
indicates that, compared with most other regions, the Baltic Sea
region has already come close to the ideal of free trade.
18. Thus national frontiers no longer prevent internationalisation
of activities in the Baltic Sea region and do not generally cause
undue costs. Consequently, the supply and demand of market economies
that are close to each other combine as companies seek objects that
are expensive when sold, cheap when bought or advantageous for the
location of operations. More and more companies have announced strategies
in which the Baltic Sea region forms its home market. At the moment,
only two of the countries in the region, Germany and Finland, are
members of the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The region’s
character as a home market for local companies will strengthen substantially
when and if the other EU members there join the EMU.
19. Companies have had to seek new operational concepts in home
markets that have enlarged to the size of the Baltic Sea region,
meaning that they are already encountering globalisation. The region
has become almost in its entirety an open and single market for
competitors and partners from the outside. In the new economic geography,
this situation and the alternatives that it offers companies are
assessed as the starting point for examining the region’s “market
potential”, which is determined by the number and proximity of customers,
business partners and competitors. Customers and partners make locating
there an attractive proposition. If competitors are numerous, they
eat into profits, causing the opposite effect.
20. An agglomeration of customers and business partners attracts
more companies; the positive external effects of an extensive pool
of customers and companies have a similar impact. The opposite effect
results from the high prices and costs that are caused by concentration
of customers and production, stiff competition as well as problems
associated with transport, the environment and crime. The benefits
and drawbacks of agglomeration seem to vary in different sectors
of production. Typical features of sectors that favour agglomeration
are exploitation of economies of scale, generally a strong position
in the market, firm linkages between inputs and outputs, the key
importance of mobile factors of production (including skilled human resources)
as well as a rapid pace of introduction of new products.
21. All in all, the appraisals of prospects for the integration
of the Baltic Sea region that have been made are mutually contradictory.
The potential of regional integration is regarded as being at its
best when countries are similar in their levels of development,
political backgrounds and cultures. Thus the heterogeneity of the
Baltic Sea region could be disadvantageous for trade. The fact that
the centre of gravity of the economies of the region’s biggest countries,
Russia, Germany and Poland lies outside the region is not a constructive
element from the point of view of integration. On the other hand,
the numerous initiatives for the common good of the region and the
organisations created for this purpose as well as trade and investment
statistics testify to deepening integration, in which it has proved
possible to transform diversity into a feature that enhances the region’s
possibilities. This, among other conclusions, emerged clearly from
the high level seminar, Contribution to a Pan-European Economic
Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region organised by the Finnish Parliament
in Helsinki in May 2009 on the occasion of the meeting of the Parliamentary
Assembly’s Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.
4 Trade and movement of factors
22. The significance of an enlarged domestic market area,
that is, of trade between the Baltic countries, varies from country
to country depending mainly on the size of the country in question.
In the case of Germany, one of the top countries in world trade,
the other Baltic countries account for about a tenth of its total
trade, whereas their share of Russia’s total is about a fifth. For
Poland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark the share is around 40%, whilst
the figure for the three Baltic States is about two thirds of all
foreign trade. Although trade with the other riparian states is
not particularly significant for Germany, that country is nevertheless
the clear number one in trade between the states of the region.
23. Does trade between the states in the Baltic Sea region correspond
to the level that their GDPs, populations and proximity to each
other would suggest? This question is often examined with the aid
of the so-called “gravity model”, in which the three factors mentioned
in the question are used to predict trade flows. A striking result
of these analyses has been that all countries’ exports to Russia
and Poland have remained markedly smaller than the “normal level”
that the model would indicate, thus it appears that these two countries offer
the others in the region unrealised export opportunities. Of course,
the reality is more complex than the assumptions underlying a simplifying
model, but it nevertheless appears likely that the centre of gravity
of the region’s trade will shift eastwards from the traditional
24. A distinction often made in analyses of foreign trade is that
between intra-industry trade, in which exports and imports consist
of products belonging to the same category, and inter-industry trade,
in which imports and exports between the partners have different
product structures. Countries’ proximity to each other and a similar (high)
income level have been found to increase the share of intra-industry
trade. Intra-industry trade also results from the fact that nowadays
production processes are largely affected by the international division
25. These facts also apply in the Baltic Sea region. Intra-industry
trade is at its greatest between countries with a high level of
income. The country that is least involved in this kind of trade
is Russia, whose exports consist mainly of energy and raw materials,
and its imports of manufactured goods. In the country with the smallest
economy in the region, Estonia, a factory does not usually produce
Estonian end-products for the market, but instead engages in intra-industry
trade by contributing to the manufacture of the products of Nokia, Siemens
or some other international company. The quality, environmental,
logistical and other such standards that production in Estonia must
meet are the same and just as stringent as those required of international brands.
This is a tough requirement for new market economies, but at the
same time it promotes all-round development of their economies and
26. Trade in energy is important for the countries of the region
– exports for Russia and mainly imports for the others. The total
share of energy imports from Russia varies from just over 10% in
the case of Denmark to over 90% in the case of Lithuania. The share
of natural gas imports from Russia is even higher, varying by country
from nearly 50% to 100%.
27. Foreign direct investment has been of major significance in
helping to adapt production in the former socialist countries to
the modern international division of labour and trade. It has brought
not only capital, but also new technology, managerial skills, risk-taking
and marketing know-how as well as channels to other markets. Also
from the perspective of deepening integration, investment is a more
effective means than trade in goods. All in all, foreign direct
investment totalling over a trillion euros has been made in the
countries fringing the Baltic Sea. Statistics show that Sweden has
been the biggest foreign investor in the region before Germany.
28. Besides capital, labour also moves within the Baltic Sea region
much more freely and in greater volumes than it used to. Foreign
investment by companies already results in labour mobility, in which
workers change countries while their employer remains the same.
However, this accounts for only a small part of labour movements.
A low income level and possible unemployment in the source country
provide an incentive to move in search of a better level of income.
29. Labour mobility and immigration in all their aspects are relevant
issues in all the countries of the Baltic Sea region. In the light
of demographic and fertility statistics, the countries of the region
will in the future encounter a decline in their labour forces, which
migration will mitigate only in part. The region’s own population is
well-educated and skilled. The demand focused on foreign labour
is diverse in nature. The closer the place that new arrivals come
from and the closer the cultures of the source and destination countries
are to each other, the better the reception that foreign labour
and immigrants in general receive. Thus it would be desirable for
countries in the Baltic Sea region to receive migrants from the
region’s other countries. However, that would mean a regrettable
“beggar-my-neighbour” policy, which would hardly be practicable
on an extensive scale. The share of foreign labour coming from further
afield, especially Asia, will probably increase in the region.
30. Especially when immigrants come from far away, it must be
borne in mind that what is involved in immigration is hardly ever
merely a worker, but rather a person who spends twenty-four hours
a day in a new home country and has perhaps brought along a family
and other relatives as well. Thus there are more aspects than international
mobility of labour to be looked at in an examination of the matter;
there is also a much broader range of social and economic factors.
Unless we are prepared to deal with it properly and ensure the integration of
new arrivals, the hoped-for influx of labour can become more a cause
of problems, for both the destination country and the immigrants,
than a solution for them.
31. Immigration from outside the region can mitigate the labour
shortage, but it brings with it the problems of demographic policy
mentioned above. In addition, ageing of the local population is
a challenge to which other solutions besides immigration must be
found. In all the countries involved, growth in the relative share
of the elderly segment of the population will require measures designed
to increase the productivity and participation of ageing people
in the labour force. We must also be able to improve public and
private services for the elderly.
32. The Baltic Sea region is in many respects, even before the
expected of influx of labour, a heterogeneous “mini-world” in which
there is great variation in its countries’ recent history in general
and with respect to European integration, as well as in the strength
of their economies. This has provided good opportunities for an
international division of labour within modern production processes
and for intra-industry trade. The wide variety of characteristics
that the region offers creates opportunities for movements of capital
and labour both within the region and across its borders. It is
not always necessary to go to the ends of the earth to find more suitable
production conditions for some or other parts of a process. All
in all, the new economic geography favours the Baltic Sea region.
5 Conclusions and recommendations
33. The Baltic Sea region is quite well known as a concept
both within its own borders and beyond. Numerous organisations bring
together actors belonging to various sectors in the region. The
region’s competitiveness and economic growth have performed well
in international comparisons, something that has attracted investment
and immigrants to the region. Over the long term, it is forecast
that the region will suffer from a shortage of labour, a fact that
poses big challenges relating to integration of people arriving
from other parts of the world. For companies, the new opportunities
in the region must be seized. Unless a company takes account of
them in its operations, it will lag behind those of its competitors
who respond more sensitively to their environment. Burying your
head in the sand will provide no defence in an open market.
34. Their Baltic nature is, naturally, only a part of the identity
of those countries that have interests also in other sub-regions.
Indeed, it is somewhat problematic from the perspective of identity
that the biggest riparian states, Russia, Germany and Poland, do
not perceive themselves as being primarily Baltic countries. Russia now
possesses coastal areas that, in the light of history, have shrunk
to small dimensions, but which nevertheless mean a lot more to the
country than their share of its total area or population would suppose.
The centres of gravity of the Polish and German economies are not
in the coastal areas, either, which makes these areas pretty peripheral
in terms of economic geography.
35. As mentioned at the beginning of this report, the Baltic Sea
region is not definable in only one way, which makes both the emergence
of a sense of identity and the strengthening of its image more difficult.
But more important than an unambiguous regional definition, which
would not work in all contexts, is to emphasise functionality as
the core of the regional identity. Interests associated with economic
relations, transport, environmental protection, social questions
and so on, are relevant in a definition of the Baltic Sea region.
The region is a functional entity, not an administrative one. It
will never have a king, a president, a parliament or “sacred” borders
to strengthen its identity nor to burnish its image.
36. There is no longer any need for the European Union to expand
on the Baltic shores, nor any prospect of that happening. Instead,
every step of progress in neighbourly and other relations between
the EU and Russia advances co-operation in the region and its unity.
To complement the EU’s common Russian policy, every country in the
region has a right and also an obligation to cherish its bilateral
relations with Russia. The EU and its member states can, through
their own policies influence Russia’s preparedness to participate
in the integration of the Baltic Sea region and other forms of co-operation
there. As the most important energy producer and supplier in the
region, Russia has a special responsibility to ensure that there
is light and heat and that the traffic flows.
37. The EU and Russia need a mutual partnership on the shores
of another inland sea as well. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania
to the EU in 2007 brought the EU to the shores of the Black Sea.
The importance of this sea to the Union may further increase in
the future, because at least Ukraine and Georgia, in addition to
Turkey, have indicated their wish to draw closer to it. The EU and
other stakeholders will have their work cut out to develop this
sub-region. The experience gained in the Baltic Sea region could
be of valuable help in this project because this region has been
a pioneer in the co-operative development of European sub-regions
in the post-Cold War period. The region encompasses countries that
have become EU members at various stages, but also the Baltic riparian
state Russia as well as Norway and Belarus, which border riparian
states. The experience gained in developing the Baltic Sea region
should be applied elsewhere in Europe, especially in the Black Sea
region and in other sub-regions that contain both EU members and states
that are not in the Union. Sub-regions of this kind, which would
benefit from closer co-operation than at present, also include the
Danube Basin and the Western Balkans.
38. From the perspective of the Baltic Sea region’s significance
and the reputation it enjoys, it is of first-rank importance that
the parties involved in it as well as the rest of Europe perceive
its development, and co-operation with it, to be beneficial to themselves.
Much remains to be done here, although there has been no shortage
of speeches on a general level about the benefits of co-operation.
Making contributions into environmental protection, transport and
energy networks, the effective functioning of economic relations
as well as combating crime, will undoubtedly benefit the individual
countries, the Baltic Sea region as a whole and all of Europe. Good
international contacts in training and research will add to the
population’s wellbeing and competitiveness, in addition to promoting
democracy and the development of market-economy institutions. The neighbours’
well-being is a part of one’s own best interests.
39. Of course, the Baltic Sea region cannot be exploited in the
same way as a colony or some other kind of client state from which
riches can be repatriated. The region is comparable to a garden,
where in order to derive benefit everyone has to tend their own
patch, look after their country’s institutional and physical environment and
in addition contribute to all-round co-operation with one’s neighbours.
40. What could be proposed that is actually new to develop identity,
integration and other co-operation? Since all of the riparian states
except Russia are now in the EU, it seems natural that the Union
will become an active player in the development of a valuable sub-region.
Indeed, the EU launched its future strategy for the Baltic Sea on
10 June 2009, under the Swedish presidency. Sweden gave priority
to pushing through the strategy during its semester at the helm.
The Baltic Sea Strategy aims to co-ordinate action by the EU and
its member states, regions, pan-Baltic organisations, financial
institutions and non-governmental bodies with a view to promoting
a more balanced development of the region. The four pillars of the
strategy are to make the region more environmentally sustainable
(for example, reducing sea pollution); more prosperous (for example, promoting
innovation in small and medium sized businesses); more accessible
and attractive (for example, improving transport connections); as
well as safer and more secure (for example, enhancing accident response).
41. The strategy is accompanied by an Action Plan comprising 15
priority areas (each of which will be the responsibility of a Baltic
member state to implement together with all relevant stakeholders).
The strategy and proposed actions are to be funded by each Baltic
Sea state, NGOs, private sources, financial institutions such as
the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB)
and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
as well as the EU Structural Funds (€55 billion for the 2007-13 period).
The strategy will also include many horizontal actions designed
to develop territorial cohesion, measures to co-ordinate the implementation
of EU directives and to overcome bureaucratic barriers, measures to
encourage the use of maritime spatial planning, the development
of land-based spatial planning in Baltic member states, steps to
improve and co-ordinate the collection of maritime and socio-economic
data in the Baltic region and, last but not least, efforts to build
a regional identity.
The European Council endorsed the EU Strategy for the Baltic
Sea Region in October 2009. The strategy will be implemented over
the course of 2010, with a stakeholder forum scheduled for 13-15
October 2010 in Tallinn, Estonia. In parallel, several convergence,
competitiveness and co-operation programmes are being co-financed
from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the Baltic
Sea Region in the period of 2007-2013.Note
43. It is, however, true that in the present situation topical
matters affecting all of the EU countries equally, and with which
the Baltic Sea strategy will have to compete, are coming onto the
EU agenda. There is no point now in other actors trying to develop
alternatives that compete with the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy, but
projects that complement it would be desirable. Familiarisation
with the contents of the strategy and its attendant proposals will
provide a good starting point for new openings with a view to developing
the Baltic Sea region through measures by parties other than the
44. Money and structures are often regarded as accelerators of
development. Money is needed and certainly will be found to improve
the environment as well as to build transport and energy networks.
Funding will also be found for other programmes and projects. With
the recession affecting the Baltic Sea region as well, financing
from all sources will be scarcer in the near future than they were
even a short time ago. To cope with the recession, all of the states
and many of the institutions in the region will need very large
injections of cash to safeguard their existence and operations.
Thus significant funding cannot be expected for the implementation
of either the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy or other projects that generally
strengthen cohesion in the region. It is desirable that, in general,
funds intended to stimulate the economy should also be channelled to
purposes that support the integration and identity of the Baltic
45. One thing that is mentioned more often than a lack of structures
as one of the problems of the Baltic Sea region is an abundance
of different organisations and the fact that they partly overlap.
However, this does not by any means imply that there would not be
good grounds for setting up new structures. A promising new project
is the Baltic Sea Action Summit, which took place in Helsinki on
10 February 2010 and brought together political and corporate leaders
as well as civic groups from all the Baltic countries. Behind the
project is the Baltic Sea Action Group, launched by the President
of the Republic of Finland, Ms Tarja Halonen, and the Prime Minister
of Finland, Mr Matti Vanhanen, a body in which public, private and
civil society organisations combine their resources and contributions
in order to save the Baltic Sea.
46. Something that might also be useful is a new institution that
could be viewed unambiguously as a guardian of the Baltic Sea region’s
interests. Although it might not give a region with such flexible
borders a “ruler”, an organisation that actively championed the
region’s interests and was headed by a high-ranking representative
could be good for the region’s image, sense of unity and visibility.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe could take the
initiative in proposing the creation of such a body – a kind of
“Baltic Sea Union”.