A Baltic Sea Strategy for the Northern Dimension
Delivered in Plenary - 15th November 2006
First of all let me congratulate the rapporteur, my friend Alexander Stubb, and my colleague Christopher Beazley for his good work as Chairman of the Baltic Intergroup.
I totally endorse Diana Wallis’s remarks about raising the EU’s profile in northern Europe. The Northern Dimension is a wide-ranging EU policy which governs EU relations with the north-west Russian areas, including Kaliningrad, the Baltic and the Arctic Sea regions. The Northern Dimension is implemented within the framework of the partnership and cooperation agreement with Russia. It is conceived as a way of working with the countries of Europe’s northern regions to increase prosperity, strengthen security and resolutely combat dangers such as the environmental pollution of the Baltic Sea, nuclear risks such as those posed by the Russian submarine fleet in the Kola Peninsula, cross-border crime and the management of marine resources, amongst others.
Eight EU Member States – Denmark, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden – surround the Baltic Sea, and the EU’s shared border with Russia has lengthened significantly following enlargement. Nevertheless, EU-Russia relations cannot be dictated only by relations between the Baltic states and Russia. Our strategic partnership and our collective EU needs for energy security, as well as cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the need to carry Russia in areas like preventing nuclear proliferation from countries like Iran and North Korea, transcend regional issues such as those addressed by the Northern Dimension.
There is currently financial support from Tacis and Interreg, but shortly Russia will be part of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, and the EU should have a proper budget line for the region. Climate change is making the Arctic more accessible to human activities now, such as exploitation of natural resources and increased shipping, but the Arctic also has an important role to play as an early-warning sign for potentially catastrophic global climate change.
Russia’s energy exports can also be a political weapon, we have now discovered, as we saw last year in Ukraine and this year with Georgia. Now rumours abound that Russia wishes to set up an OPEC-style gas cartel, which we must resist at all costs. I call upon President Putin to get around to ratifying the EU Energy Charter, which would give all EU companies more access to Russian oil and gas. The EU must also invest more in renewables and low-carbon energy, while encouraging as much diversity in supply as possible.