Mr. Van den Broek, Commissioner responsible for external political relations, attended the IV ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Gdansk on 19 May 1995. The Commissioner highlighted the importance of the Baltic Sea region for the European Union, notably in view of Finland and Sweden's recent accession to the Union, the signing of a Europe Agreement with Poland, and the impending signing of Europe Agreements with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. In addition, a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia will soon be ratified, while EU relations with Norway continue to flourish. The Commission will prepare, before the end of 1995, an assessment of the results achieved in terms of political and economic reform in the Baltic region. On the basis of that analysis, concrete prospects for further cooperation will be identified: - In the framework of the PHARE programme, country strategies for the Baltic States and Poland are currently under preparation, to be integrated in a multiannual programme. The PHARE cross-border cooperation facility, which become operational in 1994, will adopt a multi-country approach, i.e. cooperation between four EU Member States on the one hand and four partner countries around the Baltic Sea on the other. - Further revision of the TACIS programme has been foreseen, namely in order to enable the St. Petersburg- and Kaliningrad regions to participate in this facility. - Cross-border cooperation will be enhanced through the EU's INTERREG II initiative, concentrating particularly on the border regions around the Baltic Sea. - Another area for cooperation concerns trans-European networks, in the fields of energy, transport and telecommunications. In the energy sector, the linking of electricity and gas supply networks in the Union with those of the partner countries is the subject of a variety of activities funded by the Union and the international financial institutions. In the transport sector, the gradual development of transport corridors is being undertaken (for example, the Via Baltica, the Via Hanseatica, improvement of Baltic ferry services and the linking of energy networks). With regard to telecommunications, multi-country programmes aim to ensure the joint development of networks. - Public investment programmes have recently been decided by Latvia and Lithuania, soon to be followed by Estonia, and have been approved in the mean time by the international financial institutions. At the initiative of the Commission, G-24 conferences have been held to examine these programmes with the aim of ensuring their realization through adequate external funding. - Optimal coordination is required between these multilateral initiatives and the support measures undertaken on a bilateral basis by the Member States. Joint initiatives resulting from systematic consultations between all the parties will bring about tangible results.
Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden