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Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea 2010 and their Relevance to Central and Eastern Europe
In early December 1995, about 80 researchers and government representatives from 16 European countries met in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the conference 'Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea 2010 and their Relevance to Central and Eastern Europe'.
Background and preparation
In August 1992, representatives from national and regional ministries responsible for spatial policies of countries around the Baltic Sea (Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway) met in Karlskrona. It was agreed to prepare jointly a document on a spatial development concept 'Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea 2010' (VASAB 2010), which was then approved by the Third Conference of Ministers of Spatial Planning and Development at Tallinn (December 7 - 8, 1994).
During the preparation of VASAB 2010, the need for improved knowledge on factors shaping spatial development as well as on instruments and options for spatial policies became apparent. The Tallinn Ministerial Conference approved an action programme that included the elaboration of a research programme and the internet co-operation of spatial research institutes in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). In order to start a process towards those objectives, the Committee on Spatial Development in the Baltic Sea Region (CSD-BSR) considered to arrange a international conference with representatives from research institutes in Vilnius.
The CEE Net became partner of the CSD-BSR. It was decided to organize a joint event, financed mainly by the 'Transform-Programm' of the German Federal Ministry for Regional Planning, Construction and Urban Development and by the Swedish BOVERKET. The German Ministry proposed to focus not only on the Baltic Sea Region but to emphasize the Central and Eastern European context of the development around the Baltic Sea. This proposal gave to the conference a uniqueness (compared with other Baltic Sea meetings) which turned out to be a very fruitful challenge.
Purpose and course
The main purpose was to promote the exchange of experiences and to initiate international cooperation of institutes for concrete research projects. Apart from the research institutes, members of the CSD-BSR joined the conference in Vilnius to start a dialogue among CSD-BSR members defining felt research needs and research institutes presenting their research potentials.
Different perspectives on European spatial development were presented and discussed at the beginning of the conference. Main speakers were Peter Runkel (German Ministry for Regional Planning, Construction and Urban Development), Carl-Johan Engström (BOVERKET) and Leonid Rudenko (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Institute of Geography). In a second step, working groups concentrated on the Baltic Sea Region. The feasibility of Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea Region 2010 was discussed, research needs and some outlines of current or future projects regarding three major fields of development were presented.
On the second day of the conference, working groups studied the relevance of the Baltic and European principles to Central and Eastern Europe. What are the Central and Eastern European expectations of a spatial development policy in Europe? What expectations do the Baltic Region and Europe have on Central and Eastern Europe? What kind of research infrastructure is necessary in Central and Eastern Europe to participate in the international development? What could be the role of the Network of Spatial Research Institutes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE Net) in this process? These are basic questions which were discussed in two of the working groups. The feasibility of modells like VASAB 2010 for regional development and research were discussed with the example of the Baltic States by another working group. Moderators of the working groups were Bjarne Lindström (The Pearls), Jussi Raumolin (The Strings), Anto Raukas (The Patches), Johannes Wieczorek (The System), Ulrich Graute (The Network) and Eugenijus Staninas (The Cooperation).
The first purpose of the conference to promote the exchange of experiences between the participants was fulfilled.
The second purpose to initiate international cooperation of institutes for concrete research projects was almost fulfilled. Some project proposals discussed in Vilnius found financial support. The same may be true for project ideas which were born out of one of the informal discussions in Vilnius. These project ideas and proposals will be part of the conferences documentation to be printed this spring. Fortunately, the Vilnius conference ended with so many ideas and proposals that an extra publication was necessary.
In spite of this success, the conference made clear that the cooperation between researchers from Western (including Nordic) and Central and Eastern European countries around the Baltic Sea is more difficult than expected. The different groups of researchers have to get to know each other more intensively before a two-day meeting might be long enough to come to concrete proposals for joint research projects. A second problem is the framework for financial support. Major research financies like the Nordic Council have formal limitations to finance projects with partners outside the Nordic countries. This was understandable in times of cold war, but today it is an obstacle on the way to the aspired Baltic cooperation and identity.
Carefully summing up the conference, it might be said that Vilnius was in general a very successful conference. Where it could not be successful, it made at least clear what is needed in the future: More opportunities for the exchange of experiences and a more flexible financial framework to come to more cross-Baltic research cooperations.
Another important result of the Vilnius conference was the demand for a more intensive discussion of sustainability concepts in Central and Eastern Europe. This was the main issue of the following conference in Odessa, which had its regional focus in the Black Sea region.
As a result of the conference in Vilnius, an anthology with the title Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea and their Relevance for Central and Eastern Europe was published as volume 17 of the IÖR-SCHRIFTEN (IOER Publications). The publication made additionally proposals for the further international co-operation in Spatial Development.
This publication is partly in three languages (German / English / Russian).