Around 100 international participants gathered on June 14 and 15 in Rostock, Germany to discuss and push forward common strategies for more sustainable economic development in the Baltic Region. The conference was organised by EGP Co-Chair Reinhard Bütikofer MEP, in cooperation with the Green Group of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s Regional Parliament.
In plenary sessions and four different expert workshops, participants discussed common challenges and different targets for green growth, in the fields of tourism, energy, maritime industry and research and development, and maritime and coastal environmental protection.
The concept of Growth was one of the main topics of discussions and led to lively debates amongst the participants, who came from all sorts of different groups: academia, business, civil society, and of course a lot of Greens!
“Especially in the current crisis, a new approach to growth, a new way of doing economics is needed,” commented Bütikofer. “We urgently need to develop more intelligent ways of growth, fresh perspectives on how to make different parts of our economy more sustainable and greener.” For Bütikofer, the Baltic Sea Region could serve as a model case for Green growth. Countries in the region share the same experiences and are facing the same challenges. Solutions must be carried out in a coordinated way, be it fighting pollution in the Baltic Sea, developing sustainable concepts for cross-border tourism or setting cleaner standards for maritime trade and ship traffic.
According to Jürgen Suhr, Chair of the Green Group of the regional parliament, the potential for cooperation is huge. To him, regional cooperation could and should be used to for projects such as offshore wind farms.Ville Niinistö, the Finnish Minister of the Environment, was the keynote speaker at the second day of the conference. He reiterated the need for regional cooperation. The Baltic Sea region already has a very high degree of environmental standards, and is one of the regions that has been least affected by Europe’s financial and economic crisis.
This proves that conservative business lobbies, who argue that high standards would scare business off and cut economic growth, are wrong. Instead, the region must continue strengthening environmental standards. “What we need is a third industrial revolution, but this time it has to be a green industrial revolution,” Niinistö explained.
Many good ideas about how to strengthen regional cooperation developed from the conference’s workshops. The organizers promised to take these ideas up and continue the discussion on the European level.