Despite the impact of the pandemic, many young people in the Baltic Sea Region are looking positively into the future and want to play an active role in creating a vision beyond 2030. This vision could not come at a more important time when brave ideas are needed to build a more resilient region after the recent COVID-19 crisis.
As the Council of the Baltic Sea States is actively preparing for the Ministerial Meting under the Lithuanian Presidency on 1 June, all young people living in the region were invited to share their vision and focal points for the region beyond 2030 in the CBSS Ministerial 2021: Youth Edition, main goal of which was for young people to outline their ideas for the future of the Baltic Sea Region, that would be presented to the CBSS Ministers of Foreign Affairs during their meeting.
In collaboration with the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian National Youth Council (LiJOT) we brought youth between 16-30 years to a two-day virtual event, to hear from experts, listen to other youth representatives, ask all their questions to the vice-Foreign Minister of Lithuania, and most importantly actively participate in shaping the future of the region.
We kicked off with a short lecture by Dr Tobias Etzold, researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with a vast knowledge on the region. Our Deputy Director General Bernd Hemingway later described how declarations and political guidelines are agreed upon focusing especially on the Vilnius I declaration, adopted in 2010 and the upcoming Vilnius II declaration, which will be adopted during the CBSS Ministerial.
The audience took the chance to ask questions on the work of the CBSS and our priority areas, prominent question topics included the collaboration between non-EU and EU member states within the Council and the work done to protect the environment.
On May 14th the event continued at 14:00 CEST with another highlight: A Q&A session with the Lithuanian vice Foreign Minister Arnoldas Pranckevičius, moderated by Urtė Petrulytė (LiJOT) and Ray Finger (Baltic Sea Youth Platform).
Many interesting questions regarding the work of the Lithuanian Presidency, the future of the region and general societal issues were discussed. The young people showed that they are interested and experts in many areas and the vice-Foreign Minister was impressed by the questions. He explained the circumstances of decisions and took all input given serious.
The Q&A session was followed by a discussion between representatives of the National Youth Councils and policy-makers on the subject of youth representation in the Baltic Sea Region.
The panel consisted of Umberto Masi (LiJOT), Ilze Bergmane (LJP, Latvian Youth Council), Håvard Skogerbø (LNU, Norwegian Youth Council) and Dr. Kaarina Williams (EUSBSR PA Culture co-coordinator) and was moderated by the CBSS Regional Identity Project Assistant for the Baltic Sea Youth Platform Aline Mayr.
The discussion concluded that the most important challenge is continuity in youth participation and that it is important to provide fora to meet and build collaboration and trust between youth organisations in order to build a resilient and meaningful mechanism for young people to actively participate in decision-making.
After two days of receiving a lot of input, the young people could once more discuss their vision for the region beyond 2030 and provide their thoughts for a common youth vision paper, presented to the Foreign Ministers. Many topics were discussed, and the young people agreed that the Baltic Sea Region has much more in common than is often realised and recognised, therefore collaboration between neighbours is indispensable. Together, we can build a resilient region which will be the forerunner in equality, sustainability and security by 2030 and beyond.