Organised by Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Ministerial Session was attended by the foreign ministers and high-level representatives of the CBSS member states: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the European Union.
The CBSS members agreed on a joint declaration, referred to as the Wismar Declaration
The 20th CBSS Ministerial Session concluded with a declaration underscoring its support for renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, and the role of the region’s youth in shaping its future. The Council also condemned the ongoing military aggression by Russia in Ukraine, and emphasised the need for developing the resilience of societies in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR).
In a show of unity, the CBSS Ministers took a strong stance against Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine, voicing their unwavering solidarity with Ukraine. Belarus was condemned for its complicit role in the conflict. The Council stated that its relations with both countries will remain severed until adherence to international law is restored. Russia was suspended from the CBSS in 2022 and subsequently withdrew from the organisation.
The Russian aggression means that the members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States face greater challenges than ever before in the 31 years of the organisation’s existence, because security in the Baltic Sea region depends on far more than the mere presence of naval and air forces in and above the Baltic Sea. Also of relevance are civil navigation and trade routes, the continued presence of munitions from the World Wars, the strength and resilience of our societies and, last but not least, our efforts to generate huge amounts of renewable energy offshore and push ahead with the expansion of wind farms. Renewable energy makes us independent of energy imports. It is our trump card in combatting the climate crisis.Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Germany
Developing the resilience of societies in the region
Underlining the importance of further developing the resilience of societies in the Baltic Sea Region, the ministers recognised the need of enhancing the ability of societies to resist and recover from shocks. They particularly identified strengthening civil preparedness, countering disinformation and false narratives, protecting and enhancing the resilience of critical infrastructure as key issues of cooperation.
Priorities of the German CBSS Presidency
With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine exposing Europe’s vulnerability to its dependency on fossil fuels, especially Russian oil and gas, the Council reaffirmed its commitment to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Recalling the recently held Baltic Offshore Wind Forum and the Berlin Declaration on Offshore Wind, the Council identified offshore wind as a major potential source of renewable energy, noting that it could help combat climate change, increase energy security, and reduce energy prices.
The Council also praised the launch of a holistic dialogue on underwater munitions in the Baltic Sea, taking into account recommendations from the Kiel roundtable on dumped munitions, with the Council advocating for continuous cooperation, notably with HELCOM, to bridge knowledge gaps, develop eco-friendly risk assessment practices, and investigate funding opportunities for safer management of dumped munitions.
Highlighting youth involvement, the Council furthermore praised the launch of the Baltic Sea Region Youth Forum in January 2023 and the active participation of young people in the recently held CBSS Youth Ministerial. The outcomes of the event – four concrete project proposals of which one has received a grant of 5000 euros for further implementation, and a youth position paper – were also presented.
Emphasising the importance of multilevel governance, the Council highlighted the CBSS’s role as a forum for political dialogue on issues of common interest and as an instrument for practical cooperation. The Council reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Targets, inviting its members to continually strive for their ambitious implementation in the region.
The Council commended the successful German presidency of the CBSS, with Finland being warmly welcomed as the incoming presidency from July 2023.
The 20th CBSS Ministerial Session in Wismar was organised by the German Presidency of the CBSS and chaired by Annalena Baerbock, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Germany. The full speech by Annalena Baerbock at the opening of the Ministerial is available here.