Regions are considered to be key players for the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. However, there are several obstacles hindering many regions and regional stakeholders from fully getting involved in this work. Therefore, the aim of the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission seminar was to elaborate on these obstacles and on the links between regional development and transnational cooperation, while also asking the question in which way EU policies function as drivers for regional development.
As part of the seminar, the showcasing of regional initiatives, specifically the TENTacle- and Smart Blue Regions projects, illustrated two different methods for integrating policy as a driving force in transnational cooperation for regional development. As an example, TENTacle is the latest project stemming from a chain, or even network, of transport projects originating already 15 years ago with the Baltic Gateway project. Ultimately the aim is to contribute to a sustainable transport system, which is gradually achieved through influencing policy on EU and BSR-levels while also developing concrete solutions to challenges at local and regional levels. As a contrast, Smart Blue Regions is a totally new initiative where six BSR regions have come together to use Smart Specialisation Strategies as tools for designing regional development approaches in Blue Growth for each participating region.
The seminar ended with a panel discussion with regional representatives. The panel concluded three main responsibilities for regions as they aim to make use of transnational cooperation opportunities and EU-policy as tools for development.
- Initially the region should function as a translator. This concerns of course the actual translation of key information into local languages, but equally important is to translate and connect the buzzwords and key concepts into a relevant and functional rhetoric for the local and regional stakeholders.
- Connected to translation, the actual communication approach is key. Actively communicating the possibilities of transnational cooperation and the relevance of EU policy is one aspect, but also continuously working on identifying and communicating the values added and achieved by transnational cooperation was said to be important, and today is often neglected.
- Finally, it was proposed that the region should view itself as a facilitator for regional and local stakeholders as they venture into the transnational arena for cooperation and problem-solving.
In conclusion, regions navigate in a system of EU policies, macro-regional strategies and various transnational networks and initiatives, not to forget numerous funding programmes and opportunities for cooperation. This system is complex in itself and in order to connect the local and regional stakeholders with relevant transnational potential, the regions need to develop their role as facilitator and communicator.