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28th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference successfully concluded – Lithuania takes over the Presidency of the BSPC

Concluding the conference, the parliamentarians unanimously passed a resolution covering cooperation in the Baltic Sea region, the future of working life, safeguarding the oceans – achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals – as well as migration and integration. In their resolution, they called, among other points, to strengthen trust among all Member States of the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) through further concrete efforts and measures; to intensify the early involvement of the next generation and respect the next generation’s concerns more intensively in policy and decision-making processes via concrete measures of the governments to reinforce the foundations of trust and security in the Baltic Sea region as an element of foreign policy; to implement and exchange ideas on the ministerial level as early as possible; to include the social partners’ current considerations and strategic approaches in meeting the considerable challenges regarding the future of working life and to use the early exchange of such to deal with these challenges in the individual countries of the Baltic Sea region; to support the further development of a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste and to explore the possibility of a Baltic Sea-wide agreement on the future management of migration.

After the successful passing of the resolution, the baton of the Presidency went to Lithuania as the host of the next and 29thBaltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. The conference unanimously appointed Valerijus Simulik, Member of Lithuanian Parliament as the new BSPC President. Jorodd Asphjell, Member of the NorwegianParliamentand Pyry Niemi, Member of the Swedish Parliament were appointed Vice Presidents of the BSPC. The upcoming BSPC President Valerijus Simulik invited the delegates to Vilnius (August 22 until 25) and remarked that after 15 years, the BSPC would come back to Lithuania. “During our Presidency, we want to place a special emphasis on what is particularly close to our hearts: a boost to innovation through science and technology and their interaction to achieve better added value in economic development based on science” he pointed out in his address as incoming President of the BSPC 2019-2020.
The success of the 28thBSPC Conference was not only shown in the unanimous adoption of a resolution with far-reaching common objectives but also in the creation of a platform for the presentation of sometimes very different positions and proving that a compromise could be reached in a debate that was sometimes heated at the beginning, but always conducted in a parliamentary fashion.

The many discussions that took place in the Storting plenary hall, within the framework of the cultural programme and especially during the evening to which the President of the Storting had invited the participants, helped to reduce existing tensions on some national levels, to build new confidence, to deepen cooperation and to decide on common, future-oriented measures.

The main topic on the last day of the conference was migration and integration, with the session chaired by Pyry Niemi, MP, Sweden and Carola Veit, MP, President of the State Parliament of Hamburg.

A significant part of the session was given to the speech by two representatives of the younger generation and the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Youth Forum – Ms Rama Akid who introduced herself as a refugee from Syria living in Germany and Ms Sara Zdanovska from Latvia. They reported on discussions during the Migration and Integration Working Group in Schwerin in April 2019 and presented the young people’s view on that issue. The youths had identified the most important problems of immigrants: differences of culture and religion, educational differences, the weather – an underestimated but important factor playing a role in the mental health of immigrants -, the language and different procedures in applying for a job. Among the wishes and recommendations to the decision-makers were: countries being educated about newcomers and vice versa, desegregation, political participation, involvement of youth councils and education.

Hans Wallmark, MP, Chairman of the BSPC Working Group on Migration and Integration, presented the Second Interim Report of the Working Group, which can be downloaded from the BSPC website.

Mr Wallmark stated that “the challenge is thatevery member country has its own set of historical experiences, traditions and political culture. It is no secret that the member states of the BSPC have different approaches to migration. What may work well in one country may not work at all in another. Sometimes, we might have to modify a policy to make it successful in our own environment. The most important aspect is that we are open-minded and try to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. That is what Baltic cooperation should be all about.”

Mr Tuomas Martikainen, Director of the Migration Institute of Finland, presented some considerations and conclusions about the policy assessment and recommendations on the Baltic Sea governments’ Immigration and Integration Policy. He proposed that the survey gathered by other organizations(e.g. OECD, Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), the Nordic Welfare Centre and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)) could be combined in the future with the data collected by the BSPC members. This would assist the public policies’ role in facilitating the desirable working conditions for NGOs and informal networks, thus strengthening immigrant integration.

The next speakers, Ms Annika Annerby Jansson, President Scania Regional Council, and Ms Katarina Carlzen, shared the Skåne Multilevel Best Practice on Integration. In the case of Skåne, the multi-level way of working was the key to success. Ms Jansson informed the audience that a joint strategy had been designed by the Region Skåne, the County Administrative Board and the Skåne Association of Local Authorities. The responsibilities were shared by national, regional and local authorities together with civil society and academia. She stressed that a common strategy had to be translated into concrete practice with different and complementary roles. That methodof work – a multi-level platform, i.e., Partnership Skåne – had been partially transferred to large parts of Sweden, involving all of Sweden’s counties with more than 150 municipalities, five universities and a large number of NGOs. In the next part of the session, two BSPC reports were presented, the Report by Ms Sara Kemetter, MP on Sustainable Tourism, and by Mr Jörgen Pettersson, Vice-President of the BSPC, as well as Dr Thomas Etzold on the Implementation of the 27th BSPC Resolution. Session Four was concluded by the general debate. There were no restrictions placed on the debate’s content, giving each parliamentarian and every participant the opportunity to contribute what is particularly important to him/her, regardless of the conference topic.

BSPC President Jorodd Asphjell, closed the 28th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference in Oslo with “a thousand thanks”- “tusen takk” to all participants.

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