The Baltic Sea Region has changed dramati cally in recent years. It can well be described as a kind of geopolitical laboratory where we have tried to heal the wounds of the past. I think that we have been successful in our endeavours.
The region has developed rapidly both in eco- nomic and social terms. Yet much remains to be done. A social and economic fault line is a fact in the Baltic Sea Region. We should do our utmost for the welfare of the people and try to promote democratic forms of action.
One of the most ambitious tasks has been to establish the rule of law and to lay foundation for the operation of democratic institutions in the region. Much work has been done to enable the NGO’s start their activities and to enhance regional and local democracy.
I am happy to note that people in the Baltic Sea Region are very interested in and also concerned about environmental issues. The concept of sustain- able development was first introduced in global contexts but it has been subsequently adopted also in connection with regional endeavours. Fin- land takes the view that this concept integrates environmental protection into other essential social activities. We underline the importance of creat- ing prequisites for a better future: Sustainable development is a continuous, controlled process of societal change at global, regional and local levels, aimed at improved prospects of a good life for present and future genera- tions.
Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region is the first regional action programme for sustainable development in the world. While it was being prepared, Finland emphasized the role of local initiatives and measures in the imple- mentation of sustainable development. We have promoted, i.a. in co-oper- ation with the Union of Baltic Cities (UBC), Local Agenda 21 activities and networking in the region.
The Baltic Local Agenda 21 was on the agenda of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) meeting in Nyborg, Denmark, on 22-23 June 1998. The Council expressed its appreciation of the support to the Baltic 21 process given, among others, by the participating NGO’s. The Council also en- couraged the UBC to contribute to the process of implementing the Baltic 21. I feel confident that both the NGO’s and the UBC will play a major role in this work especially as far as local agendas are concerned.
I wish every success to the Baltic Local Agenda 21 - Health and Sustainable Cities Conference in Turku on 3-5 September, 1998.
Minister for Foreign Affairs