The European Union Baltic Sea Strategy and Baltic Sea Region Programme
Macro-Regional Cooperation as Regional Innovation System
1. Outline of the EU STRAT BSR
a. Political Approach
2. Outline of the EU BSRP
a. Political Approach
i. Regional Innovation Policy
ii. Public Procurement and Innovation
b. Online Sources
The official issuance of an strategic action plan by the EU Commission approved by the Council of Ministers in 2009 and the establishment of European Union Programme for the Baltic Sea Region since 2007 indicate that the EU’s regional policy is subject to innovation in political and economic cooperation on regional level. This paper is designed to examine the Regional Innovation Policy (RIP), consisting of existing schemes of systematic exploitation of innovation, so-called Regional Innovation Systems (RIS), and entailing public procurement for innovation (PPI) and cluster-policies in combination with a mapping of the actors in the Regional Innovation System (RIS) in the Baltic Sea Region, all in regard to Small Medium Enterprises (SME) due its pre-dominance in the fields of research and practical implementation of economic innovation. While the scope of this paper includes the effectiveness and efficiency of the ‘European Union Baltic Sea Region Programme’ (In this paper abbreviated EU BSRP) in reference to one of its priorities, ‘fostering innovation’ for economical growth in the Baltic Sea Region, the programme’s relative novelty in design and strategic relevance, given by the fact of promulgation of a ‘European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’ (In this paper as abbreviated EU STRAT BSR) parallel to implementation of EU BSRP, point out to a demand for further investigation on the fact that the EU BSRP is an innovation by itself concerning regional policy as ‘macro-regional cooperation’1 within the framework of the EU. The Baltic Sea Region, while unquestionably a cross-national space defined by all countries along the Baltic Sea coastline and adjacent territories, is in fact a region which is not yet completely aware of the cultural and economical potential and resulting problem-solving capability deriving from a high level of and sense for a common history, politics, economics and social identity. In order to shape or to rebuild this awareness, the European Union undertook the challenge of (re-)creating the Baltic Sea Region as a multidimensional space of action in terms of economical, but also social, cultural and historical cohesion, conceding the Cold War-caused disruption of continuity of Baltic Sea Regional development which went back to the Late Middle Ages when the Hanseatic League united the most states and cities of the Baltic in economic and political activity and considerable influence. Since the 1990s the return of history in geo-politics and the return of the Baltic and Middle European Nations into Europe after the evaporation of Cold War’s mildew, the question became virulent about what to do with the Baltic Sea Region at the latest when the 2004 eastern EU-enlargement made the Baltic Sea an almost interior sea in the EU, interestingly apart from a stretch of coast belonging to the geo-strategically competing Russian Federation. This feature made the strategic planning challenge for the
EU an innovation itself. In 2005, the European Parliament’s ‘Baltic Europe Intergroup’ issued a working paper called “Europe’s Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”2 which formulated the need for transnational institutionalized cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region due to the severe environmental challenges the Baltic Sea faces and the economic potential of the region not yet exploited. The group of parliamentarians also saw a prospective strategy for the Baltic Sea as a tool to advance ‘Core Europe’ regional development and cooperation schemes as a role model for peripheral regional development projects in the future, circulated under the brand ‘macro-regional cooperation’. According to that scale of performance, this paper will address firstly the EU STRAT BSR and its potential effects on the strategic environment in the Baltic Sea Region in particular and on European level in general by scrutinizing the second programmatic ‘pillar’, making “[…] [t]he Baltic Sea A Prosperous Place”3, due to its reference character for the economic yield of the strategy. This short description and analysis of EU STRAT BSR is followed by an outline of the EU BSRP by providing an account of innovation policies in the Baltic Sea Region. Acknowledging the fact that establishing the EU BSRP in 2007 provided the financial framework or tool for executing parts of EU STRAT BSR from 2009, which eventually shall serve as a role model for subsequent EU regional programmes, two research questions will serve as a guideline along the descriptive part and as reference to the analysis: Is political innovation in terms of transnational macro-regional cooperation also innovative and rewarding from the perspective of current economic research on innovation and according policies, meaning: Does it foster growth? And secondly, for the sake of the scope of European Studies, are EU STRAT BSR and EU BSRP able to perform even up to their political Level of Ambition?
1. Outline of the EU STRAT BSR
a. Political Approach
The fact that the Baltic Sea Region is often referred to as representing the history and future of Europe in a nutshell is a result of the specific geopolitical features of the region. Firstly, it has developed from a region with, including Norway, only two of ten nations possessing coastline at the Baltic Sea being members of the EU’s predecessor, the EC, to a region where eight of those countries are Member States of the EU. At the same time, the Russian Federation, the EU’s simultaneous geo-strategic partner and competitor, is among the leading powers in that region, sharing two-thousand kilometers of border with EU-states. But the Europeanization of the Baltic Sea Region is the result of a high level of actually EU- independent regional cooperation which emerged and developed into a tight interlocking web of networks and organizations. The intensity and variety of cooperation is a specific feature of the region, reaching from the Baltic University Programme to the Baltic Ports Organisation and finally to the political heights of the Nordic Council and the Baltic Sea States Parliamentary Conference as well as the Council of Baltic Sea States. Potentially a strength, regional actors seem to perceive this variety more and more as a weakness due to a lack of a common mission or objective.4 While before the enlargement of NATO and EU, which integrated Poland and the Baltic States, the goal was clearly defined by assisting those states in the transitions phase from authoritarian to democratic rule, successfully institutionalizing this cooperation led to loss of momentum. Especially in times of economic crisis, the call for more effective or at least efficient working schemes of cooperation could be heard again, but the Commission maintains being reluctant to establish yet another platform for consultation, while remaining equally averse to create an institutional umbrella above the current set-up of policies, institutions and financial commitments, but seeking to foster functional improvements.5 Thus, even a derivative of the ‘Open Method of Coordination’ would in fact mean creation of a trans-national level of governance beyond traditional EU regional policies, but below external relations like the ‘European Neighbourhood Policy’.6 Launched by the Commission officially on June 10, 2009 and adopted by the European Council on the October 26, 2009, the ‘European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’ seeks to create a trans-national area of enhanced cooperation while serving the purpose of developing a blueprint for strategies for other regions like the Danube, in fact entering the new frontier of ‘macro-regional cooperation’.
The official capstone documents for the EU STRAT BSR are three EU Commission publications: A ‘Communication from the European Commission to the Council and the European Parliament’ plus an ‘Action Plan’ presented to the Council and European Parliament as well as a ‘Working Document of the European Commission’s Services’ for background information on the approach and content of the strategy.7 Due to its resourcefulness, the ‘Working Document’ is the primary source for all following descriptions of the arrangement of the EU STRAT BSR augmented by secondary literature from academia analyzing EU STRAT BSR impact on EU regional and neighbourhood policy. Basically, all identified policies potentially fruitful for improvement either by pointing out main challenges or describing opportunities to master them are addressed by definition of fifteen ‘priority areas’ allocated each to stake-holding Member States, which in turn, for the sake of easier analysis and appreciation, are thematically organized into four ‘pillars’ addressing four interdependent key policy areas for enhanced cooperation: Environment, economic prosperity, infrastructure (“Accessibility”) and security.8 Additional so-called ‘Horizontal Actions’ were defined which should enable territorial cohesion, foremost of the maritime and terrestrial policies on all levels, being it local, regional, national or EU. By design those actions are deemed strategic, representing an overall approach with long-term implications, which serves as an excuse for lacking deadlines. As an overview, the following table depicts the pillars and priority areas of the EU STRAT BSR and the respective coordinating countries:9
One of the ‘Flagship Projects’ of the strategy within the priority area 7,“To exploit the full potential of the region in research and innovation”, is cited here as a representative example especially for the purpose of showing the intrinsic link to the EU BSRP analyzed later in this paper:
““Develop a Baltic Sea Region Programme for Innovation, Clusters and SME-Networks”. The concrete objective is to foster R&D and business-related transnational collaboration covering innovation systems, clusters and SME networks, in order to strengthen economic growth in the whole Baltic Sea Region. The Programme will establish "a new Baltic Sea Region brand", building on "smartness", research, innovation and cooperation, leading to capacity building, stronger international competitiveness, increase in foreign investments and world-class actors in some strategic areas.[...] The objective is to improve Baltic Sea Region competitiveness and innovation through trans-national cluster cooperation both at policy and business level by mobilising cluster organizations, national or regional programmes and funds. Activities under this Baltic Sea Region programme will also include the development of a "Baltic Sea Region" method for better exploiting small business networks.[...] In addition, an objective is to “develop a regional foresight programme”, which will help identifying desirable directions of cooperation in R&D and innovation.”10
The ‘Horizontal Action’-part outlines the following strategic priorities:11
“Align available funding and policies to the priorities and actions of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”
“Cooperate on the transposition of EU Directives”
“Develop integrated maritime governance structures in the Baltic Sea Region”
“Become a pilot project in implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive”
“Encourage the use of Maritime Spatial Planning in all Member States around the Baltic Sea and develop a common approach for cross-border cooperation”
“Develop and complete Land-based Spatial Planning”
“Transform successful pilot and demonstration projects into full-scale actions” “Use research as a base for policy decisions”
“Define and implement the Baltic Sea basin component of the European Marine Observation Data Network (EMODNET) and improve socio-economic data”
“Build a regional identity”
In that part of the ‘Action Plan’, all potential partners among the existing organisations in the Baltic Sea Region are identified as well as all the pre-existing tools in the EU’s armoury which should be employed. As shown, a decisive strategic component identified by the EU STRAT BSR is a lessons-learned-lessons-identified scheme.
1 Bengtsson, Rikard (2009): “An EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: Good Intentions Meet Complex Challenges”, European Policy Analysis 9-2009, p. 1.
2 Hütterer, Christian (2008): „Die Nördliche Dimension der Europäischen Union“, Vienna, p. 86.
3 European Commission (2009): “Commission Staff Working Document - European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”, Brussels, p. 23.
4 Schymik, Carsten / Krumrey, Peer (2009): “EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region - Core Europe in the Northern Periphery”, Berlin, p. 5.
5 Bengtsson, Rikard (2009): “An EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: Good Intentions Meet Complex Challenges”, European Policy Analysis 9-2009, p. 3.
6 Schymik, Carsten / Krumrey, Peer (2009): “EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region - Core Europe in the Northern Periphery”, Berlin, p. 3.
7 European Commission (2009): “Commission Staff Working Document - European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”, Brussels, p. 3.
8 Ibid., p. 5.
9 Bengtsson, Rikard (2009): “An EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: Good Intentions Meet Complex Challenges”, European Policy Analysis 9-2009, p. 5.
10 European Commission (2009): “Commission Staff Working Document - European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region”, Brussels, p. 32.
11 Ibid., pp. 70 - 74.