Welcome address at the Northern Dimension Stakeholders' meeting
I would like to warmly welcome you to the Northern Dimension stakeholders' meeting. Among us there are representatives of the Northern Dimension Business Forum, of business organisations, trade unions, regional offices, other stakeholders, representatives of the European Parliament and the representatives of the different Northern Dimension Partnerships.
I would like to underline the importance of the Northern Dimension Policy for fostering sustainable development in the Northern parts of Europe through concrete projects that stimulate employment and generate growth in these difficult years of economic crisis.
The EESC believes that Northern Dimension cooperation should not only comprise actors from governmental and regional levels but it should also involve business organisations, trade unions and non-governmental organisations. Civil society is an important Northern Dimension actor: the role of civil society organisations in the implementation of the different projects is essential. For instance, the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership has achieved some landmark projects – such as the wastewater treatment of St. Petersburg – but the Northern Dimension Policy is still largely unknown by the civil society and the general public and few civil society organizations have taken part in programs and projects related to the Northern Dimension.
Active actions should be taken to raise public awareness and to stimulate civil society participation in concrete projects of the Northern Dimension Partnerships. The objective of today's meeting should not only be to exchange information and to assess the state of play of the Northern Dimension Partnerships but also to evaluate the possibility to elaborate an Action Plan for civil society involvement in the Northern Dimension initiative.
This action plan could include all interested stakeholders and it could serve several purposes such as assessing the possibility for interaction and cooperation between Northern Dimension Partnerships' Secretariats and civil society organisations. A steering committee could be created for the elaboration of the action plan and it could report back to the stakeholders.
The people-to-people contacts form an important part of the success of a policy and therefore possibilities to discuss different traditions, cultures, business practices, labour relations, mobility and employment should be created and maintained as an important contribution to the partners' action in the Northern Dimension policy.
I regret that due to financial constraints the representatives of the Northern Dimension Institute cannot be present here today. I underline that the academic research aspect of the Northern Dimension is an important one and the Northern Dimension partners should be more committed to funding the work of the Northern Dimension Institute.
The fact that this stakeholders meeting is organised on the same day as the 3rd Northern Dimension Ministerial Meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to present the results of our discussions to the Ministers and to channel the civil society concerns and new ideas for civil society participation in the further implementation of the renewed Northern Dimension policy.
EESC President's report on the Northern Dimension Stakeholders' meeting at the 3rd Northern Dimension Ministerial Meeting
A stakeholders’ meeting was organised this afternoon to discuss Northern Dimension stakeholders’ concerns and priorities.
The meeting brought together representatives of business organisations, trade unions, other civil society organisations of various interests, regional offices and NGOs.
The stakeholders insisted that civil society actors should be more involved in the implementation of the Northern Dimension (later called ND) Policy and its Partnerships' Projects. Information regarding implemented and future projects should be significantly improved in order to present their added value to the general public in partner countries.
Participation of civil society in concrete projects of the ND Partnerships should be stimulated. In this sense, they propose to elaborate in the coming six months an Action Plan for civil society involvement in the ND initiative.
This action plan will include all interested stakeholders and will assess the possible interaction and cooperation between ND Partnerships' Secretariats and civil society organisations. The experience already developed by the ND Business Council could be very useful in this respect.
The stakeholders also insist on the need to elaborate a practical and easy-to-use tool for proposing and implementing ND projects, without forgetting the importance of public-private partnerships and the involvement of different financial institutions.
There is a real interest to intensify people-to-people contacts in the framework of the ND policy through implementation of projects on culture, the set-up of the Baltic Labour Forum or other cooperation fora between academic institutions and non-governmental organisations.
The participants also call for a sustainable solution concerning the funding of the ND Institute, whose work is essential for the implementation.
The participants insist on the necessity to devote special attention to the particular needs of the far north regions, which need infrastructure to better connect with the main European markets for the benefit of European consumers and citizens.
Last but not least, the participants agreed to exchange information and cooperate in individual stakeholders’ initiatives and activities devoted to the ND Policy.