Ladies and gentlemen,
The Baltic Sea is our joint interest. It has always played an important role to all of us and it will also play an important role in the future. Therefore, I am glad that Finland has taken the initiative of inviting us all whom ought to be interested in making commitments to improve the environment of the Baltic Sea.
This is a new and positive approach to tackle the problem not only from the highest level of governments, but also from a much broader range of stakeholders. I am pleased to see the engagement of so many companies and individuals in the process of saving the Baltic Sea. I know that it reflects the opinion of many of our citizens in the region, who are really worried about what is happening to our mutual sea.
The values of the Baltic Sea are deeply rooted in our souls. The health of it is an issue I am personally very committed to. I know what I am talking about. I have been living close to the Sea every summer for 60 years.
An EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was one of the main priorities for the Swedish chairmanship of the European Union. This Strategy will strengthen the work within the European Union in different policy areas to improve the environment of the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is a precious resource which we have to take care of and manage in the best possible way. Many of us like to live close to the Sea, and at least for some part of the year enjoy its potential for recreation. The Sea is a source for well-being for all of us who live near the shores.
The Sea is also and has historically been a means of communication. Over the last two decades of new openness communication and transports have grown immensely.
Cooperation between the countries in the Baltic region is increasing at all levels, between governments, between municipalities and other local actors, between environmental organisations, among the business community and also at the level of individual citizens. Communication and exchange of experience is a prerequisite for the cooperation to save the marine environment of our Baltic Sea.
The Baltic Sea is in a very bad state. We can read about it in the newspapers every week. Oil spills, uncontrolled coastal development and pollution are some examples. Practically every summer we see the algae blooms reminding us of the unbalanced ecosystem in the sea. The time has come when we all have to act together.
Last September I had the honour to deliver the Swedish Baltic Sea Prize to HELCOM and I realized how far we have come getting commitments from the different countries to act. I am glad that the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan has served as an inspiration for this meeting and that new stakeholder groups are joining up to support its implementation. The main purpose of the activity today should be to enhance the implementation of the Action Plan. Let us all make commitments to reach that goal.
Let us all, who are gathered here today, join together in an effort to act now. There is no time to wait!