(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Baltic Sea connects us. It offers us challenges – just like we have offered challenges to her for a very long time.
Far too long!
Being here, close to the beautiful, glittering Baltic Sea, reminds me painfully of our large common responsibility to stop the deterioration of the water we share.
I could talk about the fact that seven out of the ten largest marine dead zones in the world are to be found in the Baltic Sea.
I could remind you of eutrophication and the algal bloom which stops us – and our children – from taking a swim a warm summer day.
I could even talk about the fish we love to eat but now are prevented from consuming due to the dioxins and PCB:s accumulated in it.
And I could report about recent studies at the Stockholm University that show that approximately 40 tons of microplastics from personal care products and cosmetics are released into the Baltic Sea. Every year!
How come, I wonder? We have never been more well-informed but still we let the development continue day after day, month after month, year after year.
It is indeed time to act.
We need to co-operate as individuals and as nations in order to find common solutions to common challenges. Therefore I want to thank you for the invitation to this the 6th annual forum for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. A strategy which offers an important framework to our urgent work to save the Baltic Sea.
But a strategy is not good enough if it just remains on paper. It has to be implemented and that takes people.
To meet in person across borders is crucial. It is crucial in large to strengthening the ties between us and to further the prosperity in our region.
It is also necessary, though, in order to implement the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. Step by step. But please - with big steps! We need to hurry!
It is my sincere wish that you all will use this opportunity to find constructive and innovative ways to move forward in our joint effort to make the Baltic Region prosper and to save our treasured Baltic Sea, the water that we share, the water that unites us.