(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Estonia and Sweden have much in common, but one of the most important shared interests is the Baltic Sea, the vital bridge that unites our peoples, cultures and trade.
As a child I learnt to appreciate the sea and everything it has to offer. I have been lucky to always see the water from where I live. At an early age my Father took me out fishing and every summer my family used to spend a few weeks on our boat, mostly on the Baltic Sea.
The biggest challenge however is for all of us to really understand that the beautiful surface of the Baltic Sea does not speak the truth. The fact is that seven of the ten largest marine dead zones in the world are all located in the Baltic Sea.
The sea is deeply rooted in my heart.
Therefore it has come very natural to me to carefully follow the development of the Baltic Sea. During the past years I have felt like in a roller coaster, going from utmost alarm to moderate joy; bad news succeeded by good ones and vice versa.
One thing is for sure: we will go nowhere without co-operation between states and individuals. Luckily enough the Baltic region has a wide range of inter-governmental organizations and a long tradition of co-operation - from the age of the Hansa until today. EU and the Helsinki Commission for the Marine Environment, among others, are important actors in the efforts to attend to, and to save our jewel, the Baltic Sea. Estonia, which is chairing HELCOM this year, is well in the forefront of this co-operation.
My sincere hope for the future is that science and policy will be able to communicate and join hands in order to reach the goal of restoring a healthy and productive ocean.
Last week I was able to spend a whole day - together with my father - listening to scientists from Stockholm Environment Institute telling their stories about their research and practical work around the world. Congratulations to the Institute, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and co-hosting this Forum. You have contributed in a substantial way to our science-based knowledge about sustainable development not only in marine environments but in general.
I wish that my daughter, when she grows up, will have a warm relationship to the Baltic Sea. That all children shall be able to swim and play in the water, without being hindered by algal bloom. That all children shall be able to eat the fish, and not having to worry about dioxins and PCBs accumulating in their bodies. That all children shall be able to experience and enjoy the Baltic Sea that not only looks beautiful but de facto is sound and sustainable.
As it often has been said: "sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough".
I hope that we - all of us - want this more than just enough.