The first launching event of PA Secure took place at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU in Brussels on 21 February 2013. The event, Impact of Macroregional Cooperation in the EU: What Leadership in Civil Protection Can Do? which included panelists from the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU, as well as the European Commission (DG REGIO and DG ECHO), joined by representatives of civil protection authorities from eight Baltic Sea region EU Member States (Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Germany), addressed how the EUSBSR has had an impact on civil protection cooperation in the Baltic Sea region.
„The key to the success of the EUSBSR, as well as to individual areas within the strategy, is to let the institution follow the way each area develops itself. Symbiosis of EUSBSR and civil protection cooperation in the Baltic Sea region has proven to be a good example of such evolutionary approach to cooperation,“ – said Anders Lindholm, councellor responsible for Regional policy and State aid, who also follows the EUSBSR at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU.
The main political setting to organize cross-border civil protection dialogue in the Baltic Sea region is the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) Civil Protection Network, convening annually on Directors-General level. As such, it mainly evolves through discussion and exchange of political priorities of each CBSS Member State in matters of civil protection. The EUSBSR framework, however, provided a complimentary platform to re-emphasize and re-draft patterns of existing cooperation, introducing a macro-regional dimension not only on a political level but also on operational expert level. This was not a coincidence, for the EUSBSR itself draws a significant emphasis on a bottom up approach and involvement of stakeholders on various cooperation levels.
The importance of latter was emphasized by Colin Wolfe, Head of Competence Centre on Macro-regions and European Territorial Cooperation in the DG for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission. According to him, macro-regional strategies in the EU provide a setting to develop an „in-between engagement“, linking National Member States level and overall EU 27 level. „When the idea of the EUSBSR was born, it evolved around a goal to provide a common framework which can mobilize policy makers to address together matters such, among others, civil protection or environment; this was followed by a need to link up thinking and priorities in distributing funds, arranging programmes and setting up projects,“ explained Mr Wolfe
Ian Clark, Head of Policy and Implementation frameworks unit at DG Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, European Commission, assessed recent shift in Baltic Sea region civil protection cooperation under the new PA Secure from a broader EU civil protection and disaster management cooperation perspective. In his view, the way how this cooperation is now coordinated in the Baltic Sea region, places its stakeholders in a position to join forces in the development of their policies; this, in turn, relates to the fact that the region as such may be in a privileged position to access funds that have been assigned through regional programmes. To take a leading position in such a setting would be to also look into general disaster management priorities in the EU. These could provide a good knowledge base from the Baltic Sea region to inform the rest of the EU; building capacities in risk assessment; cross-sectoral activities between civil protection and research; raising awareness to policy level and to the general public; and finally a common approach from BSR countries to international negotiations in disaster management, such as the Hyogo Framework.
Ad hoc assessment of macro-regional cooperation impact in the EU in terms of Baltic Sea region civil protection cooperation, organized by the EUSBSR PA Secure, resulted in a common agreement that it is still early to draw quantitative figures on both, the increase of civil protection level in the region and on what amount of resources have been saved as a result of that. The next step for the EUSBSR itself is indeed to finalize the process of defining its targets and indicators. When it comes to land-based civil protection and PA Secure, however, the quantitative increase in cooperation initiatives of fully macro-regional dimension is already visible (from one to four). This increase is currently resulting in mobilized actions aiming to inform policy makers of the current trends, needs and concerns of civil protection area in the Baltic Sea region and beyond.