Maybe you’ve already noticed it yourself: something’s happening out there in the Baltic Sea region!
At long last, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first moves towards democracy in many eastern European countries, it also penetrated German consciousness: a sea can also connect nations and peoples. Some quote old catchwords like the good old days of the Hanseatic League, others prefer to see it in terms of the greater context of the rapprochement, primarily with Russia – many of these important, new developments come together in the Baltic Sea region. Many people are discovering regions previously unknown anew (do you know Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania?), and consequently also their surprisingly rich cultures, their often well preserved traditions, their interesting histories and magnificent natural landscapes.
Of course, not all the new developments have positive effects:
The path to a sustainable economic system that protects nature and environment is less self-evident that we are often led to believe in snappy advertising slogans. The efforts made in those states in the Baltic Sea region undergoing such radical economic change to find investors and a positive balance of trade with the EU.
Have unfortunately also led to a rapidly increasing amount of traffic, especially on the roads, to a veritable explosion of mountains of rubbish resulting from the consumer society and to an increase in the use of space for industry, new harbours and roads. Old, long-known problems, such as nuclear waste, polluted former military compounds, the exploitation of natural resources in a manner harmful to the environment (example: oil shale quarrying in Estonia), insufficient removal of poison waste, and the lack of waste water treatment in some cities, can only be solved in the long term.
The efforts to harmonise the asylum laws within the EU and the new borders of an extended EU should, in the public interest, enhance protection against crime and illegal immigrants; but there is also the danger that this could be achieved at the expense of humanitarian standards where refugee law is concerned.
Most democratic rights and freedoms first have to be fought for and then stabilised before really all the people have the feeling that they can really actively use these rights and possibilities of participation. The right of information for all citizens is still by no means self-evident everywhere in the Baltic Sea region. Transitional situations like a weak judiciary or frequently changing governments means that trust in individual, democratic rights can only be built up slowly.
The radical economic changes do not bring wealth to all: new social contrasts are being created without state safety nets being established.
Many people, particularly the old, families with an abundance of children, people in rural areas, socially marginalised groups and those suffering as a result of accidents and chronic illnesses often have to live in poverty, without a change of improvement.
Whether through personal contacts, lovely holiday experiences, and worries about the environment or solidarity with those affected – we call out for committed co-operation between like-minded people in the Baltic Sea region!