Summer in the Baltic Sea Region is very special - the nordic light, the green landscape, the friendly sea. But also the winter has very high qualities, which we could experience in the Kemi Board Meeting. We had our first Board meeting on board of an icebreaker, breaking one-meter thick ice during the discussions.
Our Secretary General and the UBC EU Co- ordinator went almost directly from the Board meeting in Kemi to Uganda in order to prepare for a co- operation project between UBC and our sister organisation around the Lake Victoria: The Lake Victoria Region Local Authorities Cooperation, LVRLAC. The lake is located at the equator, and has four seasons: two short periods when it rains a little more and two periods when it rains a little less. The temperature is 21- 26 degrees all the year around. At the end of April, I paid a visit to Entebbe, together with UBC Vice President Eugenijus Gentvilas, to sign the co- operation agreement between UBC and LVRLAC. The co- operation, which will be fully financed by Sida, the Swedish International Development Authority, aims at assisting LVRLAC to create concrete activities, specially in the field of environment, and an efficient organisation, including secretariat. One of the reasons to create LVRLAC was an environmental problem in Lake Victoria. They cannot be solved without the participation of the local authority level. The UBC- LVRLAC co- operation will continue for probably three more years. Several UBC member cities will have direct contact with the project in the near future. It can be as targets for study visits or have staff from your city directly involved in activities in the Lake Victoria Region.
UBC has already made many new steps forward in this new millennium. Our strategies have been complemented with an action plan. I get very impressed when reading it. Our activities are numerous, and it is very clear that we are a strong organisation on the move. One of our most important activities is to promote a new EU program on local and regional co- operation in the Baltic Sea Region, to be financed through Interreg III strand B. The UBC Working Group on UBC Interreg III- program have sent an enquiry to all UBC member cities to list project proposals that will suit this new program. It is very important that as many as possible of the UBC member cities participate in the enquiry. UBC is member of a working group, initiated by Eurocities and the Berlin and Hessen Brussles offices, which also works for the creation of an EU program for local and regional co- operation. So I feel confident that we will have at least one new badly needed program for local and regional co- operation, very much though UBC efforts.
We are also enhancing the Baltic Sea Region in Europe in other ways. One important issue is the way transborder project funding is treated – the Baltic Sea Region has great disadvantages there, since the rules punish maritime borders. We must change that attitude.
We are now approaching our member city number 100. The number of members have just trebled since the foundation of UBC in 1991. This is one reason why we are becoming more successful in our political work in Brussels. We are a strong organisation and people have really started to listen to us.
Finally, I wish you all a nice summer.
Kalmar, June 2000