|Dear UBC Friends,
I am very happy to welcome you all to the fifth General Conference. Our theme this time is indeed very important for the future development of our member cities.
Our vision of the Baltic Sea as an inland sea in the European Union is rapidly becoming more concrete but the number of question marks is also increasing.
There are some basic qualities in the European Union which when implemented really will mean a drastic change of the situation less than ten years ago. I am thinking of the free movements of people, goods and money
- something so unthinkable that nobody in his wildest imagination could imagine it, even when was UBC created.
My opinion is that the later star of the negotiation process of two of the four applicant countries might lead to unnecessary division of our region. However, in our own Union we will treat all cities equally, regardless of affiliation to the European Union.
The local referendums in the accession countries are dark horses, and it is very difficult to predict the outcome, even if the public opinion is in favour of the membership at the moment. The city authorities have a responsibility to inform their citizens about the consequences of the European Union, as pointed out in some articles in this issue.
UBC has accelerated its work with preparing the region for the EU accession process very much during the recent year. The co- operation between the various levels has developed considerably, especially with CBSS but also BSSSC. We must act together in issues that are important for our region, for example a new EU program on co- operation in our region, with simple and co- ordinated rules and with a managing office and decision making located here in our Region. The recent development that many EU programs have been opened also for the Central and Eastern European Countries is encouraging, but it must continue.
We have initiated the UBC EU Coordinators Network, which I believe will be a very important tool to facilitate the accession process. I hope that the financing problems are solved when you read this bulletin. We are also planning an extensive co- operation with TAIEX, which is an office set up by the EU commission in order to facilitate the accession process.
Finally I would like to wish the new UBC board and the Presidium to be elected success in their work. You will inherit several good tools, for example the new UBC strategy and Project Policy. You will also inherit many tasks initiated during the previous period. The most important are, in my opinion, to continue the work with sustainable development and with the EU accession process.
With Baltic Sea Greetings
Kalmar, August 1999