Baltic Sea region leaders and experts meet in June in Turku

The wide-ranging programme of the Turku Baltic Sea Days 2014 is complete.

Finland and Turku are, during the first week of June, the focus of the Baltic Sea region’s strategic, economic, and political discussions, as Turku hosts the joint 16th Baltic Development Forum Summit and the 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region 3–4 June 2014. Among the high level speakers is Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.

Other speakers include Finnish Minister of Economic Affairs Jan Vapaavuori, Finnish Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb, Finnish Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn, BDF chairman Lene Espersen, CEO of Siemens Finland Janne Öhman, CEO of Bayer Nordic Oliver Rittgen, Principal Associate of Harvard Business School Christian Ketels, and Global Chief Economist of Nordea Helge Pedersen.

The joint event is part of the Turku Baltic Sea Days 2014 series of events, and is the biggest conference of the year devoted to Baltic Sea issues in the Baltic Sea region. The event will explore how to improve cooperation within the Baltic Sea region, with the theme “Growing Together – For a prosperous, inclusive and connected Baltic Sea Region”. Up to thousand Baltic Sea region experts, high level political decision-makers, and leaders of political and economic life will gather to explore this issue.

For the first time gathered in Turku, alongside the 16th Baltic Development Forum (BDF) and the 5th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the XII Baltic Sea NGO Forum will also be held during the same week, in the same city. Additionally, many other conferences and seminars will also be held in Turku, such as the Baltic Sea Forum of Centrum Balticum – a Turku based think tank – and the Baltic Sea Health Summit.

See the full program and further details of the events at

First step towards common Helsinki-Tallinn database

A new publication presents facts and figures of the twin city area Helsinki-Tallinn.

The area is currently one of the most exciting entities of the Baltic Sea region. Different dynamics in the economies attract also complementary international investments and companies into the cities.

“We are different enough, to be of interest to each other, and similar enough to make cooperation possible,” says Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Tallinn, in the forewords of the publication.

“Finland is the most important trading partner for Estonia. More than 4 000 companies with the Finnish shareholding have been registered in Estonia. Over 7.5 million trips are annually made between Helsinki and Tallinn. And Tallinn’s students from abroad include mostly students from Finland – more than 700.”

“Drawing on compatible statistics on Helsinki and Tallinn we could say that these two cities already today make up a continuous metropolitan region,” says Jussi Pajunen, the Mayor of Helsinki.

Helsinki-Tallinn-cover“But further development requires a good, compatible and up-to-date information base about both cities and their functional urban regions. The aim is to provide this evolving information base as open data.”

The joint publication “Helsinki – Tallinn – Facts and Figures” is the first step towards establishing a continuously updated and open Helsinki-Tallinn database. The goal is to create an information service describing the twin city development which at its best would offer interoperable open data for various applications making everyday life of the citizens and visitors easier.

The publication is available here.

A fixed transport link between Helsinki and Tallinn?

The Cities of Helsinki and Tallinn and the Harju County in Estonia have launched a competitive tendering process for a pre-feasibility study on a fixed transport link between Helsinki and Tallinn. The preparation of the process was carried out in cooperation with the Femern Belt Development foundation of Denmark.

The pre-feasibility study is titled Talsinkifix, and the competitive tenders are invited by the Harju County government. The request for tenders was announced at a meeting in Tallinn on 3 April 2014.

The pre-feasibility study should summarize previous studies and propose further activities. The main question to be explored in the study is the financial viability of a fixed Helsinki-Tallinn transport link and its economic impact.

The budget of the Talsinkifix project is EUR 100,000. Of the total, 85 percent is financed from the Seed Money Facility of the European Union’s Baltic Sea Region Programme. The study should be completed in the beginning of 2015.

Economic strength for both metropolitan areas

A fixed transport link between Helsinki and Tallinn is expected to strengthen the competitiveness of the metropolitan areas of both Helsinki and Tallinn. The projected Rail Baltic railway line between Tallinn and Central Europe, which could open in 2014, is connected to plans for a tunnel.

The alternatives envisioned for a fixed Helsinki-Tallinn transport link are either a tunnel or a tunnel-bridge combination. The Helsinki-Tallinn link is already now included in the Estonian government’s national Estonia 2013 plans, in the Harju county plan and in the municipal plan of Viimsi, which is a borough in Harju County. The Helsinki city plan does not yet include a corresponding site reservation.

See Helsinki Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri’s video address to the meeting in Tallinn

Live like locals with the Japanese tourists

pic_Livelikelocals-reportThe final report of the Live Like Locals project sums up the transnational tourism product development carried out in two projects, BaltMet Promo from 2010 to 2011 and the ONE BSR in 2013.

The report gives a detailed description on the background of the pilot project and how it was carried out. It also provides useful tips how similar transnational projects should be organized, and what are their challenges.

Based on the extensive demand and supply researches conducted during the BaltMet Promo, the Live Like Locals concept was developed. It captured special features of the lifestyles of the Baltic Sea Region and showed how to enjoy these places “as the locals do”. It was targeted for small groups or individual female tourists of 20-40 years of age.

The marketing events organized in Japan as part of the BaltMet Promo, proved that the Baltic Sea Region is seen as an attractive destination. The ONE BSR project continued from here by activating the tourism operators of the BSR, organizing marketing campaigns in Japan and by developing the Live like locals concept further in product development workshops.

As a result, some tour operators have been inspired by the Live Like Locals theme and planned new catalog based on it. For example the tourism office of the City of Helsinki made a suggestion for a one week program to experience the Live Like Locals theme in Helsinki. Besides, thanks to the project, a co-operation network has been set up as well as new ideas for future projects and collaboration.

Futhermore, inspired by the familiriazation and press trips organized in 2013 for Japanese tour operators and journalists to the Baltic Sea Region, the region has gained visibility in Japan through blogging as well as printed publications, like the  Japan Airlines inflight magazine which published a reportage on the  cities of Helsinki, Warsaw, and Riga in its March 2014 issue.

See the report:

Picture: Familiarization trip to the Live Like Locals products for the Japanes travel trade