The economic and financial crisis has made for a turbulent last few years but courageous structural reforms across Baltic countries have cemented the Baltic Sea Region as not only a role model but as the top performing area in Europe. For this reason alone, optimism about the future is on the increase.
Latvia has proven to be the epitome of our title at this year’s Summit and this is established furthermore in a marvelous book I received personally from Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, entitled ’How Latvia Came through the Financial Crisis’, when he opened BDF’s new office premises in Copenhagen last year.
Along with Prof. Anders Åslund, Valdis Dombrovskis shares in his book, insights into just how Latvia has returned to economical growth after a relatively short period of time. Respect is due to PM Dombrovskis for the stabilisation we now see in Latvia. The economical and political lessons learned are there for all to see.
It was also an important signal PM Dombrovskis, the Minister of Finance, Andris Vilks, and the President of the Bank of Latvia, Ilmārs Rimšēvics, sent 4 March when they signed a joint letter asking the European Commission and the European Central Bank for a convergence report that is related to the formal accession to the Eurozone. Presently, Latvia fulfills all the Maastricht criteria so the target date 1 January 2014 is within reach. In the wake of the economic crisis and wide spread EU scepticism, Europe needs countries that demonstrate their will to take new steps for further European integration. We need positive European integration winds from Latvia and the Baltic States.
Although there is reason for optimism, sustainable growth is yet to be achieved throughout the Baltic Sea region and key words throughout the BDF Summit are competitiveness, business development, manufacturing and investment. Now is the time to push the new realities we have witnessed from globalisation and Europe’s own economic troubles into real opportunities. This will be vital in financing the Baltic Sea Regions future.
I am sure that the Baltic Sea Region has entered the second positive economic phase similar to the one we saw 20 years ago. And once more regional and European integration is part of the solution. Latvia shows a good example. There is a need to re-focus and in turn redirect the region in a new positive direction.
We have took tremendous strides forward since the BDF summit was last here in Riga in 2003 and we are again very pleased to work closely with the Government of the Republic of Latvia and Latvenergo as hosts and partners.
I look forward to seeing you.
Hans Skov Christensen,
Chairman of Baltic Development Forum