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Today, in 2011, fifteen years have elapsed since the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission came into existence and its first General Assembly was held on the Silja Symphony ferry in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The challenges facing the Baltic Sea Region at the time of the organisation’s birth were tough. The Iron Curtain, lifted only a few years previously, had been an obstacle to mobility and interaction. Exchange of culture and trade across the Baltic Sea had been hindered for more than 50 years. Social division and poverty, an inadequate infrastructure and environmental threats are examples of problems that had to be contended with.
At the same time, there was a strong belief in the prospects for the future. The level of enthusiasm for taking advantage of the new opportunities for cooperation and exchange was high. It was a commonly held belief that all parties would benefit from social, cultural and economic integration in the area. It was also believed that the Baltic Sea region had the potential to contribute to the development of the whole of Europe. A common understanding in the Baltic Sea area was that everyone – individuals, companies, municipalities, regional administrations and national governments – had a role to play in this effort. Many were willing to contribute.
It was in this spirit that the Baltic Sea Commission was founded as part of the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions of Europe, with the aim of enhancing the subnational levels and actors as vital participants in the political arena. The intention behind this booklet is to present a brief picture of how and why this endeavour came about. The initiative for this booklet came from Stockholm County Council and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. The authorities in both these regions took