Per Bødker Andersen – the Baltic Sea Region needs more cooperation and new innovations

Per Bødker Andersen is President of the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) and Councillor in the City of Kolding, Denmark. We asked him about UBC’s work for the improvement of the Baltic Sea Region and his expectations of the Strategy Forum.

How would you describe the UBC’s commitment to the Baltic Sea and the region?
This year, UBC celebrates the 25th anniversary of its foundation. During these years the UBC has facilitated the exchange of know-how among its member cities in culture, social affairs, youth issues, gender equality, environment and sustainability, urban planning, safety and business development.

Though the circumstances have significantly changed during 25 years, our cities have been consequently working to become sustainable, smart and inclusive. We all want to live in safe, well-designed, well-connected cities whose growth is based on participation, dialogue, transparency and knowledge. That’s the vision the cities – and the UBC – are striving for.

The UBC and its member cities work in close cooperation with other partners and participate actively in the implementation of regional strategies, notably the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. UBC is one of the coordinators of the Horizontal Action Capacity. In this year’s Strategy Forum, the UBC co-organises two seminars: ‘Nothing about us without us – youth's contribution to the Baltic Sea Region Vision 2030’ and ‘Cities and regions: drivers or bystanders in the Baltic Sea cooperation’.

What are the UBC’s work priorities in the following years?
The most important goals for us in the UBC Strategy 2016-2021 are implementation of the UBC Sustainability Action Programme 2016-2021, implementing EUSBSR and blue growth strategies, working towards a new urban agenda for cities, as well as promoting smart growth and digitalisation.
A very concrete project is tackling youth marginalisation, demonstrated in the work of UBC’s Task Force on Youth Employment and Well-Being, which published its report ‘The good, the bad and the next practices’ in 2015. The results of the Task Force work are available to all and can be implemented throughout the region.
Furthermore, the UBC works to solve other current challenges affecting the Baltic Sea Region, such as the flow of refugees. In March 2016, we organised the UBC Conference on the Impact of the European Refugees Crisis in Baltic Cities. Implementation of the conference results continues; the main focus is on promoting the exchange of know-how and practical solutions between the UBC member cities on refugee issues.

What are your expectations of the Strategy Forum 2016?
For me, it is all about working together on both city and regional levels to advance and deliver sustainable urban solutions and quality of life. In today’s world it is equally if not even more important to build bridges between nations and regions and to find common ground as well as new innovations. The Strategy Forum offers an excellent arena for all these. We all must, on a very concrete level, take in that we are a region with common interests and futures – and the means to solve our challenges together.