Conference on the EU Baltic Sea Strategy and the Internal Market, held in Tallinn on 17 Sept 2010Estonia has already started making preparations for its presidency of the European Union in the first six months of 2018, writes Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the EU Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia). Although the world is a dynamically changing place, as the after-effects of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks have shown, it is always beneficial to maintain a longer-term vision and to set objectives. One such vision is undoubtedly Estonia's activity within the European Union, especially in areas which may well prove topical during our period of presidency in eight years' time.

In my view, one option is to fix on topics that are important to us in the European Union and to ensure their longer-term development. Reinforcing cooperation between countries on the Baltic Sea within the European Union could be one way of guiding such development. This is the direction that was taken a year ago with the approval of the Baltic Sea Strategy and its action plan: the issue Estonia has adopted as its own in the European Union.

The Baltic Sea Strategy represents a wish to boost cooperation between the citizens, business operators, scientists, officials, interest groups and politicians in the countries within the region so as to maximise its combined potential, which to date has been underused, and to counter skepticism in terms of cross-border undertakings. Six of the eight European Union Members States with coastlines on the Baltic Sea are small countries. But what makes them big is their allies - and where better to find them than among their neighbours? Your neighbours are the people you meet and talk to most often, which is why it is easier to appreciate their problems. By working together, you can implement more ambitious goals.

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