The Baltic Sea as a contact area or as watershed?

"Krönika Växjöbladet" column by Per Schöldberg

Växjö municipality has for many years, together with Kalmar, Karlskrona and 20 other municipalities in Sweden and 80 other municipalities around the Baltic Sea co-operated in the Union of the Baltic Cities, UBC. When the Berlin Wall fell down, Kalmar was a pioneer to develop contacts and personal ties with mayors and municipalities in the region. Växjö is active in many collaborations internationally. In the light of all responsibilities of a municipality, international co-operation may seem to be a subordinate task. But the municipalities are a directly-elected democratic organizations, which also work very closely with people, and thus they have a responsibility to nurture democracy. These close relationships with citizens mean that the municipal councils and other municipal representatives have a good ability to understand people's needs and to follow current trends and attitudes. Furthermore, the local leadership is crucial to how the social climate develops.
A week ago, the popular, brave and skillful Mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, was assassinated. Born out of the trade union movement Solidarność and of the work for freedom and against the totalitarian oppression of communism, he stood for a liberal and open policy. His work went straight against the current Polish Government's ideas of the unity and nationalism. The social climate has hardened dangerously in Poland, giving rise to reflection. Unfortunately, after a knife attack, he died in the midst of a charity gala. The assassination was not, according to the assessor, a direct political deed, but a rash of an increasingly fierce climate in Poland.
Mayor Adamowicz ensured that Gdańsk has been a host of the UBC office for years. In addition to many joint projects on urban planning, social affairs, youth, gender equality, culture, the importance of democracy has grown significantly in recent years in the light of increasingly nationalistic tendencies in many European countries. Here, UBC works as a conserving force. Ideas about sustainable social development are shared between local councillors around the Baltic Sea including Polish, Russian, German, Baltic and Nordic countries. I know it, because I am the UBC Board member, and it is very important for the municipality to have extensive contacts with colleagues around the Baltic Sea.
It is important that municipalities look beyond their municipal borders and also beyond the Baltic Sea, for the good of their citizens, but also for the sake of democracy. Pawel Adamowicz knew this and devoted 20 years as a mayor to working for an open and tolerant Gdańsk. We thank Adamowicz and Gdańsk for hosting the UBC and I hope the work for development and openness continues in Adamowicz spirit. The Baltic Sea should be a contact area, not a watershed!