Jacek Starościak, the first democratically elected Mayor of Gdańsk, has died. He initiated the establishment of the Union of the Baltic Cities.
Jacek Starościak held the Mayor’s position in 1990-1991. In 1991 he moved to the position of director of the office of the President of the Republic of Poland. From 1995 he worked in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In 1998–2002 he worked in Stockholm as a head of the permanent international secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and then in the Ministry for European Union and accession negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This is how he recalled the beginnings of the UBC:
Point 15 of the Baltic Sea Declaration, adopted at Rønneby, stated that the international cooperation should be encouraged and the human contacts facilitated ‘to improve the environment of the Baltic Sea, including inter alia participation of local and regional governments, governmental and private institutions, industries and nongovernmental organisations in the fields of trade, economy, science, culture, information, etc.’ Consequently, the direction of further practical actions had been taken. When developing relations at the level of the BSR states, it was necessary to initiate multilateral relations at the local and regional levels at the same time. It was necessary to conclude new bilateral agreements between the cities. The Declaration in Rønneby could find its practical fulfilment by creating a Baltic Sea network of local authorities. The name of such an organization – Union of the Baltic Cities – seemed evident.
How to start, who to consult this idea with? We could not afford any inconsiderate actions, giving thought to the history, sensitivity and ambitions of the political leaders on the state and regional levels. From Gdańsk perspective, it was natural to initiate the cities’ network together with its Swedish sister city of Kalmar. Anders Engström, Mayor of Kalmar, took part in the inaugural Gdańsk City Council session on 6 June 1990, when the Declaration on boosting the Baltic cities cooperation was approved.
When a new partnership agreement between Kalmar and Gdańsk was signed in May 1991, I talked to Engström about the UBC initiative. We had a preliminary version of the statute thanks to the Polish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ legal help. The only thing to set up was the date of the founding conference and then to decide about the candidate for a first president. Immediately did I think about Anders. There was no better Baltic leader. I suggested Gdańsk as the seat of the UBC Secretariat, what would significantly raise the city’s status on its way to the democratic selfgovernance.
In June 1991 during the V European Conference of Border Regions at Finnish Rovaniemi, I was happy to learn that Engström agreed to candidate for the UBC President. Urgent consultations with the authorities of Lübeck, Turku, St. Petersburg, Riga and Kaliningrad took place. I encouraged Piotr Krzyżanowski to lead the secretariat. 44 representatives of the Baltic Sea states, including Polish Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki participated in the UBC Founding Conference that took place in Gdańsk on 19-20 September 1991.