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European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius visited KU: “I want to help the city and the University to protect the Baltic Sea”

Virginijus Sinkevičius, a member of the European Commission, visited the Marine Research Institute of Klaipeda University. With the Institute community he discussed the implementation of the European Green Deal and the challenges faced by researchers in bringing about change in the issues of marine pollution. Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries was also introduced to the involvement of the city of Klaipėda in the European Union Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Competition.

During the discussion, the University scientists touched on the very roots of the issue of marine research in Lithuania. According to them, maritime policies have not so far been developed in Lithuania, and their development has stalled for almost a decade. There is no single national coordination unit to deal with the regulation of maritime affairs.

Other pollution problems that are better known to general public were also discussed, including industrial air pollution in the city, coastal problems, and the state of the Curonian Lagoon. Although a number of measures are being taken to address these issues, according to KU Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation dr. Darius Daunys, we shall not solve such problems by working alone.

“Klaipėda University is the main centre of maritime sciences in Lithuania, therefore it is natural that the dissemination of the European Green Deal ideas and the transfer of the latest scientific knowledge to the sectors of the maritime economy through training new specialists and cooperating with maritime businesses are important priorities. University researchers have been implementing dozens of projects aimed at reducing pollution of the marine environment and the coast. This includes the development of innovative products such as aerogel to remove oil products from beaches or the restoration of damaged coasts through artificial islands. Together with its partners, the University is responsible for the development of the biotechnology and aquaculture sectors in the Klaipėda City Strategy 2030; we are also involved in various bioeconomy development activities provided for in the Klaipėda Region Specialisation Strategy 2030. As you can see, we work hard, but the processes take time. Thus, e.g., the state of the Baltic Sea is a matter of concern for all the countries of the Baltic Sea basin,” said Darius Daunys.

He was also supported by the Rector of the University prof. dr. Artūras Razbadauskas who noted that, no matter how strong the KU research team is, it needs additional forces to solve the deep-seeated problems of the city and the entire Baltic Sea Region: “It is not enough to just identify problems. The University both identifies them and also looks for ways to deal with them. It is not easy to develop measures for moving forward. That is why we are cooperating with international partners and trying to together find ways to solve pollution and climate problems.”

Access to knowledge about the latest scientific research trends which, according to the researchers, often arrives too late, is no less important for the Marine Research Institute as the most advanced marine research centre in Lithuania. Only by becoming involved in the latest research trends can the Institute’s ambition to become one of the leaders in marine research both in the Baltic Sea Region and also in Europe be realised.

Sinkevičius said that he saw opportunities for the University, through implementing marine research, and the city, through developing measures to combat pollution, to contribute to the European Green Deal.

“I would like to contribute to the implementation of the ambitious ideas of the University and the city to spread the word about the importance of marine research and the need to combat pollution in the Baltic Sea as well as to promote such activities. I believe that Klaipėda itself has a huge potential, however, the city and business communities must show involvement and hear your proposals on what measures need to be taken. Only then will the necessary changes take place,”said Sinkevičius.

The involvement of business is important

European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius drew the attention of the participants to the importance of synergy between research and business. He named the reduction of industrial pollution as one of the essential conditions for reducing pollution at sea and in the city. According to Sinkevičius, measures had to be taken as soon as possible.

“While businesses have recently been looking for ways to become more sustainable, industrial pollution must be honestly declared. I see helping companies to reduce pollution and to take the necessary steps as one of the most important measures for preventing pollution. Port activity in Klaipėda is one of the most acute problems, yet at the same time the port is an integral part of the city. The most important thing is that the port and other large companies of the city take appropriate measures to carry out their activities not at the expense of a clean environment and the health of the population,” said Sinkevičius.

Darius Daunys, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation at KU, assured that the University is open to cooperation with companies that are interested in the Green Deal policy.

Even though through research, the latest knowledge, and the training of professionals, the University is already important for the Green Deal, we are looking for closer forms of cooperation with companies in the maritime sector, especially those that are open to the search for and to the implementation of innovative ideas. We believe that such companies will be the key to achieving the goals of the Green Deal in coastal regions. To achieve the goal, we are also ready to invite our partners from other coastal universities with whom we are developing a joint European thematic university, EU-CONEXUS, for the sustainable development of smart coastal cities. We believe that, by joining the forces of the University’s academics and business practitioners, we can become an exemplary coastal region,” said Daunys.