Co-operation of Baltic and Nordic States
The Baltic and Nordic countries are linked by common cultural, historical, political and economic ties, as well as common interests to ensure stability, security and welfare in the Baltic Sea region, in Europe and all over the world.
A regular political dialogue and practical co-operation has been established between the Baltic and Nordic countries, with a potential for further development. The Baltic-Nordic co-operation for the most part takes place within NB-8 and NB-6 formats; an active dialogue is also sustained with the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Alongside with a continued development of co-operation with the Nordic countries, it is important for Latvia also to promote people-to-people contacts, to support co-operation among local governments and academic, professional and non-governmental organizations, and educational institutions, as well as to promote tourism and to expand economic contacts.
The NB-8 (Nordic–Baltic Eight) format comprises Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. There has been ongoing active co-operation within this format since early 1990s. Under NB-8, regular meetings are held of the Baltic and Nordic countries' prime ministers, foreign ministers, secretaries of state and political directors of Foreign Ministries, as well as expert consultations where regional issues and current international topics are reviewed.
Initially, the coordinator's role of the Baltic and Nordic co-operation (NB-8) was assumed the country holding the chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers for the respective year. From 2008 onwards, the Baltic states were also involved in coordinating the NB-8 foreign ministry co-operation. In 2010 Latvia has co-ordinated the co-operation among the NB-8 Foreign Ministries. In this capacity Latvia has initiated the preparation of a comprehensive analysis and recommendation how to advance the Nordic-Baltic co-operation. Latvia and Denmark, chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2010, have nominated two high level representatives (rapporteurs) – former Latvian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mr Valdis Birkavs representing the Baltic countries and former Danish Minister of Defence Mr Søren Gade representing the Nordic countries – to provide the respective analysis. Before compiling the NB-8 Co-operation Report (NB-8 Wise Men Report), which was completed in August 2010, the rapporteurs made a very intensive consultation process with representatives from all the NB-8 countries.
Work is currently ongoing to carry out the recommendations of the NB-8 cooperation report. One of the steps towards the implementation of recommendations was the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 30 August 2011 among the governments of NB-8 states on the placement of diplomats in a mission of another NB-8 state in a third country.
In 2012 the cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic states in the field of foreign policy is coordinated by Lithuania.
The role of NB-8 is increasing also in a global aspect. Since 2003, Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE) has been active as a framework for consultations between NB-8 and the United States. The E-PINE format of meetings is put into practice through organising regular meetings for 8+1 Foreign Ministry political directors and foreign policy experts who discuss topics of current ce. policy experts who discuss regional and international regional and international importance.
In January 2011, the first Summit of NB-8 and the UK heads of government was held on the initiative of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron.
The NB-6 (Nordic–Baltic Six) format comprises Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The NB-6 was established with the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the EU on 1 May 2004, and is a framework for informal meetings at the level of prime ministers and foreign ministers in order to exchange opinions on topical issues on the EU agenda. The NB-6 prime ministers meet four times a year before European Council meetings, but the foreign ministers, for their part, align their gatherings with those of the EU General Affairs Council and EU External Relations Council in Brussels. Other meetings, for instance, of ministers for European affairs, are also convened on regular basis.
Co-operation between the Nordic Council and the Baltic Assembly
The Nordic Council (NC), formed in 1952, is an organization for parliamentary co-operation among the Nordic countries, which involves members of parliament, delegated by the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden) and three autonomous areas (Aland Islands, Faeroe Islands and Greenland). The NC has a permanent secretariat located in Copenhagen.
Each calendar year one Nordic country presides at the NC. In 2012 the country holding the NC presidency is Finland. It is customary to have the state holding chairmanship at the Nordic Council of Ministers preside at the NC the following year.
The NC and the Baltic Assembly (BA) agreed on co-operation in 1992. Since 2006, annual meetings of the BA and NC presidia have been held, with the participation of leaders of the joint committees, as well as thematic meetings and joint committee conferences. Dynamic co-operation takes place among parliaments and their standing commissions, and meetings of the heads of foreign affairs commissions of Baltic and Nordic parliaments are held on a regular basis.
Nordic Council's co-operation with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
The Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), set up in 1971, is an organization dealing with co-operation among the governments of the Nordic countries. The NCM comprises the same member countries as the NC. The NCM has a standing secretariat, located in Copenhagen. The formal responsibility for the work of the NCM lies with the prime ministers of the Nordic countries but in practice the work of the NCM in each Nordic country is coordinated by a Nordic Cooperation Minister and a Nordic Co-operation Committee.
The Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers rotates between the Nordic countries and is held for a period of one year. In 2012 the country holding the NCM presidency is Norway. The main theme of the Norwegian Presidency is strengthening the model of the welfare state in a Nordic perspective and addressing the various related challenges.
The co-operation between the Baltic states and the NCM was launched in 1991, when the NCM opened its information offices in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Due to the dynamic activities of the NCM Information Office in Riga, large numbers of Latvian young people and students have learned Nordic languages, members of creative professions and scientists have received scholarships to help them fulfill their aspirations, but politicians, local authority staff and civil servants were given opportunities to exchange experience. With support from the NCM, many schools and universities, as well as NGOs have found co-operation partners in the Nordic countries.
Co-operation of Latvia's sector ministries with the Nordic countries is carried out in association with NCM activities, for instance, Latvian officials participate in NCM working groups, meetings, seminars and conferences, and Latvian institutions develop joint projects with the NCM.
The NCM's co-operation with the Baltic states is based on the Guidelines for Co-operation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, drawn up for a specific period of time. Following the consultations with the Baltic states, the new NCM Guidelines for 2009–2013 were adopted by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation on 13 November 2008. In accordance with the guidelines, the Baltic-Nordic co-operation is to focus on the following areas: education, research and innovations; entrepreneurship, cluster networks, creative industries; environment, energy and climate; public security and health; co-operation for promoting common values; elimination of intolerance, racism and xenophobia; social integration.
Alongside with the co-operation guidelines, the NCM, together with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has launched the joint Nordic-Baltic cooperation programme in the field of public administration, entrepreneurship and culture for 2009-2013.The Nordic Council of Ministers website: http://www.norden.org