In 2016, Latvia is the presiding country within the framework of the trilateral cooperation of the Baltic States – at the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers – as well as the coordinating country for Baltic and Nordic cooperation in the NB8 format.
In view of the current challenges in Europe and across the globe, Latvia has the opportunity to work effectively on strengthening of security in the region, while focused on specific priorities in each of these traditional platforms for cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic countries.
The Baltic and Nordic cooperation takes place in a family atmosphere. Our countries are bound by shared goals and challenges, and common values. Closer ties among Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and working together in a framework with the Nordic countries are a cornerstone of Latvia’s foreign policy. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of international recognition of the renewal of the Baltic States’ independence in August 1991. It’s noteworthy that in 2016, the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Offices in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius also mark the 25th year of their work.
Priorities during the Latvian Presidency:
- Strengthening of security within the region (joint defence planning; strengthening of national borders; good management of the implementation of migration and asylum policy);
- Promotion of strategic communication (provision of high quality, objective information within the region and support for media independence; protecting democratic values and facilitating an increased public awareness of these values;
- Development of transport and energy infrastructure (active work on the implementation of the Rail Baltica project; strengthening energy security of the Baltic States, integrating and connecting the Baltic energy markets and infrastructure to the EU internal market and infrastructure).
Priorities of the Latvian Presidency at the Baltic Assembly for 2016:
- A secure Baltic Region: increased security, strategic communication and cyber security in the region;
- A united Baltic Region: cooperation in the field of higher education, research and culture;
- An open Baltic Region: supporting the further development of a common business environment for the Baltic States;
The priorities of the BCM and the Baltic Assembly during the Latvian Presidency have been definedin the Final Document of the 34th Session of the Baltic Assembly:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/baltic-sea-region/co-operation-among-the-baltic-states-13464-en
The Baltic Assembly website: www.baltasam.org
Latvia’s priorities for cooperation in the NB8 format for 2016
Following consultations among Baltic and Nordic partners, and building on what Denmark has accomplished in 2015, Latvia offers the following priorities for NB8 cooperation in 2016:
- strengthening of security in the region:
- strengthening of energy security;
- promotion of strategic communication,
- reinforcing cyber security,
- fight against hybrid threat;
- support for the Eastern Partnership.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/baltic-sea-region/co-operation-between-the-baltic-and-nordic-countries
Cooperation among the Baltic States
Cooperation among the Baltic States is traditionally close, multi-faceted and pragmatic. It is based on the similar interests and values of the three countries in foreign and security policy. By coordinating their positions, the Baltic States successfully represent their interests in the European Union and NATO. The Baltic States cooperation is a good example of successful regional cooperation: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are the closest neighbours with a shared perspective and mutual support, which enables them to address diverse issues and achieve tangible results.
An active political dialogue is being pursued between Presidents, Speakers of Parliament, Heads of Government, ministers and sectoral experts in the framework of Baltic cooperation. The Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers – established in the early 1990s based on the model of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers – provide a significant contribution to the harmonization of foreign policy and the promotion of practical co-operation among the Baltic States.
The coordination of the Baltic cooperation is rotated annually between the Baltic States. In 2016, the chairmanship of the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers is held by Latvia. Lithuania was the presiding country in 2015, and Estonia will take over these responsibilities in 2017.
The Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM), established in 1994, is an institution for governmental co-operation between Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It is charged with ensuring the continuity of co-operation at the executive level as well as between the governments and the national parliaments of the Baltic States. The Baltic Council of Ministers makes decisions regarding the implementation of recommendations of the Baltic Assembly and promotes broad and substantive mutual co-operation. The BCM’s highest decision-making body is the Prime Ministers’ Council, which meets at least once a year. The Prime Ministers’ Council adopts documents in the form of joint statements and approves priority areas of the Baltic States cooperation.
The Baltic Assembly, established on 8 November 1991, is an institution for parliamentary co-operation between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic Assembly has the right to make its views known to the national parliaments and governments in the form of a resolution, decision, declaration or recommendation. Each of the parliaments is represented in the Assembly by a national delegation of 12–20 Members of Parliament. Regular sessions of the Baltic Assembly are held once a year.
The Baltic Assembly website: www.baltasam.org
Baltic and Nordic cooperation – NB8
The NB-8 (Nordic–Baltic Eight) as an informal regional network comprising Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia has been evolving since the Baltic States regained their independence. Originally launched as N5+B3 (Nordic Five plus Baltic Three), the cooperation was designated as NB8 in the year 2000 to highlight unity among the partners.
Although the NB8 framework has not been institutionalised, it effectively enables political dialogue and practical cooperation by means of the rotating coordination among member states. The Baltic States have engaged in coordinating the cooperation along with the Nordic countries since 2008. Latvia took on the role for the first time in 2010.
The functions of the NB8 coordinator are performed by the Foreign Ministry of the respective country, which defines priorities, organizes meetings at various levels and maintains the calendar of events. The most important annual fora are the meetings of the speakers of parliaments, prime ministers and foreign ministers, where regional issues and current international developments are reviewed. A number of meetings of members of parliaments, Ministers, State Secretaries and Political Directors of Foreign Ministries, as well as talks among experts are held during the year.
The importance of the NB8 now extends beyond regional boundaries, which is evidenced by the emergence and long-term character of the so-called NB8 plus formats. Cooperation between the NB-8 and the United States, or e-PINE(Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe) is taking place at the level of Political Directors of Foreign Ministries and as international cooperation between experts in various fields. The summits of NB-8 and the United Kingdom, or the Northern Future Forums, give the heads of government an opportunity to discuss strategic socio-political topics with experts and businessmen in a global context. The consultation platform of the NB8 and the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) has gained ground during recent years.
In 2017, the Baltic–Nordic cooperation will be coordinated by Norway.