Co-operation among the Baltic States

28.12.2015. 16:25

Co-operation among the Baltic States

Co-operation among the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) is traditionally close, multi-faceted and pragmatic. It is based on the common interests and goals of the three countries in the following areas of foreign and security policy: the advancement of security and welfare, fostering economic development, and membership in the EU and NATO. Intensive co-operation is ongoing in the energy sector and on transport infrastructure projects.

An active political dialogue is being pursued between Presidents, Parliament speakers, 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, while at the same time advancing Baltic and Nordic cooperation. Committees of Senior Officials take part in the implementation of decisions taken by the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers. Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States also meet at least once a year.

The Baltic States have gained valuable reform experience, which is now being shared with other democratically oriented countries. Various projects are being implemented together with other countries and institutions in the Baltic Sea region in the context of the EU Neighbourhood Policy.

Baltic Assembly

The Baltic Assembly (BA) is an institution for parliamentary co-operation among Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania established on 8 November 1991. Each of the Baltic States is represented in the Assembly by a national delegation of 12-20 members of the parliament/parliamentarians. The Assembly is a coordinating and consultative institution.

The Baltic Assembly has the right to make its views known to the national parliaments, governments and the Baltic Council of Ministers in the form of a resolution, decision, declaration or recommendation, while using the form of an appeal, proposal, or statement when addressing other international or regional organizations.

Regular sessions of the Baltic Assembly are held once a year. The 34th Session, which was the most recent, took place on 19–20 November 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the annual Resolution of the Baltic Assembly was adopted at this event.

The next session of the Baltic Assembly has been scheduled for 19–20 November 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Between sessions, the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly may make decisions about current issues on the international agenda.

There are five standing committees of the Baltic Assembly:

  1. Economics, Energy and Innovations Committee
  2. Education, Science and Culture Committee
  3. Natural Resources and Environment Committee
  4. Legal Affairs and Security Committee
  5. Welfare Committee

Since 2003, the presidency of the Baltic Assembly has been co-ordinated with that of the Baltic Council of Ministers, and the term of presidency is one calendar year. In 2015, the presidency was held by Lithuania. Latvia is presiding over the Baltic Assembly in 2016.

Latvia’s priorities for the work of the Baltic Assembly in 2016 (Motto: A Secure, United and Open Baltic Region):

  1. Secure Baltic Region: increased security, strategic communication and cyber security in the region;
  2. United Baltic Region: cooperation in the field of higher education, research and culture;
  3. Open Baltic Region: facilitation of common business environment in the Baltic States;

Statutes of the Baltic Assembly: http://baltasam.org/images/2014/33session/BA%20Statutes.pdf

Baltic Assembly's website: http://www.baltasam.org

Baltic Council of Ministers

The Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM), established on 13 June 1994, is an institution for governmental co-operation between Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The Baltic Council of Ministers is charged with ensuring the continuity of co-operation at the executive level of the states. It is responsible for co-operation among the governments of the Baltic States, as well as co-operation between the governments and the Baltic Assembly (the national parliaments). The Baltic Council of Ministers makes decisions regarding the implementation of recommendations of the Baltic Assembly. It promotes broad and substantive mutual co-operation. The Baltic Council of Ministers has decision-making powers only if representatives of all three Baltic States are present. Decisions are made by consensus.

The chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers is rotated annually among the Baltic States. In 2015, the chairmanship was held by Lithuania. Latvia is taking over as the BCM’s lead country in 2016.

Priorities for the Latvian chairmanship of the BCM in 2016:

  1. Strengthening of security within the region (joint defence planning, strengthening of national borders, good governance of migration and asylum policy);
  2. Promotion of strategic communication (provision of quality, unbiased information within the region, protection of European values, increasing public awareness about democratic values, supporting independent media);
  3. 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).

Basic documents of the Baltic Council of Ministers:

BCM Prime Ministers’ Council

The Baltic Council of Ministers operates under the guidance of the Prime Ministers’ Council, the highest decision-making body, which meets at least once a year. The Prime Ministers’ Council adopts basic documents in the form of joint statements and approves priority areas of the Baltic States cooperation.

In 2015, during the Lithuanian chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers, Baltic Prime Ministers met in Vilnius on 10 April and in Nida on 22–23 August. The closing meeting and the adoption of a Joint Statement has been scheduled for 14 December.

The BCM Joint Statement of December 2014 can be accessed here: 

https://lrv.lt/en/news/prime-ministers-council-of-the-baltic-council-of-ministers

On the same date, an official ceremony was held for the opening of power transmission systems ”NordBalt” (Lithuania-Sweden) and ”LitPol Link” (Lithuania-Poland), which is an important step towards strengthening of the security of energy supply in the Baltic States.

See here a press release on Prime Minister Straujuma’s participation in the opening ceremony:

http://www.mk.gov.lv/en/aktualitates/prime-minister-new-electricity-interconnections-will-increase-energy-security-baltic

BCM Co-operation Council

The BCM Co-operation Council consists of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States. The Co-operation Council is responsible for the overall coordination of Baltic States cooperation.  The Co-operation Council meets at least once a year. The Baltic State Foreign Ministers met in Trakai, Lithuania, on 16 January 2015. The traditional meeting of Foreign Ministers as part of the Baltic Council took place on 20 November in Vilnius.

The Baltic Council is a joint meeting of the Secretariat of the Baltic Assembly and the Co-operation Council, at which the Chairman of the Co-operation Council (Foreign Minister of the rotating chairmanship) presents an overview of the past year’s work.

The Foreign Minister of the incoming chairmanship outlines to the Council its priorities and plans for next year, which are then included in the Joint Statement of the Baltic Council.

The Joint Statement of the Baltic Council of 20 November 2015 is accessible here:

http://baltasam.org/images/2015/Session/BC%20Joint%20Statement_2015.pdf

Baltic Council of Ministers Secretariat

The Secretariat ensures the operation of the Baltic Council of Ministers. The Secretariat consists of the officials of the Foreign Ministries of the Baltic States who are responsible for the coordination of the Baltic State Cooperation. Annual changes in the Secretariat’s leadership follow the rotating chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers. The Secretariat is involved in preparation for the meetings of the Prime Ministers’ Council, the Co-operation Council and the Baltic Council and serves as a link for exchange of information and documentation among officials of the Baltic States. The rotating leadership of the Secretariat formulates priorities for the Baltic States cooperation and drafts reports of the Chairman of the Co-operation Council to the Baltic Assembly and joint statements by the Baltic Council and the Baltic Council of Ministers.

BCM Committees of Senior Officials

In 1994, Committees of Senior Officials were established to ensure a more focused and structured activities at the level of sectoral ministries. Five standing Committees of Senior Officials have been operating since the BCM reform in 2005:

  1. Defence
  2. Energy
  3. Home Affairs
  4. Transport and Communications
  5. Environment

A Committee of Senior Officials consists of one senior official from the respective sectoral ministry of each country and experts.

The Committees of Senior Officials implement the decisions taken by the Prime Ministers’ Council and the Co-operation Council and carry out other assignments delegated to them by the Prime Ministers’ Council, the Co-operation Council or other ministers. Within their sector of cooperation, the Committees of Senior Officials submit proposals for the priorities of Baltic co-operation and for the annual action plan of the Baltic Council of Ministers. The Committees of Senior Officials also produce reports about their activities during the year and present those to the Co-operation Council for consideration.

Task Forces can also be created for carrying out a specific task in the areas not covered by the Committees of Senior Officials. Task Forces are established by the Prime Ministers’ Council on its own initiative or following a proposal of other Ministers in coordination with the Co-operation Council. The Prime Ministers’ Council sets specific tasks to be performed by the Task Force within a definite time frame.

Co-operation between the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers

The Baltic Assembly (BA) and the Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM) have agreed on a closer and more effective co-operation. To achieve this, the trilateral Agreement on Baltic Governmental and Parliamentary Co-operation was amended in 2003, as was the protocol defining specific co-operation mechanisms in 2004. The result was the establishment of the above mentioned Co-operation Council (the meeting of Foreign Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and the Baltic Council (the meeting of the Baltic Assembly’s Presidium and the Co-operation Council of the BCM).

In accordance with the co-operation documents signed, co-operation between the Baltic Council of Ministers and Baltic Assembly take place at all levels – at the annual session of the Baltic Council, a meeting is held between the Baltic Assembly Presidium and the Co-operation Council of the BCM. Regular co-operation takes place between the secretariats of national delegations of the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Baltic Assembly. Members of the BCM Secretariat and BCM Committees of Senior Officials are invited to participate in Baltic Assembly committee sessions and thematic conferences.