On 24 and 25 May 2022, in Kristiansand, Norway, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the 19th Ministerial Session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). This was the first meeting of the CBSS Ministers of Foreign Affairs since 2013 when the convening of such annual sessions was suspended, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs exchanged views on the future of the Baltic Sea region. Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined that cooperation in the CBSS would not be possible without a common understanding of values that underpin every democratic state. The Minister welcomed the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, which would contribute significantly to the strengthening of security in the Baltic Sea region and open up new avenues for cooperation on defence matters. Russia’s aggression has increased instability; under those circumstances, the historic decision by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership is a major contribution to the Baltic Sea region’s security, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted.
“Ukraine already has an observer status in the Council of the Baltic Sea States. It is a formal precondition for closer cooperation in the future based on mutual interests in the areas in which the CBSS has acquired considerable competence. Protection of children’s rights and combating trafficking in human beings can be mentioned as examples. This will still be a decisive time for global progress on climate change. Practical cooperation in the CBSS has always worked hand in hand with political dialogue. This is also true of climate policy and energy security,” the Latvian Foreign Minister said.
The CBSS was established in 1992. It comprises the three Baltic States, five Nordic countries as well as Poland, Germany, and the European Commission. In response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the membership of Russia in the CBSS was suspended on 3 March 2022, and on 17 May, Russia announced its withdrawal from the organisation. Belarus, which has observer status in the CBSS, has also been suspended from the Council’s activities. Norway holds the Presidency of the CBSS from 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022, when Germany will take over.
Photo: Thomas Köhler