Twenty years since the establishment of the House Baltic Caucus (HBC) in 1997 were marked on Thursday, December 7. The HBC has supported the reintegration of the Baltic countries into the Western structures, also NATO, visa-free regime between the United States and Baltic countries, as well as advanced Congress decisions such as naming August 23 as the Black Ribbon Day to remember victims of the communism and Nazi regimes. This year a record of 22 more members of Congress have joined the HBC bringing the total number to 74. The co-chairs of the HBC are Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois and Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
Representatives from the Parliaments of the Baltic countries spoke during the reception. The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) Mr Marko Mihkelson in his remarks pointed out the special support received from the HBC as the Baltic countries were to join NATO and enjoy visa-free travel with the United States. The former Speaker of the Saeima (Parliament of Latvia) and the chair of the National Security Committee Ms Solvita Āboltiņa highlighted the strong ties of friendship among the Baltic countries and the United States and common commitment to democratic values. She reminded everyone that the Baltic flags were present at the U.S. State Department throughout the long period of occupation. The Seimas (Parliament of Lithuania) was represented by Mr Emanuelis Zingeris who heads the Group for Inter-Parliamentary Relations with the United States of America. Mr Zingeris thanked all friends of the Baltic countries and stressed the important role of diplomats in strengthening ties among our four countries.
Co-chair Shimkus thanked the Baltic diaspora in the United States for cherishing Baltic ancestry, lobbying in the U.S. Congress, and engagement in democratic movements. Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky noted the fact that the Baltic countries have increased funding for defense and encouraged achieving energy independence of the Baltic countries. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee also congratulated everyone attending.
The former minister of defense of Latvia and the president of the Baltic American Freedom League Mr Valdis Pavlovskis expressed his appreciation for the HBC’s efforts into advocating for the Baltic countries. He invited everyone to strive to reach a total of 100 HBC members in the centennial year of all three Baltic countries in 2018.
The reception was organized by the Embassies of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania in cooperation with the Joint Baltic American National Committee, established in 1961 to represent the American Latvian Association, the Estonian American National Council, and the Lithuanian American Council to advance the interests of Baltic countries in the United States.
More photos (Pēteris Alunāns) available on the Embassy Flickr page.