International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics
Friday, 07.03.2014, 18:25
Co-operation among the Baltic and the Nordic Countries
My intervention today I would like to organize around the following three statements:
1) The co-operation among the Baltic and the Nordic Countries has been one of Latvia’s key foreign policy priorities since regaining of our independence.
2) There is a number of cooperation formats within the Baltic Region and it is important to know and understand them in order to use the right ones for any particular need or project.
3) The NB8 Co-operation Report has given a boost to the discussion on the Nordic-Baltic relations; it has also created wider interest about the topic. We must keep this discussion active and going.
- Although the Nordic-Baltic co-operation is not institutionalized, the political dialogue among the Baltic and the Nordic Countries is very active and fruitful. It mainly takes place within the frameworks of NB-8 (3 Baltic States and 5 Nordic) and NB-6 (3 Baltic and 3 Nordic– EU Member states).
- The recent global and regional developments have highlighted a need for more consolidated common vision and action, if the potential of Nordic Baltic region is to be fully used. This year Latvia as a coordinator of the NB8 Foreign Ministries‘ co-operation has proposed to the partners to have a wider look on the future co-operation through the Report published last August – a very practical document, putting forward 38 recommendations for a concrete action. The implementation of part of these recommendations has already started.
- The Nordic-Baltic co-operation is based on mutual interests.
- Politically it allows for a louder voice, be it within international organizations (EU, NATO, World Bank, IMF, etc.) or in communication with other partners.
- In the field of economy it allows for more efficient tackling of the existing problems (good example – Cooperation agreement on cross-border financial stability, crisis management and resolution between relevant Ministries, Central Banks and Financial Supervisory Authorities of NB8 countries, signed on August 17, 2010).
- Pooling resources gives additional value added to any activity, either education, research, culture, economy or any other sphere of action (good example – Nordic-Baltic mobility programs managed by the offices of Nordic Council of Ministers).
- The cooperation within NB8 being very valuable, it is clear that on many issues, be it energy, environment, transportation, security or human trafficking, we will be successful only if we look at the wider regional context.
- That means being able, ideally, to come to common vision, first, within Baltic States and NB8, and then – actively use all the levers available in the Region: – the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and well-developed regional cooperation networks (the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Northern Dimension).
- The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is the first macro-regional Strategy that the EU has developed. We see the Strategy as an integrated, long-term EU policy planning document that defines common priorities and projects in the Region. Drafted on the basis of wide consultations, the Strategy has defined common objectives, priorities and actions of the EU in the fields of:
o environmental sustainability;
o prosperity (incl. promotion of innovations in small and medium enterprises);
o accessibility and attractiveness (incl. better energy and transport interconnections links);
o civil safety and security.
- Increased integration of the energy market in the Baltic Sea Region will contribute to the stability and economic growth and improve the security of energy supply. Latvia together with Denmark assumes a coordinating role on energy co-operation in the Region. The Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) serves as a backbone for co-operation in the area.
- In case of Latvia, the business community was the first to engage in discussions on common challenges facing the Region that should be addressed in the Strategy. We would like to encourage the business people, NGOs and local institutions to expand their co-operation links and build up real working partnerships for implementation of flagship projects of the Strategy’s Action Plan.
- We are interested to co-operate with Russia on practical and mutually important regional projects within all key areas identified by the Strategy. The Northern Dimension – an innovative project-oriented co-operation network where the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland participate as equal partners – is appropriate framework for co-operation with non-EU countries.
- The Government of Latvia has finalized all the internal procedures to make the Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics fully operational. We hope the inauguration of this Partnership will take place at the beginning of 2011.
- We are pleased that the Transit Business Association of Latvia is interested in becoming a member of the Northern Dimension Business Council’s Working Group on Logistics, which should provide an opportunity for constructive dialogue and networking between enterprises and public institutions.
- The Council of the Baltic Sea States is the most formalized intergovernmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region where all the 11 member-states (5 Nordic and 3 Baltic States, as well as Germany, Poland and Russia) have equal voting rights.
- It was established in 1992 as a response to the geopolitical changes that took place in the Baltic Sea region with the end of the Cold War. In the Reform Declaration adopted at the Baltic Sea States Summit in Riga in June 2008 CBSS decided to become more project oriented within its five long-term priorities: 1) education and culture; 2) energy; 3) environment; 4) economic development; 5) civil security and the human dimension.
- We consider it is important to keep up the CBSS reform spirit and the efforts in creation of new expert groups with a definite mandate, tasks and time-frame.
- Concerted and active action of Nordic and Baltic states in those formats is crucial if we want to deal successfully with the challenges and problems that our region is facing.
- I would like to end my presentation with a quote from the wise men Report that I mentioned in the beginning – The Nordic and Baltic countries have strong cultural and historical bonds, and we should strive at further developing these bonds and this identity in order to fully harvest the potential of the region in a longer-term perspective.