Baltic region could become a leading force in the EU

If Baltic and Nordic countries agreed on a common position in the most crucial issues, the Baltic Sea Region would have a high chance of becoming the leading player in the EU.

Such is the belief of Latvia’s former prime minister and foreign affairs minister Valdis Birkavs, who has joined forces with the Danish ex-minister of defence, Søren Gade, to devise a plan on the possible future development of Nordic-Baltic cooperation.  

An analysis of the previous cooperation and suggestions for its future advancement will be submitted prior to the meeting of NB8 foreign ministers on 26-27 August in Latvia. 

Valdis Birkavs disagrees that the Baltic States are allegedly keener on the Nordic-Baltic cooperation than the Nordic countries. He believes that the latter are just as interested in preserving the internal stability of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The Baltic countries, on the other hand, are willing to attain the living standard of their Nordic neighbours.

«Close cooperation with Nordic countries is much more likely to raise the quality of life in the Baltics than the EU membership alone,» elaborated the Latvian ex-PM.

At the moment, the experts are still touring around the region and meeting the ministers of foreign affairs, entrepreneurs, various experts and officials in order to gather comprehensive information about the Nordic-Baltic collaboration so far. The evaluation in its more concrete form and the devising of proposals for the future will commence in July. Valdis Birkavs thinks that the report should be ready by the beginning of August so that the ministers of foreign affairs can get acquainted with it in due time. 

«The era of romanticism is over, it is time we appraised the situation anew and revised our goals,» says Birkavs.

Although it is still premature to talk about any specific recommendations yet, Birkavs conceded that to merge some of the organizations operating in the region could be one of the possible suggestions.

«Establishing an organization is easier than closing it down. Organizations can be self-exterminating – if they lack financing or lose their goals. The process must happen naturally,» commented Birkavs on the possible liquidation of some organizations.

Baltic cooperation is bolstered by such institutions as the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers whereas Nordic-Baltic cooperation is conducted via the NB8 («Nordic-Baltic Eight») framework which, apart from the three Baltic States, includes Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

As reported previously, at the end of May 2010 Latvian and Danish foreign ministers delegated Valdis Birkavs and Søren Gade to provide a comprehensive analysis and recommendations on how to advance the Nordic-Baltic cooperation in order to strengthen relations and address common regional and international challenges more efficiently. 

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