The Nordic Baltic Eight (NB8) Foreign Ministers met on 4 September in Vilnius to discuss prospects of the closer partnership and the results of the joint activities.
“This year marks twenty years of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation. During those years we were not only close friends, but we were pooling together different expertise and experience to address regional and global challenges. This year we have paid a lot of attention to the situation in Eastern Partnership countries and in the Southern neighbourhood of the EU. We have strengthened joint activities in development cooperation and were promoting gender equality, continued to work collaboratively towards a common vision of cyber security, started nuclear safety cooperation. Furthermore, we are working together to help Ukraine and Moldova to reform their defence sectors,” Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis said.
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister stressed that even though the NB8 was a region of stability and peace, it was also a part of broader regional and global contexts.
“We have discussed Eastern Partnership, Middle East, challenges in the Euro zone, the cooperation in the United Nations, NATO and EU missions, and security cooperation,” the head of the Lithuanian diplomacy said.
According to the Minister, the Nordic and Baltic countries have reiterated their determination to support and promote integration efforts of Eastern Partnership countries. “We need to demonstrate to democratic political forces in the Eastern neighbourhood that we strongly support their Euro-Atlantic vision. The fact that the situation in the Southern neighbourhood of the EU is extremely tense does not mean that Eastern partnership can be neglected in terms of political or financial engagement. The international community will be judged by future generations by the way it manages to address this very difficult situation in both Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods at the same time,” Ažubalis said.
The Ministers also discussed recent problems in the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “We support the concern raised by the EU regarding the situation, which resulted from actions taken by the government of Azerbaijan in relation to Ramil Safarov. Our primary interest is stability in the South Caucasus region. Therefore, we hope that the countries will find a way out of the situation based on the generally recognized norms of international law,” Minister Ažubalis stressed.
Minister Ažubalis emphasized a comprehensive, integrated Nordic-Baltic approach in dealing with the problems in the Euro zone. “We share the opinion that the solution to the challenges lies in three principles: firstly, growth and fiscal discipline are inseparable; secondly, growth must focus on productivity and innovation; thirdly, EU single market potential must be fully used to foster growth,” the Lithuanian Foreign Minister said.
Lithuania’s interim report on the NB8 activities, which reviews the recent key achievements of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation, was presented to the Ministers.
In 2012, the Nordic and Baltic countries implemented a number of measures, aimed at developing closer relations in the region. NB8 diplomatic representations’ data base was created to promote diplomatic exchange. As a result some countries already share their diplomatic premises with each other. Diplomats of the region visited Moldova together, where they reiterated support for the country’s EU integration aspirations.
This year Lithuania initiated a comprehensive presentation of the region on the internet and launched Foreign Ministry’s website, dedicated to the NB8 cooperation. In June, the international conference on gender equality was organised by Nordic, Baltic and other countries in Vilnius.
This year saw preparatory work for the joint Nordic and Baltic nuclear safety exercise, which will take place in Finland in 2013. Cyber security and digital marketing experts from eight countries established contacts.
This October the conference on democracy and development cooperation in Vilnius will also bring together Nordic and Baltic Ministers responsible for development cooperation.
The Nordic Baltic Eight is an informal cooperation mechanism established by five Nordic countries and three Baltic States in 1992. The Nordic-Baltic Foreign Ministers’ meeting is held annually in the country that coordinates the NB8 cooperation. The last ministerial meeting was held in Helsinki. In 2013, the event will take place in Sweden, as the country will take over the helm from Lithuania.