Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

• Lithuanian Presidency 2020 - 2021 Report




• Children at Risk Lithuanian Presidency Annual Report 





Documents and declarations



Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS)

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was established as an informal regional political forum in Copenhagen in 1992. The main idea was to promote integration in the region characterized by a great diversity looking from the economic and social viewpoint. With the fall of iron curtain states like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, rejuvenated Russian Federation and also the part of Germany previously called the German Democratic Republic, have made their comeback to the Baltic Sea region. Activities of the CBSS include every aspect of Baltic Sea region’s intergovernmental co-operation but military defense.

Today, the Baltic Sea region is recognized as the most successful example of regional co-operation, and not only in the European Union. By now the CBSS has reached its main goals and objectives, and retains its importance to Lithuania in a wide spectrum of activities coinciding with Lithuania’s national interests.

However, the 30th anniversary of the CBSS is marked by a radical change in the history of the organization. Initially the CBSS was made up of 10 member states: Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Norway, the Russian Federation, Finland, Sweden, and Germany, with EU having a special status. Iceland joined the CBSS in 1996. On March 3, 2022 after Russia started an unprovoked and brutal war in Ukraine, it was suspended from the organization by the unanimous decision of the ministers of foreign affairs of all member states. On May 17, Russia announced its complete withdrawal from the CBSS.

A former observer state Belarus .was suspended simultaneously as an accomplice of Russia in the war against Ukraine. The remaining observer states are: France, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, the USA, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Hungary.

This new situation led to the decision to arrange the formal meeting of the Council – the first since this tradition has been stopped as a protest to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

On 25 May in Kristiansand, Norway, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis attended the 19th Ministerial Session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) along with other CBSS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and high-level representatives of the European Union. The meeting focused on Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, possibilities of the CBSS member states to contribute to the provision of support for Ukraine, further strengthening regional cooperation, involving young people and civil society, and opportunities for accelerating the green and digital transformation.

“The CBSS remains an important forum for political dialogue and practical cooperation, especially when strengthening the unity of the region and defending our common values. We live in a time of changes, so we must remain united,” Landsbergis said.

The CBSS Foreign Ministers agreed on the need to use the CBSS format maximally to help Ukraine. With its strong expert groups, the CBSS, as an organisation, can provide assistance to civil society, particularly children who are affected by war and women that are the most vulnerable to all types of exploitation and abuse.

All CBSS member states agreed that following the suspension of Russia’s activities in the organisation, it was necessary to review its activities in the general context of the Baltic Sea region. Participants also believe that the CBSS must continue its work, remaining the main regional political forum and boosting practical activities in its strongest areas.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs also signed a joint political declaration, condemning Russia's war in Ukraine and outlining further objectives and actions for the CBSS. The declaration highlights the special unity of the organisation that is based on shared values.

Germany, which will take over the CBSS Presidency from Norway, is obliged to prepare an analysis of the activities of the CBSS and proposals to improve them during the year of its Presidency.


The Council is the highest body of the CBSS and consists of Foreign Affairs Ministers of its member states and the representative of the European Union. The meetings of Foreign Affairs Ministers are arranged every two years since 1992, as well as meetings of the Heads of the Governments, (first such meeting took place in Sweden in 1996). This tradition was put on hold since 2014 after the annexation of Crimea by the CBSS member state Russia. Currently Baltic Sea Region high level meetings are being held annually. The last one (video conference) took place on June 1, 2021 and was chaired by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

The chairmanship by each member state rotates on an annual basis (from July 1st until June 30th). The Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the chairing state is also responsible for co-ordination of the work of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), which in turn assists and represents the Minister in between the Ministerial meetings. The CSO consists of high-ranking representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the 10 CBSS Member States as well as a representative of the European Union. The chairperson of the CSO is delegated by a country holding the Presidency that year. In between the high-level meetings, the CSO works as the main discussion and decision-making body.

In 2014, three long-term priorities of co-operation were approved of: fostering regional identity, aiming at sustainable and prosperous development of the region, and ensuring the safety and security of its citizens and infrastructure. The chairing state - the Presidency - is free to choose additionally its activity priorities for the year.

In 2017, in the light of the changing political situation in the region as well as in Europe, the members of the Council decided to reform the organization so that it could better match current needs. The Latvian and Danish Presidencies developed proposals for the implementation of a large-scale organizational reform. The final reform documents (revised Terms of Reference of the CBSS and of the CBSS Secretariat and the Bornholm Declaration) were adopted in May 2020.

In the Bornholm Declaration, the Foreign Ministers and high-level representatives reaffirmed the role of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) as a platform uniquely suited to add value to the development of the Baltic Sea region, through intergovernmental dialogue and practical cooperation between all countries in the region, by fostering mutual understanding, building trust, ensuring stability and promoting people-to-people contacts. The reforms should increase the relevance, efficiency, transparency and visibility of the organization. In particular, they should foster more focus and flexibility in the work of the CBSS, improve CBSS co-operation with other international fora and formats active in the region, and enable concrete results in areas in which the CBSS is uniquely suited to add value.

Lithuania chaired the CBSS in 1989-1999, 2009-2010, and 2020-2021. The Summit of the CBSS Heads of State took place in Vilnius in 2010. It has adopted a highly significant Vilnius Declaration “A Vision for the Baltic Sea Region by 2020”, which established development ideas for further co-operation in the region within the upcoming decade. It emphasized the potential of the Baltic Sea Region to become one of the most prosperous, innovative and competitive regions in the world. basic document for regional co-operation until 2020. The third period of the Lithuanian Presidency culminated in Vilnius II Declaration “ A Vision for the Baltic Sea Region by 2030” which promises to be the guiding document on the development of the Baltic Sea Region until 2030.

The CBSS member states co-operate in various expert and work groups, inter alia:

  • Expert Group on Nuclear and Radiation Safety (EGNRS),  
  • Expert Group on Sustainable Maritime Economy (EGSME) 
  • Task-Force Against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB), 
  • The Expert Group on Children at Risk ( CAR), 
  • The Expert Group “Baltic 2030” on Sustainable Development (EGSD), 
  • The Baltic Sea Task-Force on Organized Crime (BSTF) – Heads of the government are in charge, 
  • Monitoring Group on Cultural Heritage in the Baltic Sea Region (BSMGHC), 
  • Ars Baltica Organizing Committee (ABOC) on Cultural Cooperation,
  • Vision and Strategies around the Baltic Sea (VASAB).

CBSS works closely with other regional organizations ant its strategic partners:

  • Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), 
  • Baltic Islands Network (B7)
  • The Baltic Sea States Subregional Cooperation (BSSSC), 
  • The Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC), 
  • Baltic Sea NGO Network,
  • Baltic Sea Trade Union Network (BASTUN), 
  • The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), 
  • Baltic Sea Region University Network (BSRUN).

New organizations are constantly added to those lists. The CBSS has established a special Project Support Fond to assist regional cooperation projects. The Fund is supported by all the member states.

Many prominent organizations became CBSS project partners.

Swedish Institute (SI) is a project partner that has worked closely with the CBSS for many years across all priority areas. The strongest collaboration has been across the various leadership programs on topics such as low carbon economy, labor and employment and civil security.

Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) is a sister Council and collaboration has most recently focused on counter trafficking in human beings and children’s rights in joint programs.

Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is a regional organisation that the CBSS has collaborated with on the topic of Climate Adaptation.

Central European Initiative (CEI) is a regional organisation where CBSS has a long history of institutional relations.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is where the CBSS Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings alongside with the Children at Risk group is a member of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons. More recently the civil security portfolio has given input to the EFF Economic and Environmental Forum.

CBSS participates in three activities of EUSBSR: Policy Area Secure, Horizontal Action Climate, Horizontal Action Neighbours.

In 1998 the Permanent International Secretariat of the CBSS was established in Stockholm. It provides technical and organizational support to the Chairperson of the CBSS, the CSO and the structures and working bodies of the Council, ensures continuity and enhances co-ordination of CBSS activities, implements the CBSS Information and Communication Strategy. The Permanent International Secretariat maintains the CBSS archives and information database.

More information: www.cbss.org