Exactly 20 years ago, the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – regained their independence and resumed diplomatic relations with the international community. The anniversary is celebrated in the Baltic States, but also in most Baltic Sea Region countries as they played important and instrumental roles in helping the Baltic people strive for re-establishment of statehood and separation from the Soviet Union.
As the Baltic States achieved their independence, the Baltic Sea Region could also be re-established as a region and cooperation across the sea could begin to flourish. Looking back the co-operation has indeed flourished and the region has become a European model for regional integration.
Baltic Development Forum’s Chairman – Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen who was Denmark’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time – played a key role in recognizing the three Baltic States. The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published some of the key diplomatic documents that formally re-established relations between Latvia and other sovereign states. It includes the diplomatic note that frm. Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen sent to Mr. Janis Jurkans, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, on 24 August 1991.
Mr. Ellemann-Jensen wrote:
“It is with a profound sense of joy and relief that the Danish government and the entire Danish people have learned of the developments which mean that your country can now begin the construction of a free and democratic society […]” and further “it is my pleasure to confirm that in accordance with your previously expressed wishes Denmark is now ready to establish diplomatic relations with your country”.
For further information about key documents go to http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/ministry/exhibitions/20-anniversary/. Similar notes were sent to the two other Baltic countries.
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki
On 24 August, the exact date of the aforementioned diplomatic note, the Foreign Policy Society in Copenhagen organized a panel discussion “Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 1991-2011” to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Among invited guests were Mr. Mart Laar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense (Estonian Prime Minister 1992-1994), Mr. Nils Muiznieks (Latvian Minister for Integration Affairs 2002-2004), Egidijus Aleksandravicius (professor at Vytautas Magnum University and the director of the Lithuanian Emigration Institute), and the event was moderated by Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. The main themes that were discussed were “Regaining independence” and “2011 – looking back, thinking ahead”.
On Sunday, 28 August 2011, the Crown Prince of Denmark Frederik is hosting a dinner for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to celebrate the anniversary.
After the dinner, the Ministers will fly to Helsinki where further celebrations will take place during the NB8 (Nordic-Baltic co-operation) Foreign Ministers meeting. As Finland holds the Presidency of Nordic Council of Ministers, Helsinki is a natural venue for the celebration and discussions on how to make further progress in strengthening further cooperation within the Baltic Sea Region, discovering new development potential, improving the security building, development assistance and education initiatives.
The Swedish government has also taken very many initiatives to celebrate the 20 years Anniversary throughout “the Baltic Year 2011” – go to http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/14644. Baltic Development Forum’s seminar in Stockholm 11 March 2011, organized together with Swedish government, was also part of the Swedish Baltic Year 2011.
Text: Maciej Pilarczyk, BDF