A Wise Men’s report on Baltic and Nordic Co-operation (NB8) has been presented at the NB8 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Riga.
Wise Men’s report on Baltic and Nordic Co-operation presented
Valdis Birkavs, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Latvia, and Søren Gade, former Minister of Defence of Denmark, on the 26 August presented their Wise Men’s report on the Baltic and Nordic Co-operation (NB8) at the NB8 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Riga, Latvia.
In the capacities as the presidencies of the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Foreign Policy Cooperation, Latvia and Denmark have taken this initiative in order to give new strength to the cooperation. Presently, the NB8 is suffering, the report evaluates. After the Baltic countries joined the EU, the Nordics have become less “active in the further political development in the Baltic countries”, and scaling down their advisory support and guidance, which has caused the common focus and objective to “fade away” at a moment when the Baltic countries are experiencing their worst economic and political crisis after regaining independence.
The report gives 38 clear recommendations as to how the Nordic-Baltic cooperation can be strengthened on issues such as foreign political dialogue, cooperation on diplomatic representations, civil security (incl. cyber security), defense cooperation, energy and the NB8 brand. The report aims at limiting its recommendations to spheres of foreign ministries, leaving many sector policies aside.
The report states that common structures should have been used more successfully to send timely signals and to find comprehensive solutions to the challenges facing the region. The two Wise Men further underline that the visibility of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation to the general public has diminished. Mr. Birkavs and Mr. Gade remind us all that “joint cooperation can improve the ability to address the challenges of globalization and the global competitiveness of the region”. Regional clustering tendencies in Europe and across the world over the last 10-20 years confirm this tendency.
The overall recommendation is that the Nordic-Baltic countries must support a common agenda and ensure high level ownership, commitment and awareness. Furthermore, the report stresses that the NB8 cooperation would benefit if the Baltic countries advanced integration among themselves more actively. The report does not suggest new structures – the existing ones can be used more efficiently if political will is infused. Thereby, the Wise Men have put a lid on one of the most burning questions that has followed the discussion on the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.
At their meeting in Riga, the eight Foreign Ministers’ reactions to the report were positive, but no joint press statement was made after the meeting. The report recommends that 2011 – the jubilee of the Baltic countries regaining of independence 20 years ago – will have special status for the NB8 cooperation.
Baltic Development Forum has taken active part in the process of the report from the very outset. The two Wise Men met with Chairman of the Board, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, and Director Hans Brask, on separate occasions. Baltic Development Forum welcomes the report and hopes that many of the recommendations will be implemented, which will further have a positive impact on the entire Baltic Sea Region. As the NB8 report rightly notes, the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is an important framework for also the Nordic-Baltic cooperation. The EU strategy has defined concrete actions in many of the fields, which are addressed by the recommendations in the report. It is therefore important that coordination is observed, for the reason that lack of coordination is often highlighted as a regional flaw. There is also a tendency to overburden regional cooperation with many priorities, leaving it unclear what is most important. This is another critique, which is often launched against the region and the EU Strategy. Hopefully, the Wise Men’s report and the political outcome will help in setting a clearer agenda and a greater focus.
The Baltic Sea Region can undoubtedly produce new and remarkable results as it has done in the past. These results will all depend on the political will that is being invested into the region. With this initiative, there is hope for a more continuous political support, which is very important for all regional stakeholders.
[box type=”info”]To download the Report follow this link.
Contact: BDF Director Hans Brask, Phone +45-60 21 85 81, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org[/box]