Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBSS
The Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was created in March of 1992 when the foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia as well as representatives of the European Commission met in Copenhagen at the invitation of the foreign ministers of Denmark and Germany. The goal of the meeting was to strengthen and intensify co-operation among the Baltic Sea states.
The meeting ended with the approval of the Copenhagen Declaration, which became the basis for the foundation of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). Iceland joined the CBSS in May of 1995 during a meeting of the foreign ministers in Gdansk. The European Commission is the 12th member of the CBSS and participates in the council’s work.
Today there are also ten observing nations participating in the work of the CBSS: Ukraine, the USA, Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Romania, and Belarus.
The highest working level of the CBSS is the Session of the Foreign Ministers. Ministerial sessions take place once every two years. The last ministerial session, which was the 18th one held, took place on 05.- 06. June 2013 in Kaliningrad. The next meeting of the CBSS foreign ministers will take place in June 2015 in Estonia. During the meeting, the foreign ministers approved a joint declaration.
The CBSS foreign ministers in Kaliningrad, 6 June 2013.
The summit meetings of the heads of government of the Baltic Sea states are held every two years. The meetings do not belong to the formal structure of the CBSS, but they provide the overall political guidance for its work. Due to the increasing role of the CBSS as the co-ordinator of regional co-operation within the group of CBSS states, the importance of the summits for developing the CBSS and evaluating its work has grown as well.
There have been nine summits: Visby (3-4 May 1996), Riga (22-23 January 1998), Kolding (12-13 April 2000), St. Petersburg (10 June 2002), Laulasmaa (at the end of Estonia’s presidency, 21 June 2004), Reykjavik (7-8 June 2006), Riga (3-4 June 2008), Vilnius (1-2 June 2010), and Stralsund (30-31 May 2012). The next meeting of the heads of government of CBSS states will take place in Finland in 2013.
The summit of the heads of government in Stralsund, 31 May 2012
On 5 April 2013 Russia, as the chairman of the CBSS, organised an extraordinary meeting of the prime ministers in St. Petersburg. The meeting was a continuation of the Baltic Sea Action Summit process that began in Helsinki in 2010, although Russia brought the summit under the auspices of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. During the meeting, the prime ministers approved a joint declaration.
The most important co-operation areas for the Council of the Baltic Sea States were approved during the chairmanship of Latvia in 2008, when a comprehensive reform programme was implemented. The goal was to make the work of the organisation more effective, as well as more project-based and relying more on co-operation between experts. Better co-ordinated co-operation with other networks in the region was also an aim of the reform. At the meeting of the heads of government on 3-4 June 2008, the long-term future priorities of the CBSS were established, which are:
- Economic development
- Education and culture
- The safety of civil society
Declaration of the Riga Summit of the CBSS, which launched the CBSS reform programme.
In between the Foreign Ministers' Sessions, the work of the CBSS is co-ordinated by the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), which holds its meetings approximately once a month. It is the main institution that co-ordinates the activities of all the working groups and is the main structural unit that gathers information about co-operation in all fields.
The CBSS established its Permanent Secretariat, located in Stockholm, in 1998 in order to assist the chairing country. It provides technical, organisational and analytical support. The Secretariat also organises and preserves documents tied to the council’s work, publishes the newsletter “Baltinfo”, and maintains the CBSS webpage.
To ensure the continuity and smoothness of the work of the institution, a troika format is used. It consists of the previous, present and upcoming holder of the chairmanship. At the moment Germany, Russia and Finland are the members of the troika.
The chairmanship of the CBSS lasts for a period that runs from the start of July to the end of June. The foreign minister of the chairing nation is the political organiser of the council’s work; he also leads the work of the CBSS. The state that holds the chair of the CBSS determines the main direction of its work in the chairing programme.
As of July 2013 the chairman of the CBSS is Finland. Finland has set the following three areas as priorities for its chairmanship:
- Baltic Sea maritime policy (assuring security, environmental friendliness, and increasing competitiveness);
- Civil security
- Civil society involvement (including greater youth involvement)
More information on Finland’s CBSS chairmanship: http://formin.finland.fi/cbss
As of July 2014, Estonia will take over the chairmanship of the CBSS.
Estonia has been the chairman of the CBSS from 1993-1994 and 2003-2004. Estonia will base its chairmanship priorities on continuity as well as its own established long-term priorities like the environment, human trafficking, education, and culture, as well as co-operation in the preservation of national heritage.
For Estonia, the CBSS is one of many multilateral intergovernmental co-operation organisations in the Baltic Sea region. Estonia is one of the biggest supporters of making the CBSS more practical and project-based. We feel that co-operation among the various co-operation formats in the Baltic region could be more visible, the division of roles more clear, and the activities better co-ordinated. The operational network created by the CBSS and the functioning forum for political dialogue in the form of meetings of ministers or heads of state is very important to Estonia.