Baltic Cooperation

 

 

In 2013 the chairman of the Baltic Council of Ministers is Latvia, which has chosen as priority areas for its chairmanship year increasing the competitiveness of the region and improving the business environment, intensified co-operation with the Nordic countries, and developing regional energy and transport projects.

Schedule 2013

  • 30 May - unofficial meeting of the prime ministers, Riga
  • 28-29 November - Baltic Council/Baltic Assembly, Riga

Full-scale co-operation among Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was re-established on 12 May 1990 when the Declaration on Unity and Co-operation by the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia and Republic of Lithuania was signed in the White Hall of the Riigikogu in Tallinn. In line with the Treaty on Concord and Co-operation concluded between the three Baltic states in 1934 in Geneva, it was decided to establish the Baltic Council to help achieve the full restoration of independence in the three republics. Even though today Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all members of the European Union and NATO, Baltic co-operation has not lost its value. At the same time, the centre of gravity of their co-operation has increasingly shifted towards co-operation with the entire Nordic region, especially within the framework of the NB8 format, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and the EU Baltic Sea Region Strategy. It is in Estonia’s interest to have co-operation that is flexible and complements co-operation structures without being redundant.

The chairmanship rotates at the beginning of each calendar year and the chairing country actively co-ordinates co-operation on all levels. This year the chairing country is Latvia, and in 2014 it will be Estonia.

Legal basis for co-operation

Co-operation structure

The format for intergovernmental co-operation among Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is the Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM), which acts pursuant to the Terms of Reference and whose decisions are binding for the Baltic states. The Prime Ministers’ Council, as the highest organ of the BCM, provides guidance for the intergovernmental co-operation of the Baltic states. The BCM meets on the prime ministerial level once a year (generally in the fall); informal meetings may take place as well.

Five Committees of Senior Officials have been created within the BCM (energy, transport, defence, environment, and internal issues). Each committee can create sub-committees in certain areas in order to organise its own activities. For example, there is currently a sub-committee for border control affairs. The work of the Committees of Senior Officials is essentially being replaced by conventional need-based meeting formats in each sector. Significant changes to the structure of the BCM took place during the extensive reforms that were initiated during the Estonian chairmanship in 2002 and completed in 2005. The reforms were necessary because the work process was becoming too complicated and bureaucratic. Existing co-ordination involved all ministers, the number of Committees of Senior Officials in various fields had reached 21, and high-level meetings were held twice a year. After Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the EU and NATO, the authority of decision-making on several matters changed, scope widened, and the everyday co-operation between officials involved an increased number of partners within the framework of the co-operation area. The reforms reduced the number of Committees of Senior Officials to five.

In addition to the Committees of Senior Officials, the prime ministers can also create task forces, which come together for a certain period to fulfil a specific task outside the jurisdiction of the Committees of Senior Officials. From 2010-2012 there was a Task Force for Health Affairs, which did very good work.

The foreign ministers meet within the framework of the Baltic Council, which is the format for co-operation between the governments and parliaments. The Baltic Council meeting takes place once a year within the framework of the fall session of the Baltic Assembly. During the Baltic Council, the foreign minister of the rotating chairman state presents an overview to the Baltic Assembly of the co-operation among the Baltic states in the past year and plans for the future.

Meetings taking place within the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers are arranged by a rotating secretariat, which consists of officials from the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministries.

Co-operation among parliaments

Co-operation among the parliaments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania takes place through the Baltic Assembly (BA), established on 8 November 1991. The chairmanship of the Baltic Assembly coincides with the chairmanship of the BCM and lasts for one calendar year. The Baltic Assembly convenes twice a year for a spring and a fall session. In the time between the sessions, the work of the Baltic Assembly is co-ordinated by a Presidium that meets four times a year, whose chairman is the leader of the chairman nation’s delegation to the Baltic Assembly.

Co-operation between the Presidents

On 12 May 1991 the Chairmen of the Supreme Soviets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met in Tallinn and established the Council of the Baltic States, which was meant to be a co-operation forum for the heads of state of that period. The initial name was used later as well on the occasion of the meetings of constitutional presidents. On 18 November 1993 the presidents approved the statutes modifying the initial name into the Baltic Council. The same name came to be used by the joint forum of the BA and BCM, so in order to avoid confusion, the heads of state stopped using the name as a title for their meetings. The meetings of the presidents can be called the Baltic Presidents’ Council.