The Baltic Sea Year came to an end
Janne Jõesaar-Ruusalu, Director of the Division for Northern and Central Europe and Regional Cooperation
2014 has come to an end and so has the Baltic Sea Year, when we led at the same time three regional cooperation formats – Baltic cooperation, Nordic-Baltic cooperation (NB8) and the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
Estonia is strongly connected to the Baltic Sea region and, along with bilateral relations, regional cooperation is the platform where relations are developed and strengthened. During the year, we hosted seven high-level meetings. The presidents of the Baltic countries and Poland met in Estonia, as did the prime ministers of the Baltic countries, prime ministers of the Baltic countries and Poland, the foreign ministers of the Nordic-Baltic states, the foreign ministers of the Baltic states and Germany. One of the top events of the year was the meeting of the foreign ministers of Nordic, Baltic and Visegrad countries in Narva in March, where Russian aggression in Ukraine became the main topic. The ministers held an open discussion and issued a joint statement.
For us, the Nordic – Baltic states are natural, close friends and neighbours. A tradition has developed for numerous meetings to take place each year between officials of the foreign ministries. Therefore, this year, as the coordinator of NB8 cooperation, we organised almost 20 meetings between officials in many different fields of activity: relations with the EU Eastern Partnership countries, security policy issues, energy cooperation, consular topics and many more.
In cooperation with good partners the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership and the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, a conference dedicated to the Eastern Partnership and a seminar on security issues took place. We also organized – for the first time – a NB8-U.S. roundtable dedicated to cyber security, which was very well received and, in 2015, will continue in Finland.
During the year, we turned our attention to cooperation between the Nordic- Baltic states and countries outside of the region – the already established cooperation with the U.S., cooperation with Japan and also Italy as a new initiative.
In the cooperation between the three Baltic states, where the emphasis is on specific common projects, we took a big step forward towards mutual use of digital signatures. The progress was made in connection with the Rail Baltic project – the establishment of a joint venture was decided.
The Baltic Sea Year is over, but this does not lessen the importance of regional cooperation for us. Nor does it end our leading role: our presidency of the Council of the Baltic Sea States will continue until the summer of 2015.