NB8

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NB8
NB8 countries.png
Member states of the Nordic-Baltic Eight (blue).
Formation 1992
Type Nordic-Baltic cooperation framework
Region served 5 Nordic + 3 Baltic states
Membership
NB8 structure [1]
NB8 structure [2]
NB8 structure [3]

Nordic-Baltic Eight or NB8 is a regional co-operation format that includes Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Under NB8, regular meetings are held of the Baltic and Nordic countries' Prime Ministers, Speakers of Parliaments, Foreign Ministers, branch ministers, Secretaries of State and political directors of Foreign Ministries, as well as expert consultations where regional issues and current international topics are reviewed.[4]

History[edit]

Historically the countries of the region have been interlinked and interacted for centuries, with mutual trade being the decisive factor facilitating this interaction. The most profound bond, however was created during the 1990s.

The Nordic Council first contacted Baltic parliamentarians in around 1989. Official co-operation began in November 1991, when the Nordic Council attended the inaugural meeting of the Baltic Assembly in Tallinn. A formal co-operation agreement between the Nordic Council and the Baltic Assembly was signed in 1992.[5]

The Nordic countries were amongst the strongest supporters of the Baltic countries' independence and later they were the first to open their borders, introducing visa-free regimes with the Baltic countries.[6]

When Baltic countries regained their independence and during their integration into the European and transatlantic structures, they were strongly supported by their Nordic neighbors. The Nordic-Baltic co-operation took place in various levels: networking and cooperation were established among politicians, civil servants and civil societies. The Nordic countries actively assisted the Baltic countries in their preparations for integration into the European Union and NATO.[7]

Named as 5+3 in the beginning of cooperation (five Nordic countries plus three Baltic States), the format changed its name and scope of cooperation. During the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States and Nordic Countries on 30 August 2000 in Middelfart (Denmark), the Ministers decided that the meetings of the Ministers of the Baltic States and Nordic Countries will be called NB8.[8]

Nordic - Baltic countries today[edit]

Nordic-Baltic community is one of the three main communities in Northern Europe: these are Nordic, Nordic-Baltic and Baltic Sea Region.[9]

The Nordic - Baltic region has some 32 million inhabitants, and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of close to $1.5 trillion, which makes it the tenth‐largest population and fifth‐largest economy in Europe. Furthermore, the region features relatively low levels of corruption; with the Nordic countries some of the least corrupt countries in the world. Also, the countries of the region place well in various international freedom rankings, with several of the states at the absolute top. The Nordic‐Baltic countries also do well in surveys that measure the ease of doing business and creating new companies. The Human Development Index places many of the countries in the region among the most developed in the world.[10]

The Nordic-Baltic region is diverse, with a wealth of natural and cultural heritage, communities, destinations and resources. The region hosts a total of 42 World Heritage sites that are experiencing increasing pressures from tourism.[11] The Baltic states are described as three fascinating states that have glorious beaches along an extensive coastline, mediaeval old towns, and beautiful natural scenery, whereas Nordic countries own spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes, archipelagos, glaciers, geysers, forests, waterfalls and volcanoes. There is much wilderness, including extensive arctic tundra.

In January 2011, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, invited the heads of the Nordic Baltic 8 (NB8) states to a summit in London. In 2013, the Northern Future Forum was held in Latvia and gathered Prime ministers from all 9 states.

For the coordination of the NB8 in 2013, Sweden focused the priorities towards the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and cooperation in regional energy. Other areas of cooperation include diplomatic co-location and discussion on items of common concern within regional and international issues.

Discussions on the prioritized issues served as input to the EU-summit in Vilnius in November 2013. Sweden followed up on the Birkavs-Gade recommendations that were presented in the NB8 Wise Men Report from 2010.[12] A foreign ministerial meeting between NB8 and the Visegrád Group (V4) was also arranged on the 20th of February in Gdansk.[13] It was the first meeting in this particular format.

Coordinating countries[edit]

The coordinator's role of the NB8 was formerly assumed by the country holding the chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers for the respective year. From 2008 onwards, the Baltic states were also involved in coordinating the NB8 foreign ministry co-operation.

In 2013 the task of NB8 coordination was transferred to Sweden. As was assessed in a press release for the upcoming coordination by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs,[14] the areas of focus were directed towards the following:

1. Focus on the Eastern Partnership and joint agenda for the NB8 before the EU-summit in Vilnius, November 2013.

2. Cooperation within energy as an area of mutual interests, especially as a monitor of energy-related issues within other forums.

The task of arranging most of the NB8 meetings and events in Sweden is assigned to the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.[15]

Major meetings and events of 2013[edit]

  • NB8 Political Directors meeting, 13–14 February, Stockholm.
  • NB8-Visegràd Group (V4) Foreign ministerial meeting, 20 February, Gdansk.
  • e-PINE meeting for Political Directors and Academy, 11–12 April, Tbilisi.

Upcoming meetings in the autumn of 2013

  • NB8 Foreign ministerial meeting.
  • NB8 Political Directors meeting.
  • NB8 Prime ministerial meeting.
  • NB8 State Secretaries´ meeting.
  • e-PINE Political Directors meeting.

NB8 Format[edit]

On the political level, co-operation in the NB8 format is conducted primarily in the form of annual meetings of the prime ministers and foreign ministers. The foreign ministers’ meetings have taken place since 1993. In addition to the foreign ministers and prime ministers, other ministers and ministry officials also meet on a regular basis. In the realm of foreign policy, there are many meetings held in addition to the annual meeting of the foreign ministers. The secretaries general, political directors, and experts in various fields from the foreign ministries also get together regularly, and there are frequent meetings of diplomats in foreign representations within the NB8 format.[16]

During the recent years the Baltic and Nordic countries have developed a cohesive network of cooperation activities in political, military, economic, environmental, cultural and other aspects. After double the EU and NATO enlargement in 2004 the cooperation is becoming closer thereby activating the vast potential for development in the Baltic Sea region. Several examples of such evolved cooperation is the work of NB8 Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings and the creation of the common Nordic – Baltic education and research area.

In 17 August 2010 the financial supervisory authorities, central banks finance ministries and other relevant ministries of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden have signed a cross-border agreement on financial stability. The Nordic-Baltic Cooperation Agreement on Cross-border Financial Stability enhanced cooperation by establishing routines and procedures for information sharing and coordination. The aim is to reduce the risk of a financial crisis spreading cross-border, and to enhance possibilities to reach an efficient crisis management. By signing the agreement, the public authorities in the Nordic and Baltic countries increase their preparedness to handle problems in cross-border banks. The NB8 countries are jointly represented in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The Baltic states are members of the Nordic Investment Bank.

The Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - have achieved an exceptional level of a trilateral co-operation, which, by its depth and intensity, can be compared to the Nordic co-operation. Three Baltic states have established Baltic Council of Ministers as well as Baltic Assembly, whereas the integration of the Nordic countries has achieved an unprecedented level in the past forty years since the Nordic Council of Ministers have been established in 1971. The cooperation between the parliamentarians of the Baltic Assembly and the Nordic Council dates back to 1989.

The Nordic Council of Ministers offices opened in the three Baltic capitals (Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius) in 1991 play a key role in the dynamic Nordic–Baltic co-operation.

Financial principles[edit]

Fundamentally, the Nordic-Baltic co-operation is a partnership on an equal footing, and each party covers its own costs. In special cases, the parties may collectively agree a different method of meeting costs, e.g. joint mobility schemes funded according to relative GDP.[17] The first equally implemented Nordic scholarship programme was NORDPLUS 2008-2011, which the three Baltic states joined on equal ground with the Nordic countries in 2008. In 2009 three new joint Nordic-Baltic programmes were opened: a cultural mobility programme; a public administration mobility programme; and a business and industry mobility programme.

Guidelines for Nordic-Baltic co-operation 2009-2013[edit]

On 13 November 2008 the Ministers for Nordic Cooperation adopted Guidelines for the Nordic Council of Ministers' co-operation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 2009–2013 which reflect the wish for closer Nordic–Baltic co-operation in areas of common interest, and the need for greater cohesion between the eight countries.

Priority areas[edit]

The guidelines reflect the wish for closer Nordic–Baltic co-operation in areas of common interest and the need for greater cohesion between the eight countries.The priority areas for co-operation are:

  • Education, research and innovation.
  • Business, cluster networks and creative industries.
  • The environment, climate and energy (including environmental conditions in the Baltic Sea and the promotion of effective environmental technologies and sustainable sources of energy, where joint approaches to sustainable development may be particularly beneficial).
  • The international challenges faced by welfare societies. Possible areas of co-operation include combating human trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS; improving co-operation between police forces and public prosecution services; developing hospital services; and addressing demographic challenges in relation to, e.g. labour-market policy. Elements of this co-operation could be based on the Northern Dimension's Partnership for Public Health and Social Well-being.
  • Cross-border regional co-operation to promote joint fundamental values, such as democracy, good governance, gender equality, freedom of speech and tolerance – both under Nordic–Baltic auspices and in relation to other neighbouring countries, including Belarus.[18]

Instruments for the Nordic-Baltic co-operation[edit]

  • Joint policy development and co-ordination, including in relation to the EU’s inner market.
  • Joint co-operation programmes, action plans and declarations.
  • Joint Nordic–Baltic mobility programmes.
  • Joint initiatives that can form the basis for promoting projects with special development potential, which can then act as "pathfinders".
  • Joint initiatives linked to work that is of common interest in other international forums.
  • Exchanges of experiences and information (benchmarking).
  • Co-operation with non-governmental organisations within NGO programmes.
  • Co-operation within Nordic institutions, which will be based on demand and extremely flexible. The option of full co-ownership or more comprehensive partnership will be kept open.
  • Relevant joint ministerial meetings held on a regular basis and prepared by committees of senior officials and Baltic colleagues. Committees of senior officials will develop and reinforce NB8 meetings as needed.
  • Development of improved mechanisms of co-ordination with the Presidency of the NB8, which does not necessarily coincide with the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
  • Cross-border regional co-operation, including collaboration with the EU and the use of EU instruments. This includes Nordic-Baltic co-operation as well as third-party co-operation between Nordic, Baltic and Russian or other partners – e.g. in association with the realisation of the Northern Dimension partnerships.[19]

NB8 Wise Men Report[edit]

During the co-ordination of the co-operation among the NB-8 Foreign Ministries in 2012, Latvia initiated the preparation of a comprehensive analysis and recommendation how to advance the Nordic-Baltic co-operation. Latvia, presiding over the Baltic Council of Ministers in 2010, and Denmark, chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2010, nominated two high level representatives (rapporteurs) – former Latvian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mr Valdis Birkavs representing the Baltic countries and former Danish Minister of Defense Mr Søren Gade representing the Nordic countries – to provide the respective analysis. Before compiling the NB8 Co-operation Report (NB8 Wise Men Report), which was completed in August 2010, the rapporteurs made a very intensive consultation process with representatives from all the NB8 countries. At present practical implementation of the Wise Men’s recommendations has been started.[20] Concrete suggestions were made in the following fields:

  • Foreign political dialogue.
  • Cooperation on diplomatic representations.
  • Civil security, including cyber security.
  • Defense cooperation.
  • Energy.
  • The NB8 brand.

The Birkavs - Gade report with the initial recommendations has been presented for the NB8 Ministerial meeting in Helsinki on 26–27 August 2011. A number of other Birkavs - Gade report recommendations have been or are being implemented consecutively.

Reinforced diplomatic cooperation between the Nordic and Baltic countries[edit]

One of the Birkavs - Gade recommendations proposed that sharing diplomatic facilities is a way of increasing diplomatic representation in parts of the world where budgetary constraints and priorities would otherwise have prevented such representation. At the same time extended cooperation in this field could also contribute to making NB8 cooperation more visible. More should therefore be done in the area of joint diplomatic representation. A first step could be the setting up of an informal Clearing House where the NB8 countries could share information about opportunities for housing other NB8 countries’ diplomats.[21] Therefore, on 30 August 2011 the Nordic and Baltic countries have signed a Memorandum of understanding on the posting of diplomats at each other's missions abroad. The Memorandum made it easier for the Nordic and Baltic countries to maintain a diplomatic presence around the world by enabling flexible and cost-effective solutions. This reinforced diplomatic cooperation coincided with the twentieth anniversary of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania regaining their freedom and re-establishing diplomatic relations with other countries. The memorandum regulates the diplomatic and practical aspects of posting diplomats to the mission abroad of another Nordic or Baltic country.[22]

Cooperation in the EU[edit]

Since 1 May 2004, six countries of NB8 (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are the EU members, regular informal NB6 Prime Ministers’ meetings on EU matters take place on the eve of every Council meeting as well as Foreign Affairs Ministers of these six countries meet on the eve of every General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council.

NB8 in analysis[edit]

In September, 2011, The Atlantic Council released "Nordic-Baltic Security in the 21st Century: The Regional Agenda and the Global Role," a compendium of issue briefs on a range of topics related to Nordic-Baltic security, including NATO’s role in the region, energy security, and how the region can play a larger role in the transatlantic community in concert with the United States, NATO, and the EU. Authored by noted experts and former officials from the region and the United States, the compendium provides an overview of the current state of security in the region, as well as actionable policy advice on how to further deepen regional collaboration on security, defense, and foreign policy.[23]

Strategic Partners[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report",2010
  2. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report",2010
  3. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report",2010
  4. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia "Co-operation of Baltic and Nordic States"
  5. ^ The Nordic Council "Nordic co-operation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania"
  6. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report",2010
  7. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report",2010
  8. ^ http://www.urm.lt/index.php?691622603#NB8
  9. ^ Ari Tasanen, 2007 03 27.
  10. ^ Human Development Reports (http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/).
  11. ^ 8. Report from the Nordic-Baltic workshop on World Heritage, Tourism & Development, Visby Oct. 2010. http://www.nwhf.no/files/File/Report_from_the_N-B_workshop_on_WH_TD_-_Visby_report.pdf
  12. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Latvia, http://www.mfa.gov.lv/data/nb8%20wise%20men%20report.pdf
  13. ^ Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Press release, 20th February 2013: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/17146/a/209531
  14. ^ Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Press release 20th February 2013, "Nordiskt-baltiskt samarbete (NB8), svenskt samordningsår 2013": http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/2712/a/160184
  15. ^ Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, Nordic-Baltic Cooperation (NB8): http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/14644/a/164947
  16. ^ Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs "Nordic-Baltic Co-operation"
  17. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia "Guidelines for Nordic-Baltic cooperation 2009-2013"
  18. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia "Guidelines for Nordic-Baltic cooperation 2009-2013"
  19. ^ Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia "Guidelines for Nordic-Baltic cooperation 2009-2013"
  20. ^ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia "Co-operation of Baltic and Nordic States"
  21. ^ Birkavs,Valdis, Gade,Soren "NB8 Wise Men Report", 2010
  22. ^ http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/press/news/2011/baltic_memo.html?id=653674
  23. ^ ACUS Press release, 7 September 2011, http://www.acus.org/publication/nordic-baltic-security-21st-century

External links[edit]