On Friday 18 December, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu chaired a video meeting of Nordic and Baltic (NB8) foreign ministers who discussed cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, the situation in Belarus and transatlantic relations, and took stock of Estonia’s NB8 coordinating year.
“2020 has been difficult due to the spread of the coronavirus; however, Nordic-Baltic cooperation was quick to adapt and established a close and efficient exchange of information early in the crisis, and a system of consular cooperation to evacuate our citizens, continuing with regular meetings throughout the year,” Foreign Minister Reinsalu said. He emphasised that close cooperation should continue in the future, including on the reciprocal recognition of testing and vaccination.
Touching on transatlantic relations, the foreign minister welcomed the proposal for a new transatlantic agenda of the European Union. “Transatlantic dialogue must be ambitious. Security cooperation must be our priority,” Reinsalu underlined.
“The situation in Belarus has been an important topic on our agenda both in the Nordic-Baltic cooperation as well as in the EU in general. We must continue our joint efforts towards the freedom of the people of Belarus,” the foreign minister said. “The EU sanctions policy has sent the society of Belarus a clear signal that we are expecting change. The civil society of Belarus needs our increased support,” the foreign minister said.
The Nordic-Baltic foreign ministers also discussed future relations with the United Kingdom, human rights issues and other topics of importance for the region.
Summarising the main results of Estonia’s work coordinating the NB8 in 2020, Minister Reinsalu highlighted the fact that close cooperation in various fields had continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign ministers met six times, mostly virtually, and close contacts at expert level continued. This year saw the first cyber exercise for NB8 foreign ministers, a meeting of NB8 climate envoys and an environment hackathon for the young people of NB8 countries. This year, the 30th anniversary of the NB8 cooperation format was also celebrated.
Estonia’s priorities during its NB8 coordination year were regional security, including Eastern Partnership, transatlantic relations, cyber cooperation, connectivity, including regional energy and infrastructure projects and digital cooperation, climate change and the environment, and cultural and health cooperation.
In 2021, the NB8 format will be coordinated by Finland. Presenting Finland’s plans for 2021, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that the focus would be, among other things, on mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the region, and climate issues.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia