In 2020, Estonia is chairing two Nordic-Baltic cooperation formats: in the intergovernmental cooperation format of the Baltic States (the Baltic Council of Ministers or 3B), and the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format (Nordic-Baltic 8 or NB8). Aiming to consider Estonia’s interests, raise the profile of domains important for the region, and increase the synergy between partially overlapping formats, as well as having regard for the topics that have gained importance in the Nordic-Baltic region in recent years, at a cabinet meeting, the government approved Estonia’s common priorities for coordinating the 3B and NB8 formats in 2020.
Estonia’s priorities for coordinating the 3B and NB8 formats in 2020
- Regional security, including the Eastern Partnership, transatlantic relations
- Cyber cooperation
- Connectivity, including regional energy and transport projects and digital cooperation
- Climate change and environmental issues
- Cultural and health cooperation
Nordic-Baltic Cooperation (NB8)
- Nordic-Baltic cooperation or NB8 is a regional cooperation format which as of 1992 has brought together five Nordic countries and three Baltic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) in order to discuss important regional and international issues in an informal atmosphere. In 2000, on the initiative of Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonian Foreign Minister at the time, it was decided that the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format would be called Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8).
- Over the years, a number of regular expert-level, as well as high-level meetings have developed, covering a wide variety of sectors. On the political level, the annual meetings of Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers serve as the main format of cooperation (these have been organised since 1993). NB8 countries’ Foreign Ministries are cooperating very closely; in addition, other ministers, members of parliament and ministry officials also meet on a regular basis.
- The NB8 countries commenced their parliamentary cooperation in 1989, when contacts were established between the Baltic Assembly (BA) and the Nordic Council (NC). Annual summits take place between the BA and the NC; furthermore, meetings are organised on all possible levels, including speakers, presidiums, commissions and individual members. The Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) is also essential in promoting Nordic-Baltic cooperation. The basis of NCM and NB8’s cooperation is a set of guidelines (PDF), renewed every five years.
- When the Baltic countries became members of the European Union in 2004, the so-called NB6 format was created. This includes the European Union member states of the NB8, namely Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and provides a framework for informal meetings to discuss topical EU issues.
- In addition to regional cooperation, NB8 has expanded to the so-called partner formats. One of the most important is the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE), launched by the United States in 2003. E-PINE developed out of regular NB8+USA meetings with the main objective of increasing freedom, security and economic prosperity in the region and its surrounding area (Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and South Caucasus) within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
- Regular cooperation also exists between the UK+NB8; since 2010, the Northern Future Forum, at the level of Prime Ministers,has been held. As of 2013, also meetings between the NB8 and the 4 Visegrad Group countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – V4- have been held. In addition, the NB8 countries cooperate closely in international organizations, including the UN, theCoE, the OSCE, the World Bank, the IMF, and others.
- One of the main documents on NB8 cooperation is the NB8 Wise Men Report (991.87 KB, PDF), also known as the Birkavs-Gade Report, completed in August 2010, which provides concrete guidelines for promoting cooperation between the eight countries. The initiator of the report was Latvia, who was the NB8 Cooperation Coordinator in 2010 and it was compiled by former Latvian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs and former Danish Defence Minister Søren Gade. The report identifies specific suggestions to improve cooperation, including foreign political dialogue, cooperation between diplomatic missions, civil protection, defence cooperation, energy and the NB8 brand.
- A separate structure or organization has not been created for the coordination of Nordic-Baltic cooperation; the work is led by one of the partner countries each year, who also sets the focus areas for the given year. In 2019, the coordinator of NB8 cooperation was Island, in 2018, NB8 cooperation was led by Sweden.
Estonia as a NB8 coordinator
- Estonia coordinated NB8 cooperation in 2014. Priority issues during the year were security, regional cyber cooperation, energy and EU Eastern Partnership. Estonia organised several meetings in many different fields, as well as two meetings at the level of Foreign Ministers: the NB8 + V4 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in March in Narva, and the NB8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Tallinn in September.
- In cooperation with great partners – the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership and the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, a conference devoted to Eastern Partnership and a seminar on security issues were held. For the first time in Nordic-Baltic cooperation, a NB8-U.S. roundtable on cybersecurity was organized.
- Estonia named 2014 the Baltic Sea Year in a broader context, since in addition to NB8, Estonia also led the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and headed Baltic cooperation (in both the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers) in 2014. All of these roles coming together enabled the coordination and harmonisation of various forms of regional cooperation activities in order to reduce duplication and to address topical issues comprehensively.