Nordic-Baltic cooperation was the focus of this year’s traditional informal Snow Meeting of experts in international and security politics from Europe and North America in Trakai on June 11-12. The discussions were opened by Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis, who highlighted the strengthening of economic ties and shared cultural identity regionally.
According to the Minister, the Nordic and Baltic countries have to benefit from each other’s knowledge and share best practices for building economic ties and shared cultural identity regionally, including culture of doing business and providing public services, working together in sharing experiences beyond the region, thus contributing to broader security and stability.
In 2012, Lithuania coordinates the Nordic-Baltic cooperation (Nordic Baltic Eight, NB8), the trilateral Baltic Council of Ministers and E-Pine, an enhanced partnership between the U.S. and Nordic-Baltic states.
Ažubalis also stressed that in the age of Internet one could not close one’s eyes to the broader security landscape. Moreover, there is a need to re-define the concept of stability.
“Last year has reminded us about the latent power of popular sentiment. Understanding what is stable and what is not was profoundly shaken. Regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia was stable for 23 years, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt – for 30 years, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya – for 42. It took just a few months for a change”, the Minister said.
Ažubalis also drew attention to the unexpected shift in Russia after State Duma elections in December and to the popular discontent that was also simmering in Belarus given shocking inflation last year and dim economic prospects.
Ažubalis emphasized that in this context values and principles in foreign policy should not be left aside. The countries which strive for democracy should not be abandoned to the Eurasian abyss by ‘our complacency or conformity’.
According to Ažubalis, EU Eastern policy had so far only limited impact and did not contribute to Europe’s energy independence or immunity to the negative influence.
During the discussions at Snow Meeting, the Minister stressed that the perpetuation of historical memory in Europe would remain an important goal of Lithuania’s foreign policy, which would not only help to close the case of January 13 and to sentence the culprits, but also to restore historical justice.
According to Ažubalis, the significance of this goal transgresses the borders of Lithuania. Therefore, it can only be achieved in cooperation with the countries of the whole European continent.
“Common understanding of history in Europe is gradually becoming a reality and Lithuania is a standard-bearer in this process,” the Minister said.
The 5th Snow Meeting was attended by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağiş, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, high-ranking diplomats, foreign policy advisors, experts in international and security politics from think tanks of the Baltic and Nordic countries, U.S., Turkey, Germany, U.K., Hungary, France and other countries, also senior EU and NATO officials.
The traditional Snow Meeting is an informal forum, which puts forward ideas and proposals for EU development, NATO activities, EU Eastern neighbourhood policy, integration of the Baltic Sea Region and strengthening of the European security.