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Lithuanian PM sees excellent future of NB8 meetings

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Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The heads of government of Nordic and Baltic countries (NB8) met in Finnish capital Helsinki last Wednesday, November 1, and discussed a range of common regional issues regarding security, energy markets, and hybrid threats, as well as European Union policies, trans-Atlantic relations, and cooperation within the UN.

Speaking to a Lithuanian journalist after the summit, Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis expressed conviction that namely the NB8 cooperation is what Lithuania and the whole Baltics need in tackling different issues.

«The format is interesting in the way that the countries that are not members of the Nato alliance do converge and speak in a single voice when it matters. Now, the topic is our energy security, a range of issues, like the regional gas market, single electricity market and grid synchronisation,» PM accentuated.

He expressed confidence that NB8 meetings have a «big future.”

Skvernelis emphasised that the issue of Belarus‘ nuclear power project being undertaken in Astravyets, which is situated in close proximity to Lithuanian capital Vilnius, was discussed in the meeting «especially clearly.»

«We brought it up along the other contentious power project, Nord Stream 2. I was accentuating that both projects are political, not economic, and both not in line with the EU 3rd Energy Package,» Skvernelis said.

«With the projects implemented, we would be more exposed to Russian threats. Besides, not only our own core interests would be ill-affected, but those of Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland impacted negatively, too. At the end of the day, with them in place, we would be again more dependable on the Russian gas market,» the head of Lithuanian government pointed out.

He admitted that, in recent months, it is more and more «harder» to find a common language on key energy issues with the closest neighbours, Latvia and Estonia.

«I have in mind the Latvians‘ flexible approach to electricity imports from the to-be Astravyets nuclear power plant and the Estonians‘ determination to build their own liquified natural gas terminal…We do understand that there is certain competition between the Baltic States, especially economically. If we were to look retroactively, we have to note that not a single joint power project has been implemented by the states as of now,» PM underlined.

With the looming synchronisation of the Baltic States‘ transmission grids, the situation may change for better, Skvernelis hopes.

«Time is pressing us, as we do not have any other alternative but to work on the issue together,» he said.

Among the other issues, possible investments in Lithuania were discussed with Norwegian and Danish PMs.

«With my Danish counterpart I spoke about a large investment in the free economic zone in the Marijampolė municipality. With Finnish premier I spoke about Finland‘s becoming part of the Rail Baltica project,» Skvernelis said.

Asked about relations with the new US administration, Skvernelis mentioned that the premiers have opined on the United States‘ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. He hinted that he, personally,  disapproved the decision taken by US president Donald Trump.

However, it was Russia which name would appear most in multiple conversations among the leaders.

«We heeded not only military issues, but also those arising from cyber-security. The vulnerability stemming from the latter does create sense of insecurity in the public,» Skvernelis emphasised.

«The cooperation of Estonia and the Nordic countries in various international associations is increasingly growing, both in the field of hybrid threats and cybersecurity. Cyber threats and attacks do not discriminate between state borders, which is why these need to be handled globally. We need to ensure a faster and more extensive information exchange,» Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas echoed the concerns by Lithuanian PM.

Estonian PM expressed content that Norway has recently decided to join the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.

The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats has recently begun operating in Helsinki. At the centre, the combination of security threats is analysed, including the impact of disinformation on democratic processes. Estonia, along with several European countries and the USA, is one of the founders of the centres of excellence.

The heads of government, ministers, chairmen of parliaments, representatives, officials, and specialists of Nordic and Baltic countries have cooperated since 1992. As regional relations are close, no independent organization has been established for the cooperation of NB8, but rather each year it is decided which country leads the cooperation. This year, the NB8 cooperation is led by Norway.


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