Co-operation with the three Baltic States entered a new phase on 1 May 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became members of the EU. After a decade of receiving aid, the time was ripe for them to engage in political co-operation and partnerships on an equal footing.
The parliamentarians in the Nordic Council and the ministers in the Nordic Council of Ministers are increasingly involved in co-operation with the Baltic Sea Region, which is fast becoming one of the strongest growth regions in Europe.
Therefore, since the early 1990s, the Nordic countries have focused on developing increasingly close co-operation with the three Baltic republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The joint Nordic co-operation with the Baltic governments is referred to as NB8.
Co-operation with the Baltic states is designed to help strengthen the Baltic Sea Region as a whole, and to encourage joint responses to the opportunities and challenges posed by globalisation.
In this way, the countries help to build the foundations for growth and stability in Northern Europe.
The Council of Ministers' co-operation with the Baltic states is based on the Guidelines for Co-operation 2009-2013, which were adopted by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation in November 2008.
The following areas of co-operation are given priority:
The Nordic offices in the three Baltic capitals (Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius) play a key role in the dynamic Nordic–Baltic co-operation.
The Nordic Council of Ministers opened offices in all three cities back in 1991. At the time, the move was part of Nordic efforts to help Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in their quest for independence.
Today, the offices play a significant role at all levels in implementing Nordic–Baltic co-operation.
Joint mobility programmes are important instruments of co-operation. One example is Nordplus, which supports co-operation between educational establishments in the eight countries.
Joint Nordic–Baltic mobility programmes are currently being developed in other sectors, including culture, business and civil service.
NGOs play a prominent role in the development of stable democratic societies. The Nordic Council of Ministers has therefore launched a special NGO programme in the Baltic Sea Region. The programme is designed to build networks and increase capacity for NGOs in the neighbouring countries.
It supports so-called tripartite co-operation with at least one partner from the Nordic Region, at least one partner from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland, and at least one partner from Belarus or Russia.
In order to strengthen civil society, Nordic co-operation wishes to extend and intensify co-operation on NGOs in the Baltic countries.
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.
The Assembly and the Council have a close partnership that is being continually strengthened. The co-operation is designed to encourage positive democratic, socio-economic and cultural development in the Baltic Sea Region and Northern Europe.
Co-operation addresses three main priorities: closer integration in the Baltic Sea Region; helping to build bridges to the EU’s neighbours in the East; and promoting joint approaches to common problems in Northern Europe.
Areas of focus include: the Baltic Sea, the environment, human trafficking, culture, research, education and training, marine transport, infrastructure development and the labour market.
Since 2006, annual summits have been held to evaluate results and draw up long-term goals. Joint theme conferences and seminars have also been held.