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Estonia Will Lead both Nordic-Baltic Cooperation and the Council of the Baltic Sea States Next Year

03.12.2013

On 29 November, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet took over Estonia chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers in Riga. Next year, Estonia will also lead the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

According to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, Estonia’s priorities during the chairmanship of the Baltic Council of Ministers will be advancing cooperation in IT-policy, developing the regional energy market, improving transport infrastructure connections, and greater cohesion in the NB8 format. 

Paet asserts that the main direction of IT-related cooperation among the Baltic states should be directed towards the adoption of cross-border digital signatures. “Digital signatures are already being used in all of the Baltic states. Moving forward, we must work to take advantage of this opportunity and use it across borders. There are already many national-level IT-solutions in Europe today. However, the limitations imposed by differences between European states prevent cooperation and the spread of those solutions,” added the foreign minister.

In his speech, Paet also emphasised the importance of the digital single market for advancing economic growth as well as the need for agreeing on common priorities that would ensure the smooth cross-border exchange of information and increase consumer trust. “The Nordic and Baltic states can be flexible and clever trendsetters in the creation of a digital single market in the European Union. The actual adoption of secure cross-border electronic identification and digital signatures would be very profitable for the economy of the EU,” said Foreign Minister Paet. He added that this is why it is important to quickly proceed with, and reach an agreement on, the development of the statute regarding digital signatures and digital trust services.

According to Paet, the regional energy market also requires development. “It is important to keep working on the complete opening of the Baltic electricity markets, which will create fair conditions for both producers and consumers,” stated the foreign minister. “In the electricity market, work must be done to stabilise electricity prices and reduce market failures. We consider it important to continue identifying measures to balance the price of electricity imported from third countries and ensuring conditions of competition in the Baltic electricity market,” added Paet. Latvia’s accession to the Nord Pool Spot electricity exchange is welcomed.

The foreign minister further noted that it is also important to pay attention to the harmonisation of regional gas market regulation in order to create a gas market that functions based on common principles.
Paet also spoke about developing the Baltic states’ transport infrastructure. “A modern railroad infrastructure directed towards Europe would create more possibilities for business as well as the everyday movement of citizens. The development of the Rail Baltic project, which would include 1435 mm width tracks and enable trains to travel 240 km/h, is one of the priorities of Estonia’s chairmanship next year,” he added.

The year 2014 is becoming special for Estonia, according to Foreign Minister Paet. “We will lead Baltic, Nordic-Baltic, and CBSS cooperation at the same time. For this reason, we are calling next year the Baltic Sea Year,” stated Foreign Minister Paet. Additionally, in the second half of the year, Estonia will become chairman of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (also known as Helsinki Commission or HELCOM) as well directing the work of Vision and Strategy around the Baltic Sea (VASAB). Finally, the trilateral cooperation between Estonia, Finland, and Russia in the environmental sector will focus on the Gulf of Finland.

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