„Only when speaking with one voice we’ll be heard and we’ll have a better chance to defend our interests and promote our values, "- Linas Linkevičius on 25 August 2016 at NB8 Foreign Ministers Meeting to commemorate 25th anniversary of NB8 cooperation.
NB8 (Nordic - Baltic Eight) is an informal (non-institutionalized) regional co-operation format that includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden. Named as 5+3 in the beginning of cooperation (five Nordic countries plus three Baltic States) in 1992, the format later changed its name and scope of cooperation. During the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States and Nordic Countries on 30 August 2000, it was agreed to rename the format to NB8.
Since the double EU and NATO enlargement in 2004, where the three Baltic States became members of both organizations, the NB8 cooperation has become closer and its content evolved. What started as a very active support by the Nordic countries to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to consolidate their newly regained independence, gradually grew into a cooperation among equal partners and became an example of regional integration. The format is unique as it includes both members and non-members of the EU (Norway and Iceland) and NATO (Finand and Sweden). In 2010, at the initiative of the Baltics, the Nordic and the Baltic Foreign ministers decided to establish a Nordic-Baltic “wise-men” group to look into ways to strengthen the Nordic-Baltic cooperation. The group, headed by former Latvian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mr. Valdis Birkavs and former Danish Minister of Defense Mr. Søren Gade, was to provide a comprehensive analysis and recommendations on the future of Nordic-Baltic cooperation. The Birkavs - Gade report with the initial recommendations was approved at the NB8 Ministerial meeting on August 26-27, 2011. The report provided practical guidelines for further regional development. The practical suggestions were related to the following fields:
- Foreign political dialogue
- Cooperation on diplomatic representations
- Civil security, including cyber security
- Defense cooperation
- The NB8 brand
A number of other Birkavs - Gade report recommendations have been or are being consecutively implemented in practice. The text of the report can be found here.
During the recent years the Baltic and Nordic countries have developed a cohesive network of cooperation in political, military, economic, educational, environmental, cultural, banking and other areas. Regular meetings are held of the Baltic and Nordic countries' Prime Ministers, Speakers of Parliaments, Foreign Ministers, branch ministers, Secretaries of State and political directors of Foreign Ministries, as well as expert consultations where regional issues and current international topics are reviewed. Meetings are not formalized, and their frequency as well as agenda are agreed upon demand. Several dozens of meetings per year usually take place.
Third countries also take interest in the format. Regular NB8+US meetings (so-called e-PINE format) at political directors’ level take place since 2003. In 2011 it was agreed to hold annual meetings of NB8 and UK prime ministers, the idea developed into what today is known as the Northern Future Forum. Besides, annual meetings of the ministers of foreign affairs of NB8 and Visegrad Four (V4) have been taking place since 2013.
The coordinator's role of the NB8 was formerly assumed by the country holding the chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers for the respective year. From 2008 onwards, the Baltic States have been also involved in coordinating the NB8 foreign ministry co-operation. The coordinating country manages meeting schedules and hosts many meetings of different parties and levels in the NB8 format.
Nordic and Baltic cooperation areas in 2019
This year, Iceland, which has taken over NB8 co-ordination from Sweden, has identified security co-operation as well as human rights issues and the ocean (in the context of climate change) as key priorities. Some twenty expert meetings and consultations are planned. High-level meetings scheduled: NB8 State Secretaries Meeting (held in Reykjavik on 12 March), NB8-Visegrad UR Ministerial Meeting (held on 1 April in Palanga). The annual NB8 UR ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place from 11 to 13 September in Reykjavik. The usual meetings of NB8 speakers of parliaments as well as E-PINE political directors are also due to take place.
Lithuania will take over the coordination of NB8 cooperation in 2022.