Vilnius, Lithuania, 17 December 2018 – today, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas met with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Saulius Skvernelis and Māris Kučinskis in Vilnius to discuss the issues of defence and security, developments of the Rail Baltica project, common priorities regarding the European Union budget for 2021–2027, the situation in Ukraine, daylight savings time, and other topics that are important to the cooperation of the Baltic states.
The prime ministers stressed in their joint declaration that the next long-term budget of the European Union must correspond with the development goals of the EU and, despite the United Kingdom exiting the EU, the budget for 2021–2027 must not be smaller than the budget for the current period.
Ratas noted that budget discussions bring out the differences in even the most similar states. For that reason, an intense cooperation between the Baltic states is even more important. “All three Baltic states are particularly interested in faster harmonisation of agricultural direct aid. Our farmers, too, were standing on the streets of Brussels last week, demanding it. Together, we will also fight for a more seamless decrease in the resources allocated from the Cohesion Fund, enabling us to continuously invest in the development of society and digital infrastructure, a higher productivity and an improved connectivity of the Baltic states with the rest of Europe,” Ratas said. At the same time, a beneficial result will only be achieved by a realistic approach at the budget discussions. “Everybody has to make compromises in the end. It is very important not to raise our expectations to where they would be impossible to fulfil,” the prime minister argued.
Leaders of the three states discussed the implementation of the Rail Baltica project and stressed the importance of ensuring a sufficient support from the Connecting Europe Facility in the next budget perspective. “We must continue our efforts to implement the project faster, make good use of the funds already allocated, and perform successfully in the additional phases of the Facility before 2021 as well as during the next budget period,” Ratas said and added that Estonia will probably conclude a first major construction contract already in early 2019.
During a discussion on security, the prime ministers assured that they are committed to transatlantic cooperation and stressed the need to improve the reinforcement capabilities of NATO. They highlighted the importance of cyber security cooperation and agreed to fight more actively against disinformation and improve the media literacy of people, which would also help to increase society’s resilience to modern threats. “Mutually coordinated cyber security will make us an even more attractive partner to allies and strengthen the resilience of each country,” Ratas said. “We must continue to spread the message that international law also applies to cyber space,” he added.
In a joint declaration, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania decisively condemned the Russian aggression against the Ukrainian ships on the Sea of Azov, invited Russia to immediately free the Ukrainian marines and ships, and accentuated that we must implement all global means, including additional sanctions, to fight this severe violation of international law.
All prime ministers were in favour of ending the tradition of daylight savings time and agreed to coordinate their operations and continue negotiations to maintain Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland in the same time zone.
The Prime Ministers’ Council is the leading organ of the Baltic Council of Ministers. The BCM was established in 1994 to ensure a consistent cooperation between the governments of the three states. The BCM makes decisions by consensus and all adopted decisions are binding to the three states. In 2019, Latvia will take over the presidency of the BCM.