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Council of Baltic States Concludes Meeting in Sweden

  • Anthony Georgieff



Copenhagen, July 3 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign ministers of the 11-nation council of Baltic States ended a two-day meeting in Kalmar, Sweden, today by resolving to improve relations among their member countries and with the European Union (EU).

The council -- which comprises all 11 countries bordering on the Baltic Sea -- approved an "action program" focusing primarily on bringing the three Baltic states - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, plus Poland, into the EU. It also called for an early ratification of the EU co-operation agreement with Moscow to promote regional stability and development.

Our correspondent reports that a key purpose of the action program is to improve member states' cooperation in customs and border-controls, and to help prevent illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and arms smuggling.

The action program also sets out to build contacts between towns and municipalities to bring the Baltic region's peoples closer together. That includes increased co-operation in education, research and vocational training.

Over the next several years the council will expand the Eurofaculty network, an association of universities and higher-education establishments in the region centered at the University of Riga. Current plans envisage the inclusion of Kaliningrad in the program.

The Kalmar meeting also resulted in the council earmarking some 200 million dollars for the construction of two major motorway projects: Via Baltica (connecting Helsinki to Warsaw) and Via Hanseatica (from St. Petersburg to Gdansk).

Nuclear and environmental safety was also targeted for action. The foreign ministers pinpointed three nuclear power plants -- at Ignalina, Sosnovyi Bor and Kola (all in the former Soviet Union) -- as requiring modernization and improvement of safety standards. To that effect, bilateral loan agreements have already been concluded between the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Russia and Lithuania.

The foreign ministers also looked at restoring the ecological balance in the Baltic Sea, a contentious issue for the past several years. Their final document said that all former Communist states in the East need urgent environmental action. It identified the prevention of waste emissions resulting from current or discontinued military activities as a special area of concern.

The council also undertook to complete the Baltic Ring, a power-supply project under which all Northern European electricity networks will be connected.

The Kalmar meeting was chaired by the Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen. In addition to the foreign ministers of the Baltic region states, attendees included EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek and the Foreign Minister of Ireland, which holds the current EU chairmanship.
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