All instruments at our disposal must be used to stop violence against peaceful protesters and facilitate a dialogue between Belarusian authorities and the opposition and society, underlined the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, during the annual meeting of the Baltic and Nordic (NB8) Foreign Ministers on 8-9 September 2020 in Tallinn, Estonia.
Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs called on the EU to conclude the soonest possible agreement on restrictive measures against Belarusian officials who are responsible for the 9 August election fraud and a crackdown on peaceful protests using coercion and disproportionate force against demonstrators.
As the discussion on Belarus continued, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted that comprehensive support should also be rapidly provided to the Belarusian civil society. Minister Rinkēvičs informed the participants that Latvia has already allocated 200 000 euro towards legal, practical, psychological and medical assistance to civil society and in support of independent media in Belarus. Russia’s involvement in the domestic policy processes in Belarus should continue to be followed.
During the NB8 meeting, the ministers then shared views on a broad range of key topics related to foreign policy, security policy, environment and economy. The Ministers also discussed the state of affairs in Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership policy. They addressed current EU-related issues focusing in particular on the EU’s relations with the United Kingdom and the Eastern neighbourhood countries, as well as on the EU internal market and the rule of law.
The Minister noted that climate issues are increasing in importance and he called for promoting the use of renewable resources. As the ministers considered the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, they agreed that more effective coordination is needed between the Member States and partner countries to find solutions to challenges caused by the pandemic in terms of a free movement of persons and goods.
At the conclusion of the meeting, in a discussion on connectivity, an opinion was expressed that through making use of the opportunities offered by strategic infrastructure projects, the NB8 region has well-founded ambitions to become a region leading Europe and the world in the development of digital economy.
A Joint Statement from the ministers was also issued during the meeting of NB8 Foreign Ministers. The statement is accessible here. To mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the NB8 format and the first meeting of the NB8 Foreign Ministers, the Ministers were presented with the first NB8 award.
The NB8 format includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, and Sweden. In 2020, Estonia has the lead role in the coordination of NB8 cooperation having set the following priorities: strengthening security; transatlantic relations and the Eastern Partnership; cooperation in cyber security; development of regional transport and energy infrastructure projects; digital cooperation; climate and environmental issues; and cooperation in culture and health care.
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