From 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, Latvia will preside over the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). The CBSS is an intergovernmental cooperation format for the promotion of political dialogue and practical cooperation among member states seeking to strengthen the region’s sustainability, security and identity.
The CBSS member states carry out joint projects in the field of climate change and environmental protection, culture, education, youth cooperation, effective use of resources, innovations and labour market, as well as pooling efforts to fight against human trafficking and organised crime, strengthening civil security and border management, cooperating closely in the field of the protection of children’s rights.
Latvia has been a member of the CBSS since its establishment in 1992, and has held presidency of the organisation twice: in 2007-2008, and in 1996-1997. Latvia is a constructive and visible partner in the CBSS, engaging actively in cooperation projects and sector-specific working groups and task forces.
The 2018-2019 Presidency of the CBSS will give Latvia the opportunity to take the helm of the intergovernmental cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region, set out the vectors of practical cooperation among the region’s countries, advance joint interests and objectives, as well as launch new initiatives. Each presidency, including that of Latvia, has a unique opportunity for defining its special priorities to be implemented during the year in office.
The Latvian Presidency of the CBSS will be put into effect by the majority of Latvia’s line ministries and their subordinate institutions, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs assuming the coordinator’s role and chairing the meeting of the CBSS Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and arranging the closing event of the Presidency. The Presidency will work in close cooperation with the CBSS Permanent Secretariat in Stockholm, which provides technical and organisational support for the chairperson of the CSOs, expert groups and task forces, coordinates and administers the CBSS activities and its financial flow.
The Latvian Presidency will be guided in its work by three priority focus areas:
1. Integrity and Societal Security
The Latvian Presidency will seek to increase macro-regional coherence in approaching societal security threats. The Presidency will strengthen regional cooperation in civil protection, the fight against trafficking in human beings (including minors), combating organised crime, and border management.
In order to advance this priority, the Latvian Presidency will focus on the following issues:
- Enhancing cooperation in civil protection area to strengthen resilience in the region against major emergencies and disasters.
- Fighting against trafficking in human beings to prevent and mitigate consequences of this serious crime.
- Combating organised crime and strengthening border management.
In 2017, the CBSS Civil Protection Network (CPN) adopted the Joint Position on Enhancing Cooperation in Civil Protection Area that defines eight priority areas for the upcoming years. The Latvian Presidency will advance implementation of two of the strategic actions: building a common societal security culture; and combining national efforts in implementing the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. To that end, Latvia in cooperation with academia will organise the first conference on “Societal Security in the Baltic Sea Region: Challenges and Solutions”, aiming to keep the network of enlightened decision-makers active. All these endeavours will contribute to making the Baltic Sea Region safer and more secure for all people living here.
Human trafficking remains a topical issue for the countries in the Baltic Sea Region. Effective prevention depends on mutual trust between all stakeholders involved in counteracting these crimes and providing timely assistance to victims. Integrity and ability to establish mutual trust between all actors involved are the most important issues that need to be promoted by joint efforts. Further steps are necessary to increase an understanding of victims’ rights, to strengthen investigation and prosecution, and effective handling of trafficking cases by the judiciary.
Strengthening the role of local actors, in particular mass media, in prevention of trafficking in human beings and work on the development of a TRM (Transnational Referral Mechanism) for the Baltic Sea Region will be continued by the CBSS Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB) in cooperation with the CBSS Children at Risk Group (CAR). The expert group has a proven track-record in implementing measures to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of children below 18.
Regional cooperation is also required to tackle supranational phenomena such as the smuggling of drugs and weapons, irregular migration, crimes against property and crimes threatening economic interests and state budget revenue, as well as the use of the internet for unlawful activities. Latvia will support all efforts aimed at building a comprehensive mechanism for operational cooperation between law enforcement agencies in the Baltic Sea Region, in particular, based on the achievements of two networks: the Baltic Sea Task Force against Organised Crime (BSTF) and the Baltic Sea Region Border Control Cooperation (BSRBCC). Law enforcement agencies of the Baltic Sea Region will benefit from increased day-to-day cooperation founded on a multidisciplinary approach, integrity and trust, confidence in justice as well as a common understanding of major threats.
The Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the “Baltic 2030 Action Plan – a Shared Vision”, depends on a responsible approach both on national and regional level. Responsibility is multifaceted – it has political, administrative, environmental, economic, social, cultural and moral aspects. For the CBSS as a regional organisation it comes naturally – to take care of our common home and its future. The proposals for an implementation framework, elaborated during the Swedish Presidency, will serve as a basis for the new mandate of the CBSS Expert Group of Sustainable Development to be approved during the Latvian Presidency
SDGs in action during the Latvian Presidency will mean focusing on circular economy and responsible consumption and production that is practically interlinked with aspects of green procurement. Smart governance of our cities is something that unites the interests of urban planners in the countries of the region with very different background and approaches. The Latvian Presidency of the VASAB Committee on Spatial Planning and Development of the Baltic Sea Region (CSPD/BSR) will address gaps in the development of various types of urban areas.
During the Latvian Presidency, pursuant to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries will adopt the necessary decisions for effective implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Climate change is a transboundary issue that concerns many areas on which work is undertaken by the CBSS – mitigation and adaptation to climate change, especially finding practical solutions is a common responsibility at municipal, national, regional, as well as international level. Moreover, the CBSS is the Coordinator of the Climate Action of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and its Flagship “BSR Climate Dialogue Platform”.
The CBSS member states share a common value – the Baltic Sea coast with its special character and cultural heritage, one that is enriched by the many diverse contributions from each of the countries along its shores. There is a tendency towards a broader understanding of cultural heritage as an important element in the development of a democratic, law-based and culture oriented society. Cultural heritage plays a role both in shaping regional identity and ensuring sustainable growth – the long term CBSS priorities.
The notion of cultural heritage is expanding. It is no longer something exclusive to be revered, it is becoming an integral part of our societal living space. This space is constantly evolving, which means that heritage systems should be flexible and able to adapt to these changes. The preservation of cultural heritage calls for an interdisciplinary approach which looks at the wider context beyond a particular object or sector. The opportunities offered by our modern era should be increasingly used in the preservation of cultural heritage. A dialogue among experts and other stakeholders is necessary in order to discuss heritage preservation systems, including systems for recent cultural heritage, as well as, the use of contemporary methods and technologies to find models that best serve these contexts.
4. Other Priority Areas
Alongside the main priorities, the Latvian Presidency of the CBSS will also deal with other no less important topics on the Councils agenda. Various sector-specific expert groups and cooperation formats are successfully operating within the CBSS format, also involving Latvian experts as close partners who are committed to continued active efforts during the period of the Latvian Presidency.
The CBSS Expert Group on Sustainable Maritime Economy (EGSME) has the overarching goals of (1) knowledge exchange in order to ensure a politically coordinated support for initiatives, measures and projects aimed at raising the CBSS competitiveness in regard to the development of sustainable maritime economy, (2) positioning the BSR as a model region for maritime best practices and the coexistence of a balanced, successful maritime economy with marine ecosystems also in view of socio-economic aspects, (3) functioning as an information centre for sharing experience and knowledge, which offers a cross-sectoral approach and synergies among the main actors in the maritime economies in the BSR.
During the Latvian CBSS Presidency, the Ministry of Transport will organise and chair an EGSME meeting.
The CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk (CAR) is in charge of tackling issues relevant to the region such as the protection of children from trafficking and exploitation, promotion of a child-friendly justice system, consideration of best interests of children in migration (‘children on the move’), protection of children from sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, advocating the interests of children without parental care, as well as prevention, early intervention, parenting and family support measures.
The Latvian Presidency of the CBSS will follow up on the initiatives launched during the Swedish Presidency on improvements to a comprehensive and sustainable child protection system. At least two meetings of the Expert Group and a high-level conference on the practical implementation of prohibition of corporal punishment of children will be organised.
With a view to increasing the visibility of CAR among its cooperation partners and decision-making institutions, an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of CAR will be held jointly with the CBSS Senior Officials Committee, looking back at CAR’s achievements at the national, regional and international level as well as raising awareness among cooperation partners of CAR’s role in regional cooperation. Under a Cabinet of Ministers mandate to represent Latvia on CAR, the Ministry of Welfare will organise and chair the expert group meetings.
Cooperation in education and science has a significant role in the CBSS cooperation. Latvia supports joint development of the fields of excellence in science and increasing mobility in higher education and research in the BSR. An effective instrument for the achievement of those goals is the “Baltic Science Network” project, aimed at balancing out the level of research excellence in the BSR, thereby positioning the BSR status as Europe’s most innovative region.
The Ministry of Education and Science, in association with the University of Latvia and other partners, are planning to organise the CBSS Baltic Sea Science Day 2019, the final event of the "Baltic Science Network" project, and a meeting of high-level officials from the ministries in charge of science in the CBSS member states.
Special focus in CBSS cooperation is placed on the promotion of youth cooperation. Young people from Latvia are active participants in the Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue, the CBSS Summer Universities project, and the youth platform of the CBSS Vision Group.
The Baltic Sea Non-Governmental Organisations Forum has become an established tradition. The Latvian CBSS Presidency will also host the event. The association “Civic Alliance – Latvia”, which is a national representative in the BSR NGO Network, will assume its organisation and coordination.
The Baltic Sea Trade Union Network (BASTUN), a strategic partner of CBSS, is functioning alongside the CBSS in the Baltic Sea Region, and according to the same principles. The Free Trade Union of Latvia (FTUL), taking over from Sweden, will hold the presidency of BASTUN from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019. The following priorities have been set for the FTUL presidency:
- Workforce mobility, observing fair rules and preventing social fraud, with a strong emphasis on equal conditions for employees and the responsibility of companies in cross-border cooperation;
- Enhancing the social dialogue and a balanced participation of trade unions and businesses, development of collective agreements at the sector level, and promotion of best practice;
- Strengthening the role and growth of trade unions in the Baltic Sea Region.
In conclusion of the Latvian Presidency, a possibility will be considered to arrange a high-level international conference – a discussion on the CBSS future development bringing together foreign ministers, other public officials and experts from the member states. The dominant theme of the event related to the CBSS future beyond 2020 will stem from the CBSS Vision Group’s report and the Latvian Presidency’s proposals on how to take forward its recommendations.
At the same time, the term of the Latvian Presidency will be marked by the report of the CBSS Vision Group, in which experts from the CBSS member states are expected to offer recommendations for the region’s future beyond 2020 and the role of the CBSS in that setup. To evaluate those recommendations will be the task of the Latvian Presidency.
It is worth noting that, back-to-back with the CBSS Presidency, Latvia will chair the Baltic Region Heritage Committee, the Vision and Strategies Around the Baltic Sea (VASAB) cooperation format, and the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB).
Find further information on the CBSS at: http://www.cbss.org/