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  Unity of the Baltic countries - a myth or reality?

Èeslovas Iðkauskas, political analyst
2008 06 30

On May 5–6 the Swedish ambassadors for the Baltic and the North Countries, representatives of institutions at the EU and the  NATO, diplomats, politicians come for an annual regional meeting to Vilnius. Thanks to the efforts of the Swedish ambassador in Lithuania Malin Karre, a discussion on the regional cooperation, relationships with the Eastern and Western neighbours was held. It was possible to listen to opinions about the unity of the states in the region, about the relation of the three Baltic countries, which helped to overcome hardships, but which now is just a phenomenon with no concrete actions under it.

Even in the soviet times colleagues in Tallinn were sure that Lithuania had closer relations with Poland and that Warsaw was “a window to Europe” for Vilnius. Estonian journalists fixed those facts as if attributing their own state to a more advanced region – Scandinavia. Since long time ago Estonia was closer to the environment of Finland, Lithuania to the one of Poland, and Latvia as if had no “patron”, so ...the Soviet Union used to be matched as a friend. But, after the fall of the Soviet Union, there is nothing left of this friendship under the baton of the “strong centre”.

Former Swedish ambassador in Chile and several African countries, experienced diplomat M.Wilkens denied that Estonia more than Lithuania or Latvia is related to Finland. He also asserted his doubts regarding the unity of the Baltic countries, since the interests of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the World and the region, though they all are members of the EU and NATO, are quite different. Only the alliance of attitudes and support in some tactical and, maybe, strategic issues can be talked about.

This opinion is as if supported by an article on the so-called unity of the Baltic countries in the Estonian daily “Postimees“. Yes, the economies of Latvia and Lithuania have an impact on Estonia. Rapid growth of Latvian economy, as well as its slow-down, is felt in Estonia. In March in Latvia there were even 1409 companies with the Estonian capital, and the total of their investments amounted to 6.2 billion EEK.

In 2007 the fastest growth of GDP was in Latvia – 11 per cent, in Lithuania – 9 per cent, and the slowest in Estonia – 7.5 per cent. According to the forecast for this year, it will be 7.5 per cent, 7 per cent and 4.2 per cent, respectively. (Source: “ICEGEuropeanCenter“).

All three countries undergo similar economy development cycle, only that they now are in different phases. In Latvia and Lithuania, whether because of the “overheat” or of the storming inflation, the signs of economy crisis are felt. It is obvious, according to “Postimees“, that the trend will have influence on Estonia, which does not submit to panic so far. But the influence of the three Baltic countries on each other is based on purely emotional grounds, since many think in about this way: if things are bad in one country of the region, the crisis is felt in all of them. Such inert thinking interferes with the independence of individual Baltic countries and their image in the world.

Nevertheless, they have a common feature: the Baltic countries say goodbye to the “economical miracle”. Inflation havoc the Latvian economy: in March it reached 16 per cent, in Estonia and Lithuania it was about 11 per cent. Three “Baltic Tigers” are slowly suffocating: inflation is increasing, consumption is falling, and the economy growth rates slow down, though wages go up (in Lithuania by 26 per cent, in Latvia about 30 per cent).

There is only one conclusion: the commonness of development and interests of the countries, which freed themselves from the armful of the soviet economy at the same time, can be discussed only in terms of the economy fall down.

Practically, in the political area a weak star of commonness and agreement as if can be noticed. I mean the fact that in the end of April the foreign minister of Lithuania P.Vaitiekûnas said to the EU foreign ministers that his country will exercise the veto right for the start of the EU-Russia negotiations, unless a satisfying response to the requirements to settle energy problems, frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova and to more actively participate in the investigations of crimes in Medininkai and of January the 13th, is received. Lithuania insists that those issues are included into the negotiations mandate.

Foreign minister of Estonia U. Paet made a statement that Estonia understands the problems of Lithuania since Vilnius alone is incapable to solve them. When asked, if the Estonian policy within the EU frame is not too mild, U.Paet answered that Estonia would never agree with anything what might be harmful for it, and if there would be any decisions in future, which could be not acceptable for Estonia, Tallinn would also exercise the veto right.

Maybe it’s time again to start speaking about the unity of the Baltic countries?

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