Stenbock House, 21 December 2020 – Today, the last meeting of the Baltic Prime Ministers during the Estonian Presidency of the Baltic Council of Ministers took place in an online environment, discussing the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of joint energy and infrastructure projects. The meeting was also attended by Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas gave an overview of the implementation of the action plan of the Estonian Presidency, which was strongly shaped by COVID-19. At the same time, close co-operation will continue on major energy and infrastructure projects, including renewable energy.
“I am glad that during this difficult year, we have been in very close communication with our neighbours and have also been able to hold two physical meetings and four video meetings,” said Jüri Ratas.
The Baltic prime ministers presented the vaccination plans and the situation regarding the movement of passengers in the Baltic States, which is affected by the spread of a new strain of coronavirus discovered in Great Britain as well as the growing infection numbers in the three Baltic countries. “We decided that it is important to continue coordinating cross-border movement between the three Baltic States and, if necessary, to work together to ensure that Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian citizens and residents can return home safely from Great Britain despite the air traffic restrictions,” said Ratas.
According to the Estonian Prime Minister, COVID-19 numbers are growing in all three neighbouring countries and we were forced to increase the restrictions. “However, the vaccination that will start soon gives us great hope. The vaccination plan has been approved, we work closely with the entire European Union, and we also coordinate our activities with Latvia and Lithuania. It would be good if Latvia and Lithuania also joined the Estonian-WHO igital immunization certificate pilot project,” Ratas emphasised.
Speaking about Rail Baltica, the Estonian Prime Minister emphasised that the common goal of the Baltic States is to build the railway quickly. This will be achieved through the summer agreement of the Council, whereby we secured additional funding of a total of 1.38 billion euros for the Rail Baltica project for the three countries.
The second part of the meeting began with a discussion on energy. Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, joined the meeting at this point and drew attention to the opportunities that the growing use of renewable energy, including the construction of offshore wind farms, will bring to the Baltic States. “The Baltic States take the goals of the European Green Agreement seriously and their contribution is necessary to achieve our goals. The European Commission welcomes plans to develop the offshore wind potential of the Baltics and to establish joint renewable energy projects, for example between Latvia and Estonia. We also consider it necessary to move forward with the synchronisation, and the European Commission is helping Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in many ways,” said Simson.
“The European Commission has recently decided to support the project with another 720 million euros. The synchronisation of the electricity networks of the Baltic States with the Central European electricity system by 2025 is a priority strategic project for all of us,” confirmed Jüri Ratas.
Next year, leadership of the Baltic co-operation will be taken over by Lithuania, whose main targets are close co-operation between the Baltic States in the fight against the coronavirus, major joint infrastructure projects, as well as security co-operation and the Eastern Partnership, especially supporting the Belarusian people in democracy and human rights.
A joint declaration was also signed at the meeting: