Students from the University of Cambridge brought together Baltic leaders and experts over the weekend to tackle the burning issues of the three rapidly transforming countries, two decades after independence and nine years after joining the EU.
Hosted by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian societies at Cambridge, which consist of a combined 100 students, the event’s highlight was its prominent speakers, including European Commissioner Siim Kallas, former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus, The Economist’s international editor Edward Lucas, and others. Workshops ranged from innovation and an Enterprise Estonia-led discussion on how to market the Baltics to cooperation between Baltic universities and harnessing the potential of a growing diaspora.
“The Baltic countries are looking pretty good. There is not much to complain about as the other countries all have their own problems,” Kallas told ERR News at the event, which organizers said was attended by roughly 300 people.
“Baltic cooperation is visible in the sense that they have been operating together and coordinating their standpoints. I think the real test of Baltic cooperation lies ahead. This includes all kinds of infrastructure projects, of course pan-European network projects in both transport and energy. That’s where the devil is in the details and that will show what Baltic cooperation is capable of.”
In an interview that will be published on this website later this week, Edward Lucas said the prospects of Baltic teamwork are promising but have not always borne fruit.
“I think it’s a huge weakness. I think intra-Baltic cooperation is still really poor. And you see this particularly in energy [...] If the three Baltic states between them had made better decisions earlier on, energy prices would be lower and Russian influence would be less,” Lucas said.
But areas for pan-Baltic collaboration are “endless,” he pointed out, listing Rail Baltic, energy links with Poland, the EU’s Third Energy Package, the planned LNG terminal and the Visaginas nuclear power plant.
The Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian societies of Cambridge were created in 2008, 2011 and 2013. It was the first time that a conference was held jointly by students from all three Baltic countries. The event’s director, Kadi-Liis Saar, also the head of the university’s Estonian society, said the turnout exceeded her expectations.
“It was a chance to introduce Estonia to foreigners through interesting presentations and to advance relations between the Baltic countries as well as contacts with the UK and Western Europe,” Saar said.
“But of course also to offer a chance for Estonians and specialists with an Estonian connection, who live in different parts of the UK and are active in different fields, to meet, share and discuss their ideas.”