The eight foreign ministers of the Nordic and Baltic region on Wednesday condemned the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny with the Novichok nerve agent.
The foreign ministers agreed on a joint statement condemning the poisoning of Navalny in Omsk, Russia last month and called on Russia to cooperate with an international investigation into who perpetrated the attack. They called for a strong international response to the poisoning.
The statement also expresses support for the people of Belarus and calls for the immediate release of unlawfully detained persons.
"The continued violence from the authorities against peaceful demonstrators, threats to use military force, targeting of journalists, revoking foreign media accreditation, blocking of independent media websites and Internet shutdowns are alarming and must end," the statement says. The full statement is published below.
The Nordic and Baltic foreign ministers met in Tallinn on Tuesday and Wednesday and discussed regional and global politics. The format is also known as the NB8 and aims to increase cooperation between the countries.
The ministers agreed that a further strengthening of regional economic cooperation could help address the impact caused by the spread of COVID-19.
"The current crisis has clearly demonstrated the importance of digitalisation in improving the resilience of countries," Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said. "Digital solutions can help deal with many problems and also speed up recovery."
The meeting also included a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the NB8 cooperation format.
In late 1990, the foreign ministers of Nordic countries and Baltic States met for the first time in Copenhagen and decided to pursue closer cooperation.
"The cooperation format of Nordic countries and Baltic States has consistently been a close circle of partners, and this was palpable during a time of great confusion across the world – it is obvious that we are communicating closely," Reinsalu said.
"We also have a lot to discuss now – the situation in Belarus, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, transatlantic relations, European Union topics and restrictions on movement due to COVID-19. The shared view of the Nordic countries and Baltic States – especially when it comes to complicated issues – is crucial."
Reinsalu said the cooperation format is very important for Estonia and should be celebrated. "Thirty years ago, Europe was going through a period that demanded forceful decisions and largely defined subsequent relations between states."
As the 2020 coordinator of the format, Estonia is organising the annual meeting of NB8 ministers this year, and the agenda includes regional and global foreign and security policy, European topics and connectivity (the climate, energy, digital affairs).
Working sessions were held in the framework of the meeting. The ministers also took part in a joint discussion on cyber risks, co-organised by the Estonian company CybExer Technologies.
Read more about the NB8 here.
Statement by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden:
The Foreign Ministers of the Nordic-Baltic 8 - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden - condemn in the strongest possible terms the usage of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group to poison the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Ministers call upon Russia and the international community to initiate an impartial and international investigation that would include the experts of the OPCW. Those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.
The NB8 Foreign Ministers also call for a strong and joint international response to the poisoning. Two years ago a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group was used to commit a similar crime in the United Kingdom. Such attacks constitute an unacceptable threat to human lives as well as grave violations of basic human rights and international law. It is the responsibility of the international community to implement measures that would prevent similar crimes from happening in the future. We wish Mr Navalny a full and speedy recovery.
Referring to their joint statement from 11 August 2020 on recent developments in Belarus, the NB8 Foreign Ministers express their solidarity with the people of Belarus and admire their peaceful resolve. The continued violence from the authorities against peaceful demonstrators, threats to use military force, targeting of journalists, revoking foreign media accreditation, blocking of independent media websites and Internet shutdowns are alarming and must end. Ministers express concern about the criminal case opened against the Coordination Council, as well as the intimidation and detention of its members. The Coordination Council, which consists of representatives of different parts of the society, could be instrumental in paving the way for a genuine and inclusive national dialogue.
In this regard, the NB8 Foreign Ministers call on the Belarusian authorities to engage with OSCE and the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Prime minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Edi Rama, and the incoming OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Ann Linde. Ministers urged the authorities of Belarus to release immediately and unconditionally all unlawfully detained persons. There is a need for a complete and transparent investigation of all abuses in order to hold those responsible to account.
Ministers agree that further strengthening of the regional economic cooperation can help to address the impact caused by the spread of Covid-19 virus. Current crisis has underlined the importance of digitalization as a tool to strengthen the resilience of affected countries and societies; regional digital solutions can help to address immediate challenges of the crisis and assist in medium and long-term recovery.
NB8 Foreign Ministers also pay tribute to the work done in the Nordic-Baltic format. By Nordic Baltic 8 cooperation award, the Ministers' meeting marks and celebrates the 30th anniversary from the first meeting of the NB8 Foreign Ministers, held in December 1990 in Copenhagen, and thus also the 30th anniversary of establishing the Nordic – Baltic cooperation format. The 1990s was a defining time in the history of Europe and the world. 30 years ago the Nordic countries were the most vocal supporters of restoration of the independent Baltic States, helped to pave their way back to international community.
Ministers recognise that the cooperation between Nordic-Baltic countries has developed over time, and today the group is working together aiming to build a more secure, innovative, strong, competitive region.
Editor: Helen Wright