1 June 200911:23

Russian MFA Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko Interview with RIA Novosti Concerning Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov’s Upcoming Attendance at the 15th Ministerial Session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Helsinger, Denmark


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Question: Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, will be attending the 15th Ministerial Session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in Helsinger, Denmark, from June 3-4. Could you describe the main areas of activity of this organization?

Answer: Established in 1992, the Council of the Baltic Sea States remains this region's leading organization of intergovernmental cooperation. Council members are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and the European Commission. A number of countries – Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the US, France and Ukraine – have observer status in the CBSS. It is expected that Belarus, Spain and Romania will be added to this list of states during the upcoming session.

Ministerial sessions are held once in two years and alternate with the same periodicity with summits of heads of government of Baltic Sea states. The CBSS is run on a rotational basis for a one-year period. In Helsinger the CBSS presidency will pass from Denmark to Lithuania on July 1.

Over the years of the CBSS a ramified cooperation network has taken shape under its aegis in such fields as economic development, environmental protection and monitoring, education, culture and cultural heritage preservation.

Russia attaches great significance to such a long-term priority in CBSS activities as "Civil Security and the Human Dimension." In its framework some additional opportunities open up to expand collaboration in the fields of the struggle against human trafficking; children's rights protection; nuclear and radiation safety; civilian protection, youth policy, contacts between people and the promotion of tolerance.

The Council maintains partner relations with many entities of regional cooperation. The most significant among them are the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, the Sub-regional Cooperation Organization, the Baltic Development Forum, and the CBSS Business Advisory Council. Stable working contacts are established with other regional intergovernmental organizations: the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, and the Arctic Council.

Question: Which aspects of CBSS activity have priority significance for our country?

Answer: One of the main priorities for Russia's participation in CBSS activities remains assistance to the socioeconomic development of our northwestern regions. In the framework of multilateral cooperation various cultural, scientific and educational projects are also being realized in Russia's northwest under the Council's auspices.

Russia attaches great significance to enhancing the effectiveness of the work of the CBSS as an important forum for political dialogue and practical cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. We presume that as the reformation of the Council deepens, its role as the chief coordinator of intensive multivector collaboration in the region will receive its further reinforcement.

Question: What steps are currently being carried out in order to reinvigorate multilateral cooperation in the Baltic region?

Answer: In 2007 the Ministerial Meeting in Malmo, Sweden, started work on the reformation of the CBSS with a view to raising the effectiveness of Baltic cooperation and rationalizing the entire system of multilateral interaction in the region.

A year later, the summit of heads of government of Baltic Sea states in Riga approved long-term Baltic cooperation priorities, as agreed upon in the Council and made the basis of the Declaration on the reform of the CBSS. This document also set forth ways to carry out the Council reform: transferring its activities onto a more pragmatic track, which will help make them maximally substantive and oriented towards the end result. It is about transforming the Council's working structures into expert groups to develop and implement concrete projects.

Question: What is the agenda of the upcoming CBSS session in Helsinger?

Answer: The participants of the session in Helsinger are to examine the outcome of the Danish presidency and to adopt a declaration in development of the Riga outcome document that will set forth concrete steps to deepen the reform. The ministers will also approve the fundamental documents as revised in the light of reform requirements: the Regulations concerning the CBSS, its secretariat and third-party participation in the Council's efforts. They are expected to instruct its working structures to continue work on the reformation of their activities.

A number of bilateral meetings between Sergey Lavrov and his regional counterparts are also planned on the sidelines of the CBSS Ministerial Session.

June 1, 2009

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