A year has passed since the last “The Rīga Conference”. We have lived through one more year of turbulence, disinformation and uncertainty.
If during The Rīga Conference 2015 we began witnessing Kremlin’s adventure in Syria, today we observe casualties and the number deaths of this escapade. During the last 12 months, the world has beheld terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, aggression of Russian football fans during Euro-2016 in France, and bombings in Aleppo. The Crimea remains occupied and the Russian aggression against Ukraine is still ongoing.
At the same time some countries refuse to face the new reality and seek to pacify an aggressor. The recent attempts to resume the membership of the Russian Federation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe acts as further evidence of this. The aggressive military actions against Ukraine have clearly demonstrated "who is who" not only inside Ukraine, but also abroad. It has become obvious who is an enemy, an ally and a friend.
During the last few years the Baltic and Nordic countries have acted as true friends, remaining most persistent in supporting Ukraine. It would have been hard to imagine, for example, a Member of Parliament of Latvia, Lithuania or Sweden visiting the occupied Crimea. Similarly, it would have been weird to watch the delegates from Latvia or Finland voting against a pro-Ukrainian resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The voices of Baltic and Nordic countries are the most vocal ones when it comes to sanctions against Russia. They were among those to call the events in Ukraine as "aggression", rather than simply referring to it as a "crisis" or a "conflict". One of the most pro-Ukrainian diplomats in European Union is the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius. Besides Ukraine has experienced substantial support from the former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Carl Bildt. Some of the biggest friends of Ukraine are Presidents of Lithuania and Estonia – Dalia Grybauskaite and Thoomas Hendrik Ilves. In addition, it is worth mentioning that just a couple of months ago the Heads of the Parliaments of Nordic and Baltic countries visited Ukraine for the first time, declared their total political support for Ukraine.
Nowadays Latvia provides Ukraine with assistance in the defence sphere, Lithuania helps with civil society, Estonia has helped wounded Ukrainian soldiers. A project in the agricultural complex of Ukraine has been launched by Norway, and another one in the sector of energy security - by Denmark. Sweden is no less active than its Nordic neighbours, having invested in investigative journalism and anticorruption projects across the country. Each of these countries have done and continue doing more for Ukraine more than, for example, Italy, Spain and France altogether.
If Ukraine is now the front-line for the European security, then the Baltic and Nordic countries are Ukraine’s most reliable allies. Despite Ukraine being separated with these countries by EU-borders and the Baltic Sea - they are connected through a common history and similar challenges.
I am glad that these challenges will be addressed very soon during The Rīga Conference 2016, which is, for sure, one of the most significant events in this part of Europe.