Riga - Delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the South-East European Cooperation Process participated, with observer status, in the 35th plenary session of the Baltic Assembly and 22nd session of the Baltic Council which took place in the capital of Latvia on 27 and 28 October. Parliamentary Assembly of the SEECP was represented by the Senate of the Romanian Parliament, MP Nicolae Vlad Popa and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, MP Hakan Çavuşoglu.
Within the framework of the Latvian presidency, the Session of the Baltic Assembly was held in the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) bringing together parliamentarians and representatives of the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The participants discussed security and defence policies, migration and EU external border security, strategic communication, transport and infrastructure in the region and cooperation in education and research. There were several other topics on the agenda, of mutual interest for the three Baltic countries, such as closer cooperation of border guard services, demographic situation in the Baltic States and state policy for family support. Parliamentarians and representatives of the executive authorities exchanged opinions on the development of regional transport infrastructure, Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project, transport corridors and cross-border cooperation.
Senator Nicolae Vlad Popa addressed the audience on the topic "Migration and EU external borders management: new challenges and joint solutions for the Baltic States”. He stressed that the migrant crisis had become a key and urgent problem in Europe, which required greater attention towards foreign and domestic policy of all countries involved. He believes that the basic concept of migration policy should lie in national legislation and, if necessary, laws and directives which are not in accordance with generally accepted standards and guidelines should be amended or repealed. Senator Popa said that migration policy of European countries should include measures for effective control of migration flows and their socio-economic adjustment and integration. In his speech he pointed out that the current system was blocked by excessive inflow of refugees and that it was necessary to adopt a new directive on migrations that represented a potential threat for the entire continent. He added that the refugees were currently receiving "permanent status for temporary situation" and suggested the adoption of "temporary protection" and only after a thorough records screening for each migrant, an assignment of "full protection".
Representative Çavuşoglu in his address said that coming from a country that was currently host to three million refugees from Syria he believed that it was necessary to strengthen the cooperation of European countries and parliamentary assemblies acquiring a common position based on universal values such as the fight against terrorism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. He reminded the audience of the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016 and thanked for all the expressions of sympathy and support in maintaining the legitimacy of democratic parliament and government.
Upon completion of the session of the Baltic Assembly, parliamentarians of the three Baltic States adopted a Resolution of the 35th Session of the Baltic Assembly. Baltic Assembly Resolution calls on the parliaments and governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the Baltic Council of Ministers to foster inter-agency cooperation on the Baltic level by establishing joint investigation teams and providing mutual assistance in cases of migrant smuggling. In this respect, the Resolution calls for closer cooperation of border guard services in the three Baltic States and explore the possibilities to harmonise penalties in national legislation for organising illegal movement of persons across state borders the harmonization of legislation and prescribed penalties for illegal cross border movement. Baltic Resolution calls on their parliaments and governments to improve national policy regarding work/study-life balance in order to provide both parents with the opportunity to work part-time work to improve the demographic picture of the three countries. Baltic Assembly called for enhanced involvement of Poland and Finland in the RailBaltic/RailBaltica project and to continue small and medium scale road infrastructure projects. Baltic Assembly stands for a coordinated approach in promoting the exports of the Baltic States and attracting foreign direct investments to the region as well as to adjust the existing legislation and share information on promotion of “start-up” environment in the region. The Assembly suggests establishing a Joint Digital Hub for promoting and harmonising digital initiatives.
Within framework of the Baltic Session, 22nd Session of the Baltic Council of Ministers was held - a cooperation platform for parliaments and governments. The Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers adopted the Joint Statement of the 22nd Baltic Council. The Statement welcomes the fact that Latvia has reached one of its foreign policy goals by joining the OECD this year, and Lithuania is on its way to join the organisation in 2017. The Statement also welcomed Estonian preparations for its first Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017. Baltic Council of Ministers supports the Conclusions of the NATO Warsaw Summit in July 2016, and is committed to stronger EU external borders, better migration security and cyber threats prevention. Declaration of the Baltic Council emphasizes the need to strengthen initiatives that would support greater freedom of media and the crucial need for continuous cooperation in dealing with targeted Russian information operations against the transatlantic community and Nordic-Baltic region, spread of Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns. The Baltic Council defines the following joint priorities for cooperation in 2017: Strengthening of security within the region, enhancement of security and defence cooperation, developing regional energy market and developing transport connections.
Within framework of the 35th Session, the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Assembly was marked. Speaker of the Latvian Saeima Inara Murniece, President of the Estonian Riigikogu Eiki Nestor and Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas, Loreta Graužiniene, signed a Letter of Appreciation to honour the founders, supporters and promoters of the parliamentary cooperation of the three Baltic States. During the Session, the Baltic Assembly Prizes for Literature, the Arts and Science as well as the Baltic Innovation Prize were awarded.