30 years of restored Swedish-Baltic relations: making the strong bond even stronger

30.08.2021. 13:07

By Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania

This year, on 28 August we mark the 30th anniversary since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Sweden and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. By celebrating this occasion and recalling the restoration of the independence of the Baltic States three decades ago, we like to emphasize that Sweden played an important role and had the vision to support the Baltic States’ aspirations towards their freedom

Democracy was no stranger to the Soviet-occupied Baltic States. They were independent between the two World Wars. The memory of democratic self-rule kept the spirit of freedom alive for decades – in and outside of their countries. The prosperity and stability of the free world just across the sea, within arm’s reach, was a constant motivation for returning to the family of European democracies.

In the early 1990s, strong moral support by the Swedish people for the Baltic course of independence played out in the so-called Monday meetings in Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm. Later, other towns across Sweden joined this process under the slogan "We support the Balts". For 76 consecutive weeks, from 19 March 1990 to 16 September 1991, Swedish politicians, public figures and exiles from the Baltic States kept meeting in some 50 towns across the country to express support and develop the foundations for Sweden’s political and practical assistance for Baltic independence.

Ever since the Baltic States openly stood up for independence, they have felt the strong support extended by Sweden and its people on their path back to the international community, to a Europe whole and free. Sweden was the first country to establish its diplomatic presence in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius. Along with other partners and friends, Sweden’s political support and assistance to the Baltic States in implementing democratic reforms and strengthening capacities was instrumental for our European integration. The scale and depth of support from the Swedish people was best demonstrated by the involvement of tens and hundreds of municipalities, non-governmental organisations and public figures who assisted public health institutions, universities, schools, foster homes, religious communities, cultural organizations and centres.

After the Baltic States joined the EU as full-fledged members on 1 May 2004, the nature of bilateral cooperation evolved at an increasingly rapid pace. Today, Sweden and the three Baltic States are close cooperation partners, sharing common values and interests. Sweden is an important and reliable partner to the Baltic States, especially in economic affairs, energy security, defence, human rights and other fields. Economic relations between Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia are thriving: for a number of years we have been contributing to the growth and competitiveness of each other's economies. Time has shown that we hold the key to our own success through greater business synergy made easier by the proximity between our countries, mutually beneficial business ties, science and research cooperation which fosters innovation.

Sweden and the Baltic States are part of and at the heart of the Nordic-Baltic region, which is characterized by stability, dialogue and cooperation. We are committed to a rules-based international order and multilateralism, and enjoy close cooperation in international fora – the UN, OSCE, CoE, CBSS, and elsewhere. As members of the European Union, we are working closely together on shaping the future of the Union. We also maintain excellent security cooperation given the common threats and challenges our Nordic-Baltic family is facing. Only by joining efforts, can we promote our common values and make a stronger impact.

The friendship between the Baltic States and Sweden has been shaped by a centuries-long history on the shores of the Baltic Sea that has bound our people together through work, trade, shared values and culture.

Today’s anniversary is an occasion to look to the future. Our nations can work together to make Europe greener and more digital. Jointly, we can boost our individual and regional branding through innovation. In a world undergoing constant and rapid technological advancement, our region must cooperate to keep up with the pace of change and stay ahead of the curve. We already have a strong foundation to build upon. Sweden and the Baltic States have lots of talent, clean nature and robust economies. Looking ahead at the next 30 years, we hope to shape an empowering future for the generation to come.

A stable, secure, prosperous and competitive Nordic-Baltic region is our common interest. Another and certainly not less important interest is to give help to those building free and democratic societies in our neighborhood. We cherish our friendship with Sweden and look forward to making our strong bond even stronger by expanding, diversifying and consolidating the Baltic-Swedish cooperation in pursuit of common goals.