Baltic presidents issue statement stressing importance of EU membership

  • 2024-05-02
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Alar Karis, Edgars Rinkevics and Gitanas Nauseda, issued a statement on Wednesday on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the accession of their countries to the EU, in which they underlined the importance of EU membership for the well-being, security and economic growth of the three countries.

The heads of state also said they consider it necessary to open EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova in June in order to continue work on the removal of grey zones on the European map.

"The Baltic states joined the EU on May 1, 2004. The inscription 'European Union' appeared on our citizens' passports, marking a triumphant return to our rightful historical place as members of the European family. Our membership in the EU -- and in NATO -- fundamentally changed the geopolitical landscape and determined the future of the Baltic states," the statement reads. 

The presidents say that over these two decades, the three countries have grown in confidence, enjoying freedom, democracy and prosperity, have experienced huge economic growth, stability and security, at the same time representing a remarkable success story of European integration and transformation.

"Today, we eagerly embrace our responsibility to contribute to shaping the future of Europe," the heads of state say.

"Our membership in the EU played a crucial role in driving economic growth. Joining the EU provided us with easy access to a market with 450 million consumers, opened up new opportunities for our businesses, boosted exports, and attracted foreign investment. As a result, our economies expanded to levels previously unknown. Today, the combined GDP of the three Baltic States is over 160 billion euros -- nearly four times bigger than just two decades ago. There has been a significant and inclusive shift in living standards during the last twenty years. Foreign direct investment in the Baltics has increased sixfold since 2004," the statement reads.

It points out that over the past 20 years, the Baltic states have emerged as strong and relevant European and transatlantic contributors to collective defense, particularly having in mind their geographical proximity to Russia -- the most imminent threat to European and global security. As testimony to this, the level of defense spending of each of the three countries has grown well beyond 2 percent of GDP and is expected to grow further. 

"We mark the 20th anniversary of EU membership at a time when Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine reminds us that peace in Europe should not be taken for granted. NATO remains the foundation of our collective defense and security. At the same time, the complementary efforts of the EU are indispensable for fortifying the security architecture in Europe. It is of utmost importance to strengthen the defense industry, readiness and capabilities of EU member states. We will continue to strive for peace and stability throughout the entire Euro-Atlantic area," the presidents say.

"We underline that international support remains crucial for achieving Ukraine's victory. Ukraine today is defending our democratic values. We stand firm in our commitment to support Ukraine, to protect the rules-based world order. In 1990-1991, a democratic choice was tested in the Baltic States. Today, Ukrainians, Moldovans and Georgians fight for European values and the European family as their ultimate choice. They have the same dream as we had then. Because of historical experience, we understand and feel it. We firmly stand behind those countries that share European values and willingness to be together."

The heads of state stress that enlargement is a geopolitical necessity and a call of history for the EU.

"EU enlargement is foremost about freedom, democracy and human dignity. It is the Union's key geopolitical instrument in projecting peace and security on the European continent and counteracting threats of authoritarian regimes. It empowers us globally. In addition to a much bigger single market offering new opportunities for our businesses, the success of enlargement is in our strategic interest. A deeper, wider and more capable EU which would remove any remaining grey zones on the European map," the statement reads.