RIGA - The Estonian government stunned its Latvian counterparts when it decided to substantially cut funding for the Baltic Assembly, an inter-governmental organization that provides a platform for representatives from the three Baltic states to coordinate policy.
Dismay over the move prodded the Latvian side to appeal to the Estonian president, prime minister and Parliament for an explanation or reversal.
Estonia had also proposed tying the assembly's budget to the national parliaments, something the Latvian side was also against.
Estonia "unilaterally decided to cut co-funding to the assembly, reducing it from the necessary 100,000 euros to 65,000 euros," Aigars Petersons, head of the Latvian delegation, told the Baltic News Service. "In this way the Baltic Assembly would not be able to attain those aims, which have been set."
The Estonians' decision was also interpreted as a move threatening the unity and history of cooperation between the three countries.
"By curtailing the funds Estonia actually says 'no' to the unity of the Baltic states because the assembly will not be able to implement the planned tasks," Petersons said.
He added that while he agrees that the assembly needs reform, he is against any unilateral cuts in financial support.
"If we wish that the Baltic Assembly deepen its Baltic and Nordic cooperation, and that it would strengthen its trans-Atlantic ties, then its necessary to have adequate financial resources and appropriate organizational structures. So we wish to express our incomprehension over the Estonian parliaments unilateral decision to decrease the payments into the Assembly's budget, because Latvia's and Lithuania's delegations have attested that the necessary payment into next year's budget is approximately 100,000 euros," the letter stated.
If the cuts were instituted across the board then the budget would fall from 300,000 euros to 195,000, a steep decrease that would threaten cooperation with the Nordic Council and the Benelux countries, or the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium the Latvian letter argued.
Estonia is the richest of the three Baltic states, and has at times bristled at the Baltic label since they are a country with a Finno-Ugric language that is similar to Finnish, while Latvia and Lithuania are the only two countries with a Baltic Indo-European language.
After accession to the European Union, there have been calls among some Baltic politicians to reduce expenditures on organizations, such as the Baltic Assemby, that are peripheral or secondary to the EU.
The Baltic Assembly was founded in the heady days of Baltic cooperation in 1991 shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It came into force when the prime ministers and independence leaders met in Tallinn 15 years ago in May and formed the organization. The Assembly is made up of 20 representatives from each Baltic state.