Swedish fighter jets on March 23 took part in a landmark exercise involving the neutral nation and NATO members in the skies of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, reports AFP. “For the first time ever, Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighters trained together with NATO aircraft, enhancing the safety of the airspace of the Baltics,” Estonian military spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Ingrid Muehling said. Since the Cold War ended two decades ago, Sweden has gradually boosted ties with the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while remaining neutral. But this exercise marked a new level in links. “It was a very important step in expanding cooperation between NATO air forces in the Baltics and NATO partner Sweden,” said Lieutenant General Friedrich Ploeger, the German officer who is deputy commander of NATO’s air hub at Ramstein in Germany. “It showed our capacity to defend the Baltic airspace, and stressed our commitment to joint security,” he said in Estonia’s capital.
The European Commission is soon to complete a special plan to improve the protection of the EU’s eastern borders against constant flows of smuggling from Russia and Belarus, EU Commissioner Algirdas Semeta said, reports ELTA. “First of all, each member state, including Lithuania, should take measures itself to curb the informal economy. Currently, a special plan on the protection of eastern borders is being drafted,” Semeta said. The EU’s active efforts to prevent the expansion of the black market are also evident in a large number of operations held in cooperation with the European Anti-fraud Office, the EU commissioner said.