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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2004 > April

The Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (e-PINE)

Heather Conley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Testimony Before the House Committee on International Relations
Washington, DC
April 21, 2004

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the invitation to testify today on the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe, or e-PINE. E-PINE is an exciting initiative that reflects Secretary Powell's emphasis on developing productive relationships with our international friends in order to achieve common objectives. [Also see testimony of other witnesses.]

The Nordic Baltic region, as we define it in the State Department, is made up of eight countries. Reading from northwest to southeast, they are Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Six of the eight are members of NATO, six will be members of the European Union following EU expansion on May 1. All eight are good friends of the United States with whom we share common values and foreign policy priorities. We consult at the highest levels. President Bush and Secretary Powell regularly meet with the region's leaders to discuss the issues that matter most, from combating terrorism to combating trafficking in persons. In May we will welcome to Washington the speakers of the Parliaments of all eight states, undertaking a joint visit to the United States to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. To illustrate the common approach we bring to most issues, let me quote for you some of the leaders from northern Europe:

The Prime Minister of Estonia: "Estonia will do everything in its power as a member of NATO to strengthen NATO as a political and military organization, to improve the alliance’s security and peace keeping ability, to keep a strong trans-Atlantic bond within the Alliance."

The Danish Foreign Minister, on his country's commitment to Iraq: "Now's the time to stand firm…The Americans have asked us to stay, and the Iraqi governing council has asked us to stay."

The Foreign Minister of Iceland: “It is crucial at this time that the democracies of the world should not break ranks and that the struggle against international terrorism should be intensified substantially by all legal means. All states, small and large, must contribute to that struggle. The declared and steadfast resolve to defeat the terrorists, even if it takes years or decades, is an absolute condition for success.”

The Lithuanian Minister of Defense on Iraq: "We cannot change our decision as soon as we face first difficulties. It is not good to give up when somebody threatens, as tomorrow we might be threatened even more."

The Prime Minister of Finland: "An act of terrorism is an act of crime, aiming at killing large numbers of innocent people, in a totally random fashion. …In this fight against terrorism we are certainly not outsiders, but a terrorist attack against Madrid or New York is at the same time an attack against us."

The President of Latvia, on NATO membership: "We will enjoy security guarantees, but we, Latvia as a state, with our own resources, our own armed forces, will take part in this joint undertaking, bringing our own value, and our own contribution. We will all work together, shoulder to shoulder, so that peace prevails, not only in our country, but that peace and security prevail in all countries of the Alliance, that peace and security prevail in as much of the world as possible."

The Foreign Minister of Sweden: "I do believe that the benefits of good transatlantic relations, and intensified cooperation between Europe and the United States, are so obvious and desirable that it is everybody’s responsibility to make every effort not to repeat the mistakes of the past, or let them linger on and become obstacles to progress in the future. The world needs the United States – and the United States needs the world. It’s just as simple as that."

Norway's Foreign Minister: "From 2004 Afghanistan is one of our designated partner countries in development co-operation. This means an increase in long-term development assistance to the country. Our political commitment to Afghanistan clearly is for the long haul. There is an important lesson here: There is no development and reconstruction without security, and there is no security without development and reconstruction."

When we conceptualized e-PINE, we took into account this support, this friendship. We were fortunate to be able to draw up a policy for a region where we have good relationships and few problems. Part of the reason for this happy state of affairs is that past United States policy was forward-looking, focused, and successful.

Before e-PINE, there was the Northern Europe Initiative (NEI). Launched in 1997, the principle goal of NEI was to help Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia achieve their stated goal of integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions. NEI also supported regional cooperation among the Baltic States, the Nordics, and other Baltic Sea states such as Russia, Germany and Poland. That NEI succeeded is obvious. Less than three weeks ago, on April 2, the flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Less than two weeks from today, these three countries will join the other great collective headquartered in Brussels, the European Union. Integration is complete.

Well before these events, we began thinking about what we were going to do after them. We decided to preserve NEI's multilateral approach. The Nordic Baltic region is truly a region, a group of countries who share geography and interests and ideas and have built up structures that enhance their cooperation with one another. The United States is an observer state at the most important regional body, the Council of Baltic Sea States, and at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

Our membership in the Arctic Council allows us to engage with Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Canada and Russia as well, on issues of concern in the far north. In this forum we've been able to move beyond the rhetoric that sometimes swirls around environmental issues in order to undertake useful and collaborative scientific research. Indeed, we enjoy good cooperation on environmental issues throughout northern Europe. The Environmental Protection Agency has a long history in the region and has used funds provided by the State Department to address a variety of issues. We're also pleased with the results of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC) program, a collaboration involving the U.S., Norway, Russia, and the UK that helps contain nuclear waste in northwest Russia. Assistant Secretary of State Turner, of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, recently visited the area to talk about what we can do together.

From NEI we also took the lesson that countries that are more advanced on the democratic/capitalist continuum can assist countries that are just starting out on the journey. While our help was important in Baltic NATO and EU membership, the Nordic countries did just as much, or more.

Finally, NEI showed us that judicious use of assistance money can achieve great results. Under NEI we invested roughly $30 million in Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) funds into helping the Baltic States integrate their Russian-speaking minorities, address the legacy of the Holocaust, create modern banking and taxation systems, combat corruption, and come to grips with global challenges such as HIV/AIDS and trafficking in persons. Let me list just a few of our assistance success stories:

  • In Latvia, we have supported the work of the Tuberculosis Control Center of Excellence that has led to a quantifiable drop in the TB infection rate. The Center of Excellence is now exporting its expertise, providing training to health professionals from other central and eastern European states.

  • In Estonia, we contributed to efforts to overcome the mistrust left by Soviet occupation by supporting Estonian initiatives to establish relationships between Estonian and Russian businesses, city governments, and non-governmental organizations.

  • In Lithuania, we arranged for members of the national financial crime investigative unit to visit the U.S. to see how we combat money laundering. The result was the passage by the Parliament of two amendments to the legal code that defined illegal financial transactions and added new measures to target terrorist financing.

With friendly states, a successful legacy, and good lessons learned, we created e-PINE. The goal of e-PINE, simply put, is to work together to advance shared objectives. We see these objectives as falling into three broad areas: political security; healthy societies and healthy neighbors; and vibrant economies. The first area includes cooperation to combat terrorism. "Healthy societies, healthy neighbors" is our term for not just cross-border health challenges like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but other transnational threats such as corruption and crime. In the vibrant economies area we hope to continue to further U.S. business links to the region.

The eight states have welcomed our initiative, both in our private conversations and in their public statements. They agreed to join us in an "8+1" forum of senior policy-makers. The "8+1" met for the first time last September at the level of Political Directors. Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman chaired the meeting. We will meet next in Lithuania, in May. Assistant Secretary Beth Jones and I will attend.

The "8+1" meetings are a chance to determine priorities for U.S.-Nordic-Baltic policy and project coordination. In New York, we agreed that a particular concern is the advancement of democracy to the east of this region, in Belarus and Ukraine, and even as far as the Caucuses. The Baltic States recognize that for reasons of geography and history, they can play a special role in this effort. We have found them eager to share their experience with their neighbors.

At our first meeting we also agreed to work together to combat trafficking in persons, health risks, and terrorism. The Nordic Baltic region has a long history of cooperative efforts to attack trans-national concerns. While U.S. Government assistance funding for this region will end this September, we intend to direct our remaining Fiscal Year 2003 SEED resources toward these problems through cooperative projects.

In between these semi-annual meetings we share policy ideas and, when possible, develop programs to address the agenda items. I meet regularly with Nordic and Baltic Ambassadors and visitors from the region. In this I can draw on the expertise resident in the State Department on the range of issues that we are discussing. I am also pleased that a group of Nordic, Baltic, and U.S. foreign policy think-tanks are coalescing into a parallel non-governmental forum that will add to the momentum of e-PINE.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, you asked that I consider in my remarks the relationship between e-PINE and the European Union's Northern Dimension. Our view is that these two activities are complementary, just as NEI and Northern Dimension were previously mutually reinforcing. I attended a Northern Dimension planning conference in Greenland in the fall of 2002. Much of what I heard there influenced our shaping of e-PINE, in particular, the idea that NATO and EU expansion cannot create a new dividing line in Europe. Because we are not members of the EU, we cannot "join" the Northern Dimension. We do however share our ideas with our colleagues in the European Commission and meet with them in the Council of Baltic Sea States and other venues. Following the Vilnius "8+1" meeting I will travel to Brussels to brief EU officials on our activities.

This is an exciting time for the U.S. and northern Europe. NATO and EU membership for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania marks the end of one kind of relationship and the start of another. This is a new chapter in northern Europe, a time for the U.S. to consider what we want to achieve with the good friends we have. E-PINE takes advantage of this opportunity. Together we hope to spread democracy, prosperity and stability even farther into Europe and Eurasia.

Released on April 22, 2004

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