History

The CBSS was established at a meeting of the region's Ministers of Foreign Affairs as a response to the dramatic geopolitical changes that took place in the Baltic Sea Region with the end of the Cold War.

Established in 1992, the CBSS has, over the past 30 years, cemented
its role as a prime intergovernmental forum for the Baltic Sea Region, promoting peace, stability, and prosperity among its member states. Further underscoring its commitment to ensuring close collaboration and streamlined operations, the CBSS Secretariat was set up in 1998. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Secretariat, a testament to the continuous dedication of its members and the broader CBSS community. Together, both milestones highlight the Council’s unwavering commitment to fostering cooperation and unity within the region.

Pre

Historically, the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) has been a space for diplomacy, trade, migration and cultural exchange, but has also been the theatre of conflicts, with major powers vying for dominance since the Viking ages. Fast-forward, the Iron Curtain, a period of heightened political and ideological division after World War II, was characterized by the separation of Eastern and Western Europe, with the Soviet Union asserting control over large parts of the BSR. This period witnessed restricted movement, cultural isolation, and suppressed political dissent in the East. The détente period, lasting until the Soviet Union’s collapse, brought reduced tensions and better East-West relations. Diplomatic engagement, trade, and cultural exchanges flourished, easing Cold War hostilities. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania saw softened Soviet control, fuelling national identity and independence aspirations. This period laid the groundwork for the major political transformations taking place in the BSR in the 1990s.

Democracy is the political system most conductive to individual freedom, respect for human rights, and economic growth. [We, the CBSS Foreign Ministers] are prepared to protect, support and develop democratic institutions.

— Copenhagen Declaration of 1992, the founding documents of the CBSS

1990s

The Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was established in 1992 by the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic Sea countries. In the 1990s, its birth decade, the CBSS focused on fostering cooperation and promoting stability in the region following the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Key aspects included supporting new democracies, encouraging economic and technological assistance, addressing humanitarian and health issues, protecting the environment and promoting sustainable energy, enhancing cultural ties and education, and improving transportation and communication infrastructure. The CBSS aimed to create a platform for dialogue, partnership, and joint initiatives among Baltic Sea nations. The Secretariat of the CBSS was established in 1998.

2000s

The decade of the 2000s was marked by considerable transformation for the CBSS. The expansion of the European Union during this time resulted in the inclusion of multiple CBSS member countries, specifically Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Once the CBSS goal of facilitating the EU accession of some of its members was achieved, the organisation set new priorities and broadened the scope of its work, reinforcing the importance of regional cooperation. Following a comprehensive review process, the CBSS Riga Declaration of 2008 heralded a shift towards a more project-based approach, enabling the organisation to focus on tangible outcomes and specific initiatives. This strategic shift allowed the CBSS to concentrate on key areas of collaboration, such as environmental protection, economic development, and social well-being, enhancing the region’s stability and prosperity.

2010s

During the 2010s, a major focus of the CBSS was its commitment to localising the UN Agenda 2030 and facilitating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Baltic Sea Region. By launching the CBSS Baltic Action Plan 2030, its own action plan inspired by the UN Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, the organisation played a crucial role in fostering cooperation among its member states to address environmental, social, and economic challenges, in line with the global sustainability agenda and other macro-regional strategies such as the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). In 2014, the CBSS adopted its three long-term priorities Regional Identity, Sustainable and Prosperous Region, and Safe and Secure Region — all designed to increase the capacity of the CBSS member states to address cross-border challenges. However, the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 had an impact on the Baltic Sea Region’s cooperation and the work of the CBSS, with the Baltic Sea States Summits — the meetings of the CBSS at the head of government level — and CBSS Ministerial Sessions ceasing to be held.

2020s

As the 2020s unfold, the CBSS continues to adapt to the shifting regional landscape, which has been significantly affected by multiple crises. These include the COVID-19 pandemic, the environmental crisis, climate change, and, most notably, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. The latter has brought a raft of consequences to the Baltic Sea Region, such as a geopolitical crisis, an energy crisis, and a humanitarian and migration crisis. Russia has been suspended and subsequently withdrew from the CBSS in 2022. Since then, the CBSS has been working diligently to strengthen regional cooperation and foster a cohesive Baltic Sea Region. The Vilnius II Declaration, a strategic roadmap for the CBSS which was adopted in 2021, has been instrumental in guiding the organisation’s efforts to address the challenges posed by the changing geopolitical situation. It contains a “Vision for the Baltic Sea Region by 2030” (“Vilnius II”), which emphasises the need for stability, security, and prosperity within the region and addresses pressing issues such as environmental protection, sustainable development, civil safety, trafficking in human beings and meaningful youth participation among other topics.

The Founders

March 1, 1992

The Founders

Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Uffe Ellemann-Jensen were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Germany and Denmark who convened the meeting of the region’s Foreign Ministers in Copenhagen to establish a regional cooperation platform as a response to the geopolitical changes that took place in the Baltic Sea Region with the end of the Cold War.

CBSS is established

March 5, 1992

CBSS is established

The CBSS was established as an overall regional political forum at a meeting of the region’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The Council was the first attempt to build confidence and relations based on trust, at the intergovernmental level between the 11 Member States and, at the time, the European Commission, in regards to the new political realities in the region. At the time, Denmark and Germany were the only Members States to be members of the European Union.

Iceland joins the CBSS

May 19, 1995

First Baltic Sea States Summit

May 3, 1996

The first Baltic Sea States Summit was convened in Visby, Gotland. The Agenda 21 initiative, outlining the vision for sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region was officially established by the Ministers of Environment.

CBSS Secretariat is established

June 23, 1998

CBSS Secretariat is established

France, Ukraine, the UK and the USA become Observer States

January 1, 1999

Italy becomes an Observer State

January 1, 2000

The Netherlands and Slovakia become Observer States

January 1, 2001

Expert group on Children at Risk and Expert group on Nuclear and Radiation Safety

June 5, 2001

The Expert Group on Children at Risk is established by high-level officials dealing with the topic of Children. Expert Group on Nuclear and Radiation Safety (EGNRS) agreement on the exchange of radiation monitoring data is signed.

The Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings is created by the CBSS Heads of Government

June 8, 2006

Northern Dimension policy development

November 24, 2006

The CBSS participates in the policy development of the Northern Dimension alongside other regional actors, sister councils and financial stakeholders. A Northern Dimension political declaration and policy framework document are agreed.

The organisation reorients towards project work

June 3, 2008

The Council of the Baltic Sea States agreed upon the Riga Declaration on Reform. The organisation would become projectised across the organisation, not just in the specific specialised units.

Belarus, Romania and Spain become Observer States

January 2, 2009

Expert Group on Maritime Policy is formed

June 11, 2009

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is launched

June 12, 2009

The Lisbon Treaty came into force and the CBSS Membership of the European Commission became that of the European Union. The seat in the CBSS Committee of Senior Officials is held by the European External Action Service, alongside the Directorate General of Regional and Urban Policy.

Vilnius Declaration

June 2, 2010

At the 8th Baltic Sea States Summit, the Vilnius Declaration was agreed upon outlining a number of focus areas for the region until 2020. The Baltic 21 network was integrated into the structure of the CBSS as an Expert Group on Sustainable Development.

CBSS turns 20

March 5, 2012

2012 marks 20 years of cooperation in a new political environment in the Baltic Sea Region. In connection to this anniversary, a book was published in which ten women and men from across the region share their impressions on 20 years under three thematic subjects: Strategies for Sustainable and Innovative Future; Multi-Level Governance and Regional Cohesion; and Resilience and Inclusion in Times of Austerity.

CBSS Project Support Facility is established

May 21, 2012

At the 9th Baltic Sea States Summit, under the German Presidency presided over by Angela Merkel, the CBSS establishes the Project Support Facility for seed money projects. For the first time, the organisation has a funding mechanism for external projects intended to build lasting partnerships across the region.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region Action Plan

January 1, 2013

The European Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was revised with an Action Plan and the CBSS Secretariat, alongside other actors as coordinators or co-coordinators, became responsible for Policy Area Secure, Horizontal Action Neighbours and Horizontal Action Climate.

Three long-term priorities are formed

July 1, 2014

Under the Finnish Presidency, the CBSS priorities, set down in the Riga Declaration, were streamlined from five to three: Regional Identity, Sustainable & Prosperous Region and Safe & Secure Region. A mid-term assessment of the progress under the Vilnius Declaration was also undertaken.

Hungary becomes an Observer State

January 1, 2016

First CBSS Science Ministerial is convened

June 16, 2016

Baltic 21 becomes Baltic 2030

June 30, 2016

CBSS turns 25

March 5, 2017

The Council of the Baltic Sea States marks 25 years of the organisation, adopting the Reykjavik Declaration. In light of the 2030 Agenda, the Committee is tasked to establish a group of wise women and men to take the organisation up to 2020 and beyond.

The Vision Group Report

May 9, 2018

The Vision Group, made up of Baltic Sea Region’s academics, diplomats, experts, politicians and other public figures delivered their report on the future of the Baltic Sea Region beyond 2020. The reform process was agreed to with the Stockholm Declaration during the Ministerial Meeting of the Swedish Presidency.

CBSS Reforms

June 11, 2020

A number of measures outlined in the CBSS Reform Roadmap agreed upon in the Jūrmala Declaration, making the CBSS more flexible and efficient in the current geopolitical landscape are implemented under the Danish presidency resulting in the Bornholm Declaration.

CBSS Secretariat moves to new premises

July 1, 2020

CBSS Secretariat moves to new premises

CBSS Action Plan 2021-2025

May 21, 2021

An action plan for the CBSS Secretariat over the years 2021-2025, endorsed by the CBSS Foreign Ministers and High-level Representatives at the 2021 CBSS Ministerial Meeting under the Lithuanian Presidency, became clear guidelines on the way forward for the CBSS.

Vilnius II Declaration

June 1, 2021

A vision for the Baltic Sea Region, adopted by the CBSS Foreign Ministers and High-level Representatives at the 2021 CBSS Ministerial Meeting under the Lithuanian Presidency, outlining the goals for the next 10 years.

Russia suspended from the CBSS

March 3, 2022

The members of the CBSS have decided to suspend Russia from further participation in the Council’s activities in response to the unprovoked and illegal war being waged by Russia against Ukraine.

CBSS turns 30

March 5, 2022

The CBSS marks its 30th anniversary. Since its beginning in 1992, the CBSS has been a bridge between EU and non-EU member states and a driving force of multi-lateral cooperation in the Baltic Sea region.

Russia’s withdrawal from the CBSS

May 17, 2022

Ministerial Session 2022

May 25, 2022

Ministerial Session 2022

The CBSS Foreign Ministers and High-level Representatives met in Kristiansand during the 19th Ministerial Session of the CBSS – the first ministerial session since 2013. During the session, the Kristiansand Declaration was agreed upon expressing continued support for Ukraine and recognition of the country’s efforts to defend its independence and the common values for which Europe stands.

Ministerial Session 2023

June 2, 2023

Ministerial Session 2023

The 20th CBSS Ministerial Session concluded in Wismar on 2 June 2023, under the presidency of Germany, with the Wismar Declaration underscoring its support for renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, and the role of the region’s youth in shaping its future. The Council also condemned the ongoing military aggression by Russia in Ukraine, and emphasised the need for developing the resilience of societies in the Baltic Sea Region.