There’s a model for Ukraine’s future Euro-Atlantic integration: The Baltics

Foreign affairs ministers Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Denmark), Margus Tsahkna (Estonia), Elina Valtonen (Finland), Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir (Iceland), Arturs Krisjanis Karins (Latvian prime minister; acting foreign minister), Gabrielius Landsbergis (Lithuania), Anniken Huitfeldt (Norway) and Tobias Billström (Sweden).

Together, the Nordic and Baltic countries represent a unique history of Euro-Atlantic integration. One of the Nordic countries’ greatest foreign policy achievements was an extensive engagement in the Baltic countries after the Cold War. The Nordics supported their Baltic neighbors’ fight for restoration of freedom and their journey into the Euro-Atlantic family. Now, the Nordic and Baltic countries act together in an equal and free partnership of prosperous democracies.

It is time for us to bring this Baltic experience of the 1990s to our joint efforts in support of Ukraine on its journey toward membership in the European Union.

The ministers for foreign affairs of the Nordic and Baltic countries jointly visited Ukraine in April to express our unwavering support. The visit made a significant impression and reaffirmed our belief that vigorous and enduring support for Ukraine across multiple areas is the only path forward. We cannot allow Russia to harvest any fruits of aggression.

Opinions on the war in Ukraine

The future of Ukraine and its people lies within the Euro-Atlantic family. The E.U. has affirmed this by granting candidate status to Ukraine. This past month marked not only one year since that historic decision was made but also the 30th anniversary of the adoption of what is known as the Copenhagen Criteria. The rules serve as the foundation for E.U. enlargement, shaping the democratic values, economic stability and legal requirements that aspiring member states must meet.

The Nordic countries stood alongside the Baltic countries as they pursued E.U. membership, recognizing the importance of regional cooperation and shared values. Today, motivated by the same principles of solidarity and unity, we support Ukraine's endeavors to meet the Copenhagen criteria and align with European standards.

The Nordic and Baltic countries, having experienced the transformative power of European integration firsthand, are eager to share our knowledge, expertise and best practices with Ukraine. E.U. integration will go hand in hand with the Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction, which must begin with no delay. It is important to lay the ground with ambitious, long-term engagement that empowers Ukraine to recover and rebuild in a manner that generates new opportunities for all Ukrainians.

The involvement of all relevant partners, including the private sector and international financial institutions, is crucial. We will stand by Ukraine to rebuild a modern and prosperous country firmly anchored on the European path — and with the means to protect itself.

In this regard, we take note of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ambition to transform Ukraine’s state institutions, to root out corruption, secure the rule of law — and make Ukraine open and transparent. These are high ambitions, but we are convinced that Ukraine has the potential to achieve these goals with our long-term support.

Ukraine’s security is part of European security. Russia will likely be a threat to Ukraine security, as well as to our own, in the long-term. Our support therefore needs to be steadfast, durable and long-term. Ukraine has the right to choose its own security arrangements. All NATO allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance.

Right now, the most important and urgent task is to support Ukraine to prevail in this war. At the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week, we want to see ambitious steps bringing Ukraine closer to NATO and upscaling our practical support, both financially and longer-term.

At this critical juncture, we need to make sure that history does not repeat itself. Zelensky’s “peace formula” for a just and sustainable peace, based on the respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, seeks to achieve this. The Nordic and Baltic countries actively support Ukraine’s efforts to ensure as much international participation as possible in the implementation of the peace formula.

We are committed to strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself. So far, our combined pledged support to Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion amounts to more than 8.5 billion euros — and our support will continue for as long as necessary. At the same time, we need to put in place credible, lasting frameworks to secure Ukraine’s future, bridging the gaps on Ukraine’s path toward future NATO membership.

Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration entails an ambitious endeavor. It is our duty to support Ukraine on its path to a better future for its people. The historic example of successful Nordic-Baltic cooperation is an inspiring precedent and gives us hope.