The Lithuanian embassy recently hosted the Baltic ambassadors and Baltic American community representatives for this autumn’s quarterly JBANC-Baltic embassies meeting. Ambassadors Lauri Lepik of Estonia and Rolandas Kriščiūnas of Lithuania were in attendance, while the Latvian embassy was represented by Deputy Chief of Mission Ilmars Breidaks.
The embassies updated us on their countries’ priorities and upcoming events, and a productive exchange occurred on many relevant issues.
A primary topic discussed was the upcoming reception to recognize the 20th anniversary of the formation of the House Baltic Caucus (HBC). The event is set for December 7th and will include a program of policy discussions and presentations showing appreciation for caucus members. Parliamentary representatives from all three nations will be in Washington and a good turnout of Members of Congress is expected. The HBC is a registered caucus of the United States House of Representatives; current membership is at 66 Representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties. More information and the full list is available at housebalticcaucus. webs.com. All readers are invited to review the list for your Representative and to invite him or her to join if they have not already.
Ambassador Lepik briefed the group on a recent meeting of NATO ambassadors and Members of Congress, which confirmed that NATO and European engagement have wide bipartisan support in both chambers. The Senate continues its active role in foreign policy, indicating eagerness to act on the Russia sanctions bill that was signed into law during the summer. Lepik identified as key goals working with Congress on the agenda for next year’s NATO summit, and planning an event with Congress and the White House to celebrate the Baltic nations’ centennial. They are also closely following the appropriations process for European Deterrence Initiative and other NATO funding.
JBANC’s update indicated 2017 might have been its busiest year since it worked toward NATO enlargement in the early 2000s, due to its push to advocate for the Russia sanctions bill. Since the bill was signed into law, their focus has shifted toward meetings in Congress to encourage implementation of the sanctions. Other issues they’re following include continued efforts in support of Ukraine and possible changes to visas that might affect interns and summer camp staff coming from the Baltics. They also mentioned a major advocacy event the American Latvian Association is planning for next May, which may include new legislation tied to the Baltic centennial celebrations.
The meeting’s overall tone was positive and forward-looking. It was followed by a reception hosted by the three ambassadors to celebrate productive cooperation between U.S. officials and the embassies, and to welcome newly arrived Baltic diplomats to their new postings. It was well attended by representatives from Congress, the State Department, the Pentagon and other agencies.
The gathering validated the importance of continued cooperation among the three nations working together with both parties on the Hill to draw more attention and attract a bigger audience than they could individually. EANC will remain engaged in supporting the embassies’ priorities and provide updates as all of these initiatives develop.