On October 7th, the embassies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) held their first meeting since the start of the pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, the embassies and JBANC meet three to four times annually to discuss upcoming events, policy and legislative priorities, and other items of mutual interest.
This meeting was virtual for the first time and set a good precedent for future virtual meetings.
The meeting was hosted by the Ambassador of Latvia Māris Selga, and participants included Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov of Estonia, Estonian American National Council (EANC) president Marju Rink-Abel, EANC’s Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey, and a total of over 20 representatives from the three Baltic embassies, JBANC, and JBANC’s parent organizations.
The upcoming elections in the United States and legislative priorities for the remainder of the 116th Congress were a main topic of discussion.
The embassies and JBANC agreed that we need to remain engaged with Congress to advocate for security cooperation funding for the Baltic nations in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and Appropriations bills.
All parties will also be keeping a close eye on House and Senate races for any turnover in membership of the House Baltic Caucus (HBC) and Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus.
Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) is slated to take over the role of HBC co-chair from Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) when Representative Shimkus retires at the end of this term.
Representative Bacon is facing a tight race, so if he is not reelected, a different Republican co-chair will have to be identified.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) will likely remain the caucus’s Democratic co-chair.
The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) summit, taking place in Tallinn on October 19th, was also discussed.
3SI is a forum designed to promote cooperation among its twelve member nations and their partners.
Its goals include facilitating cooperative development of energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure; fostering economic growth in the region; ensuring energy security; and bolstering transatlantic cooperation.
Summits have been held annually since 2016.
Though no in-person U.S. representation is confirmed at this time, Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Brouillette are possibilities to address the forum virtually.
More information is available at 3seas.eu.
Meeting participants also began planning for a Baltic advocacy event next year.
Baltic Advocacy Days 2021 will be organized for the March-April timeframe and will focus on facilitating constituent engagement with their Senators and Representatives on active legislation that impacts Baltic, European, and transatlantic security and policy.
The meetings will be in-person and/or virtual depending on what circumstances at the time allow.
EANC will provide details as planning progresses.
In the meantime, please mark your calendars with a reminder to speak up for Estonia next spring.
Washington, DC Director
Estonian American National Council