The Baltic Republics (Nations in Transition)

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All three Baltic economies are aiming to increase high-skill, high value—added exports to rapidly growing markets, but they are competing with other countries in search of the same markets.

A recessionary tale from Europe's new basket cases.

The sophistication of Baltic exports has increased over time, but their comparative advantage remains in labor intensive goods and services, although Estonia has carved out a small advantage in knowledge intensive services in recent years. National policies to improve education and training would help the countries achieve these goals, but collective efforts to improve infrastructure links to the rest of the European Union are also necessary to improve competitiveness. Unemployment remains persistently high in the Baltics and represents a key challenge.

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While it has fallen significantly from its post-crisis peak, it remains in the 8—12 percent range and is assessed to be largely structural in nature. It is particularly high for youth, and about half the unemployed have been out of a job for more than one year. According to the IMF report, there is scope for policies to reduce structural unemployment. High tax rates on labor income tend to depress labor supply and employment, and expand the shadow economy.

Skill and education mismatches also appear to be a concern in the Baltic economies, while spending on active labor market policies is very low. Policymakers can therefore take action to emphasize education and training, and expand active labor market policies. There are strong economic links between the Nordic and Baltic countries, including in the financial sector, trade, and foreign direct investment. The Baltic countries all have financial sectors dominated by Nordic-headquartered banking groups. The Baltic states are also model partners in sharing the lessons of their transitions with other nations around the world and make modest but valuable contributions to European Union efforts to assist states in the region including Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.

President Obama will want to see his counterparts commit to restore their own investment in defense to the NATO standard of 2 percent of GDP, which only Estonia meets today.

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While Russia unfortunately is moving further away from European norms and values under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, the Baltic leaders have done their part to pursue normal relations with their big neighbor while advancing policies within NATO and the European Union that strengthen ties with other post-Soviet states. The Lithuanians, who hold the rotating EU presidency, will host an Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius this November which is designed to help ensure that other European nations of the former Soviet Union have the same opportunity as the Baltic states to join the European mainstream economically and politically if they pursue the necessary reforms.

Similarly, the Baltic leaders are among the most active in supporting the aspirations of Georgia and Balkan states to join the NATO alliance. At the same, President Obama may gain support for standing firm in the face of objectionable Russian policies, whether protecting Bashar al-Assad or promoting instability in its neighbors.

Economic Growth and Security. Against a backdrop of economic stagnation and the Eurozone crisis, the Baltic starts represent a healthy exception — a bright spot for growth, innovation, and competitiveness in Europe.

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They boast among the most open economies in Europe. Hit staggeringly hard at the start of the economic crisis, Latvia in particular undertook significant reforms to recover and is now on the path to join the OECD and the Eurozone. Estonia adopted the Euro in and has been among the most resilient economies during the crisis, and Lithuania aims to adopt the Euro in These nations now are among the most innovative, entrepreneurial, and technologically advanced economies in Europe.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are each distinct nations with particular strengths, national characters, and attributes. Timbering and fisheries enjoy modest success. The Baltic region is not rich in natural resources.

Baltic Accession to the European Union

Though Estonia is an important producer of oil shale , a large share of mineral and energy resources is imported. Low energy supplies, inflationary prices, and an economic collapse in Russia contributed to an energy crisis in the Baltics in the s. Industry in the Baltic states is prominent, especially the production of food and beverages, textiles, wood products, and electronics and the traditional stalwarts of machine building and metal fabricating.

The three states have the highest productivity of the former constituent republics of the Soviet Union.

The Baltics: Demographic Challenges and Independence

Shortly after attaining independence, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania abandoned the Russian ruble in favour of new domestic currencies the kroon, lats, and litas, respectively , which, as they strengthened, greatly improved foreign trade. The main trading partners outside the region are Russia, Germany , Finland , and Sweden.

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The financial stability of the Baltic nations was an important prerequisite to their entering the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Each of the Baltic states was preparing to adopt the euro as its common currency by the end of the decade. This article covers the history of the region from antiquity to the post-Soviet period.

For discussion of the physical and human geography as well as the history of individual countries in the region, see Estonia , Latvia , and Lithuania. Area 67, square miles , square km. Baltic states. Article Media.

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