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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU, Baltics Mull Free Trade Area

TALLINN, Estonia -- European commissioner Sir Leon Brittan has held out the possibility of a free trade area that would comprise the European Union and non-EU states on the rim of the Baltic Sea. Brittan, the commissioner responsible for external economic relations, told the Council of Baltic Sea States on Tuesday that free trade was central to the EU's relationships with all states in the region. "It is not too early to start considering the possibility of ultimately moving to a single free trade area for the region as a whole," Brittan said. The council, established two years ago to promote economic growth in the region and its further integration with the rest of Europe, includes two EU members in Denmark and Germany, and Finland, Norway and Sweden will join the union if their membership bids are approved in national referendums. Poland has a so-called Europe Agreement on free trade and political cooperation and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are seeking similar deals. The EU is also close to sealing a partnership and cooperation deal with Russia. Some of these countries are already part of free trade arrangements. Estonian officials have insisted the European integration process will be a major theme of the two-day council meeting, which began Tuesday. Brittan said the EU wanted to see border-crossing obstacles eliminated in order to develop transport links in the area.