On Thursday, 12 April, Saeima ratified a Memorandum of Understanding between the Latvian and Canadian governments on enhanced defence partnership and security cooperation. In the Memorandum of Understanding, the Canadian government is represented by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. The Memorandum of Understanding defines the framework for security cooperation between Latvia and Canada. It also details the rights and responsibilities of Canadian troops, military personnel and contractors stationed in Latvia.
The presence of allied troops, including Canadian soldiers, is vitally important for the defence of Latvia. Canada has already greatly contributed to the development of infrastructure necessary for the multinational battle group in Latvia, established in the framework of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence and led by Canada. Although Canada and Latvia have on-going cooperation, it was necessary to create a permanent and predictable legal framework for the deployment of Canadian troops and other military personnel to Latvia for Canada to be able to provide further assistance in the scope of the collective defence policy and to ensure permanent presence of Canadian military forces in Latvia.
The deployment of NATO troops to other members of the alliance is regulated by the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty regarding the Status of their Forces (NATO SOFA). However, this Agreement contains only general legal arrangements for the deployment of troops to other NATO countries. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Latvian and Canadian governments on enhanced defence partnership and security cooperation will outline in detail the rights and obligations of Canadian troops stationed in Latvia.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding, the Canadian Armed Forces will have full access to and a right to be stationed at military infrastructures in Latvia. The Canadian Forces will also be allowed to do construction work at these sites. All construction projects will have to comply with the applicable technical and building standards of both countries. According to the Memorandum of Understanding, the newly built and renovated buildings belong to Latvia, but the Canadian Forces have an unlimited and unrestricted right to use such infrastructure.
According to both the Memorandum of Understanding and the NATO SOFA, Canadian troops will have to present a military identity card and movement order when entering or moving around Latvia. The Memorandum of Understanding also facilitates the relocation and residence of the members of the civilian component, dependents and contractors under preferential conditions.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding, vehicle registration, certificates and all types of driver’s licences issued by Canada will be valid in Latvia and can be used to move around its territory. Once the Memorandum of Understanding is ratified, Latvia will automatically recognise all professional licenses and certificates issued by Canada. This clause applies to professional services rendered by members of the civilian component, dependants and contractors hired by the Canadian Forces to perform various service-related jobs.
The Memorandum of Understanding also provides Canadian military aircraft, land transport and ships with free movement across Latvia in compliance with applicable traffic rules.
The Memorandum of Understanding also states that Latvia waives its right of primary criminal jurisdiction, except in cases when the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Latvia, given special circumstances, revokes the waiver. The Prosecutor General’s Office can use the right of primary criminal jurisdiction in cases when criminal investigation concerns serious or severe crimes, as well as cases with victims.
The Memorandum of Understanding also regulates a number of other areas. The Memorandum of Understanding between Canada and Latvia is roughly based on the defence cooperation framework signed by the governments of Latvia and the United States of America on 12 January 2017 and ratified by the Saeima on 16 March of the same year.
Saeima Press Service