A smart and high-quality Latvian presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), the introduction of the euro, active participation in discussions about future EU integration – these are Latvia’s imminent challenges in the EU. This was emphasised by the members of the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima and experts on EU issues on Friday, 11 January, when discussing achievements and future plans for the country’s foreign policy before the annual foreign policy debate in the Saeima.
“The current economic situation is causing economic issues to dominate the EU’s agenda. This is also attested by the annual report of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and so a significant part of this report focuses on these issues. Experts at today’s meeting praised the report, and I am certain that it will serve as a basis for constructive discussions at the annual foreign policy and European affairs debate. Today’s discussion identified the key topics of the coming debate,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee, emphasised.
One of the challenges awaiting Latvia regarding the EU is preparing for and implementing Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the EU. Žaneta Ozoliņa, Professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of Latvia, drew attention to the fact that in this context, Latvia must look to EU institutions and must contact Latvians working there. Although Latvia is a small country with limited resources, employees of EU institutions can help evaluate which of the planned initiatives can realistically be implemented during Latvia’s presidency. Andris Gobiņš, President of the European Movement – Latvia, also suggested that Latvian representation in EU institutions should be carefully planned.
In turn, Dace Akule, EU Policy Researcher at the Centre for Public Policy “Providus”, pointed out that in 2015 during Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the EU, a new EU treaty might be discussed; therefore, Latvia must be prepared for this development.
In 2013 discussions on further EU integration will continue. Ozoliņa noted a possible contradiction in Latvia’s position on this issue: Our country has always been opposed to the so-called two-speed Europe, but at the same time in case of further EU integration, Latvia wants to be within the core of European countries, i.e., among those countries that are moving towards closer integration. However, Kārlis Bukovskis, Deputy Director of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs, expressed concern that closer integration of the EU could lead to a discussion on vesting the European Commission with veto rights regarding the national budgets of member states. Bukovskis predicted that many member states could object to this and expressed the opinion that Latvia should also oppose such a step.
When discussing the introduction of the euro – the common European currency – Edvards Kušners, Member of the Board of the Bank of Latvia, said that within the context of Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the EU, failure to introduce the euro would mean that our country would not be able to participate in and chair the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), which brings together the ministers of finance of the euro area. Akule expressed the opinion that the introduction of the euro in Latvia ought to be based on reason, not emotion. When speaking of Latvia’s currency as the nation’s lifeblood, it must not be forgotten that the lat is a part of a much larger vascular system – the lat is pegged to the euro, Akule emphasised.
According to the Rules of Procedure of the Saeima, the Minister for Foreign Affairs must submit to the Saeima no later than by 16 January the annual report on the performance and planned future activities in foreign policy; the report has to be approved by the Prime Minister and should also contain information on activities regarding European Union issues.
This is the third year that the Saeima is hosting the annual debate on Latvia’s foreign policy issues. The first foreign policy debate in the Saeima took place on 27 January 2011.
The foreign policy debate is held at a plenary sitting closest to the date of international recognition of the Republic of Latvia (26 January).
Saeima Press Service