On 20 February Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs took part in the meeting of foreign ministers of Nordic, Baltic and Visegrad states in Gdansk. The ministers reviewed the issues of regional infrastructure and transport interconnections and had a debate about the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood, Russia and the EU enlargement process. The participants also discussed regional cooperation in matters of Euro-Atlantic security.
Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs Edgars Rinkēvičs commended security policy cooperation among Baltic, Nordic and Visegrad states. Cooperation is of key importance in the development of defence capability, including military exercises, for instance, the upcoming NATO exercise Steadfast Jazz to be held this year in Poland and the Baltic states. “The region also needs to cooperate in the enhancement of civilian and military capabilities for crisis response, including the involvement of the Eastern Partnership countries,” the minister indicated. Minister Rinkēvičs urged to devote greater attention to the dialogue with the Central Asian states, in view of security challenges following the reduction of coalition forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
In a discussion on economic growth in the region Minister Rinkēvičs emphasised that, although the Baltic states have been politically integrated into the EU, integration in certain areas of essential importance such as transport and energy is still insufficient. In addition, Latvia’s decision to join the euro area is not only a well-considered decision in terms of economy; it also has geopolitical significance.
The Foreign Minister of Latvia drew attention the situation in the EU’s Eastern Partnership area. “This year is pivotal in the EU’s relations with the Eastern Partnership countries, and the Vilnius Summit must achieve the maximum result with regard to the political association and economic integration of the Eastern Partnership countries,” the minister noted. At the same time Mr Rinkēvičs emphasised the role of culture and people-to-people contacts and gave an example of the facilitated border crossing for the border residents of Belarus and Latvia, which promotes cross-border cooperation and contributes to economy.