On 10 July 2018, the European Union House in Riga hosted an event for the presentation of priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Speaking at the event, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, outlined Latvia’s perspective of EU-related priority issues over the coming six months.
Several significant processes will take place in parallel during the Austrian Presidency: the Brexit negotiations, discussions on the EU’s future and the EU Multiannual Financial Framework, the Parliamentary Secretary recalled. An intensive period of work lies in store for us. Our work should be aimed at the strengthening and protection of European values, enhancing cohesion in the EU framework, which means convergence of the socio-economic development level, and strengthening security in Europe, said Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, highlighting the need for preserving two vital principles – unity and convergence.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined that during the Austrian Presidency Latvia was planning to devote special attention to negotiations on the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021–2027. The European Commission’s proposal issued in May 2018 on the EU multiannual budget was not acceptable for Latvia. It is important for us, said the Parliamentary Secretary, that convergence remains one of the top priorities reflected in the budget, namely, that the allocation of cohesion funding focuses on regions with a GDP below the EU average, and disparities in direct payments are removed under the Common Agricultural Policy.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica stressed that during the Austrian Presidency a consensus was expected to be reached concerning the Agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and a declaration on a framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. As concerns the declaration, Latvia will advocate a document reflecting the need for a close cooperation between the EU and the UK on matters highly important to Latvia: trade, economic cooperation, home affairs and justice, as well as defence, security and foreign affairs.
Over the next six months, attention will be focused on the development of the EU Single Market, security and defence, and the establishment of the Energy Union. Latvia will make every effort to facilitate the creation of a Digital Single Market, as well as keeping the Eastern Partnership policy on its agenda to promote the implementation of the various reforms in the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries.
The Parliamentary Secretary noted: “Latvia welcomes the continuing development of the EU security and defence cooperation during the Austrian Presidency. Further action should be taken to implement the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). The facilitation of military mobility in the EU territory is a matter of special importance to Latvia; therefore, we expect progress in this field, where close coordination with NATO is vital. Resilience in the fight against hybrid threats should also be enhanced, including through cooperation with NATO and implementation of the already formulated proposals for the EU-NATO cooperation in that area.”
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica thanked the Bulgarian Presidency for the work it has accomplished and expressed hope that, regardless of challenges faced by the European Union, its Member States would seek, and be able to jointly find solutions also in future.
Austria assumed its Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 June and will hold it till 31 December.
Bulgaria was presiding over the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2018.
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