The Foreign Ministers of Latvia and Greece are unanimous about strengthening the dialogue between the EU’s northern and southern members

07.09.2018. 21:46

On 7 September 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, while on a working visit in Greece, met with the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, and the Foreign Minister Nikolaos Kotzias, for a discussion on the issues of current importance to the European Union (EU) and security policy, cooperation in international organisations, as well as bilateral cooperation between Latvia and Greece, including in economy, culture and education.

During the meeting with the Greek President, Edgars Rinkēvičs highlighted the active political dialogue between Latvia and Greece, which should be enhanced in other areas too, especially in economy and the promotion of business contacts. The Minister confirmed that the President of Latvia, Raimonds Vējonis, was looking forward to welcoming the President of the Hellenic Republic to the Arraiolos Summit in Riga. Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed condolences over the forest fires which took so many lives in the Attica region.

In a conversation with the Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Kotzias, the Foreign Minister of Latvia underlined the intention to intensify cooperation in transport and logistics. The Foreign Ministers of Latvia and Greece were unanimous about the need for strengthening a dialogue between the EU’s northern and southern members.

The Ministers also shared views about consultations ongoing in the EU Member States on the proposal for the EU’s multiannual budget. “Latvia and Greece have similar interests in negotiations on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021–2027 concerning the Cohesion Policy and agriculture; therefore, we hope we could keep on working together. For a strong European Union, we need to move ahead with convergence, while neither the European Commission’s proposal to cut the Cohesion Policy funding nor the insufficient equalisation of direct payments ensure that; consequently, Latvia cannot accept such an arrangement,” Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined.

The Minister also confirmed that Latvia was prepared to increase its contribution to the EU budget so that there would be enough resources for both new challenges and traditional EU policies.

“It is vital to achieve a timely agreement on the European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework, so as to prevent delay with the absorption of funds and implementation projects and send a positive political signal about the EU’s unity,” said Edgars Rinkēvičs.

The officials exchanged views on the discussion concerning the EU’s future and the course of the Brexit negotiations.

Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed support for Greece for its contribution to addressing migration challenges. The Minister also underlined the significance of solidarity and drew attention to the fact that Latvia complied with decisions on the relocation of asylum seekers, thereby honouring its commitments on receiving asylum seekers from Greece.

As the Ministers discussed the Western Balkans issue, Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed support for the integration of the Western Balkans with the EU and the objectives of the Austrian Presidency of the EU addressing the issue, since a clear EU perspective based on an individual approach is a powerful proactive instrument for bringing the Western Balkans countries closer to the EU.

The Latvian Foreign Minister welcomed the conceptual agreement on launching EU membership negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania in 2019. “The merits-based process of integrating the regions’ countries with the European Union should be continued. Reforms in the field of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms are of special importance, since they are instrumental for the overall process of EU integration. We are interested in a smooth solution to Northern Macedonia’s naming issue, which will be decided in a referendum this coming 30 September,” said the Minister.

Edgars Rinkēvičs voiced an opinion that Russia’s efforts of destabilising the Euro- Atlantic security were of a long-term nature, and that should be taken into account by all the EU Member States. Russia’s hybrid warfare methods are also gathering momentum and manifest themselves as propaganda, electoral interventions, economic pressure and cyber-attacks, which create unpredictability and uncertainty in European security.

“Regardless of differing opinions on the funding issue, the NATO summit in Brussels was a success for us. We have demonstrated the transatlantic unity, power and resolve, and the allies have reaffirmed their commitment to raising their defence contributions. We hope that a common understanding would considerably reduce tension over equal burden-sharing,” Edgars Rinkēvičs noted.

Background information

Established in 2003, the Arraiolos Group is an informal group of heads of state of some EU Member States. On 13-14 September, Riga will host the 14th summit of the Arraiolos Group. The President of Latvia, Raimonds Vējonis, will then welcome the Presidents of  Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, and Slovenia.

 

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