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On 19 October 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the European Union’s General Affairs Council in Luxembourg and joined a discussion on the draft conclusions of the European Council on 21 and 22 October 2021, the Conference on the Future of Europe, and the EU’s annual rule of law report.

Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed support for the draft conclusion of the European Council, while asserting that they should reflect the importance of the Eastern Partnership policy and the guidelines for the future development of those relations should be mapped out ahead of the summit. In addition, he said, we see the importance of a discussion on migration, the issue of border protection being an essential part of it. The EU’s digital transformation, which includes digital capacity building and the creation of a legal framework in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital identity, is of equal importance, the Minster added.

Given the unprecedented increase in energy prices in Europe this year, the EU Member States are urging to consider possible measures to protect consumers and the EU’s competitiveness, which the Member States intend to discuss at the European Council. Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined that Latvia supported the solutions proposed by the EU to reduce the crisis involving the price of energy resources. At the same time, he pointed out that it was important for short-term support measures and long-term solutions to comply with the current market principles and competition rules.

Latvia agrees to the proposal to produce uniform guidelines for the Member States’ action in the case of a rapid increase in energy prices, the Minister noted. The guidelines should be flexible enough to enable the Member States to come up with solutions best suited to their needs. It would be useful to establish a centralised European platform for the purchase of natural gas in order to create natural gas reserves and reduce fluctuations in the market. The structure, functioning and legal framework of the platform are open for a discussion. Likewise, a more rapid implementation of renewable resource projects and energy efficiency measures, especially in the framework of Fit for 55 on the path to the EU’s climate neutrality, should be undertaken following an assessment of their impact on vulnerable groups in society and envisaging timely support mechanisms, the Latvian Foreign Minister said.     

At the General Affairs Council, the European Commission presented its second annual rule of law report issued on 20 July 2021. The report both covers general rule-of-law developments in the EU and addresses country-specific issues regarding each individual Member State. The report offers an evaluation of processes concerning the effectiveness of justice systems, anti-corruption regulation, the pluralism and freedom of mass media, and other matters related to ensuring an institutional balance.

In this year’s report, the European Commission concludes that several member states have continued taking the necessary steps to improve the rule of law situation. The report took a positive view of efforts by a number of Member States to strengthen the independence of judicial authorities, corruption prevention and institutional checks and balances. Problems still exist in relation to the decreasing pace of anti-corruption reforms in some Member States, the interference of political forces in the work of journalists and a high risk of non-compliance with EU laws and regulations.