On 6 July, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs took part in a working lunch hosted by the Ambassador of Slovakia, Peter Hatiar, in honour of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Over lunch, the Minister and the Ambassadors of EU Member States discussed preparations for the NATO Summit in Warsaw, their perspective of the EU’s future and Baltic-Nordic cooperation (NB8).
The outcome of the British referendum was not only a wake-up call for all EU institutions but also pushes us to reconsider current EU policy, said the Minister. Until now, the slogan “More Europe!” often meant more bureaucracy, and this must change, he asserted. EU institutions must change and reduce their red tape; otherwise this could lead to a domino effect in other member states with a similar outcome.
European and national politicians should change the way they communicate with their communities. Politicians of the Member States should not always blame Brussels for their inability to make necessary albeit unpopular decisions. The responsible EU institutions should focus on the issues of vital concern for the people – the improvement of their socio-economic conditions as well as domestic and external security, Foreign Minister noted.
Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed his conviction that negotiations on the terms and conditions for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU should begin only when the UK has officially announced this decision, not earlier. “We are expecting the British government to make a decision on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as soon as possible,” he said. This would reduce the chaos caused by uncertainty in financial markets, in business and for people working and living in the UK, Edgars Rinkēvičs emphasised.
The Minister also said that various official and unofficial formats of discussions can exist between EU Member States, such as, for instance, the Visegrad Group and the NB8, while official negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and on Europe’s future must be held in the format of 27 Member States and based on the interests of all stakeholders.
Latvia’s priority in the talks on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will be the protection of Latvia’s national interests, the interests of Latvian nationals in the UK, and the common interests of all EU Member States, noted Edgars Rinkēvičs. Our priorities remain unchanged: a strong Eurozone, the establishment of the Energy Union, and reinforcing internal and external security, asserted the Minister.
The Minister and the Ambassadors also exchanged views on the upcoming NATO Warsaw Summit. The NATO Summit in Warsaw is going to be one of the most important summits in the history of the Alliance, since we expect a significant increase in the allied presence in NATO’s eastern flank, including the Baltic States and Poland. The Warsaw Summit will also be important in the context of cooperation with Finland and Sweden, given the geography of the Baltic Sea region, Edgars Rinkēvičs emphasised.
The Latvian Foreign Minister also drew attention to the fact that regardless of the relations between NATO and Russia, it is essential to sustain a dialogue. He also recognised that work will not stop after the Warsaw Summit since it will be of key importance to put the summit decisions into practice.
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