On 10 November, the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs delivered a speech at the 23rd Baltic Council taking place in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. In his speech, the Minister drew attention to the issues of current importance in international relations addressing the economic contacts between the Baltic States and their cooperation in defence and security policy in the European Union (EU) and NATO.
The formats of the Baltic States cooperation help facilitate the way forward in various matters of importance for the entire region, and this also concerns projects on transport and energy, said the Minister. He welcomed progress with the implementation of the Rail Baltica project – the signing of the intergovernmental agreement by the Baltic heads of state earlier this year and its ratification by the parliaments. Its coming into effect demonstrates the long-term commitment of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the project: we have reached the stage when we can call the process irreversible, Edgars Rinkēvičs emphasised.
We must closely coordinate our activities ahead of the next NATO Summit in Brussels, the Minister noted. Edgars Rinkēvičs highlighted essential tasks in this respect, such as the transformation of the Baltic Airspace Policing mission into a Baltic air defence system, the enhancement of NATO’s forward presence in the Baltic Sea and improvement of cyber defence.
The Minister expressed satisfaction over the intensification of cooperation in security and defence also at the EU level. It is very positive that all the three Baltic States have decided to join the Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO), which the European Union Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defence will confirm next week by signing a joint Notification on the establishment of PESCO, accented the Minister.
Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed conviction that launching PESCO will be a major step towards the strengthening of the EU’s common defence and security policy. The Baltic States should actively make use of opportunities that PESCO provides for carrying out joint projects in the development of defence capabilities and ensuring military mobility, thereby reinforcing the security of the Baltic States and that of the EU as a whole.
The Foreign Minister drew attention to challenges triggered by Brexit. Work in the EU should go on, since a politically and economically consolidated and strong European Union is in all our interests, noted the Minister. The European Union is not only a single market, it is first and foremost a union of values rooted in our historical legacy. Therefore, it is essential that the European Union remains on guard for the values such as human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, emphasised Edgars Rinkēvičs. We are aware, the Minister said, that the aspect of aligning the standards of living among the Member States is of key importance for the unity and further development of the European Union; therefore our interests are vested in making this happen as soon as possible.
In an official ceremony, the Foreign Minister of Latvia was awarded the medal of the Baltic Assembly for upholding the cooperation and unity of the Baltic States.