On 11–12 March 2019, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in the informal meeting of the European Union (EU) General Affairs Council in Bucharest, Romania. The central item on the agenda was an agreement to be reached on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021–2027.
During discussions with ministers and heads of delegation of the other Member States, the Parliamentary Secretary underlined that levelling out socio-economic disparities among the EU Member States and regions, or their convergence, remained one of the main objectives for the EU. “Only an internally strong and united EU can be competitive globally. Therefore, it is important that bridging the socio-economic gap between countries and regions in the EU be reflected in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework as a cross-cutting priority,” said the Parliamentary Secretary.
“Convergence as a cross-cutting priority implies sufficient funds for Cohesion policy, equal financing for direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy and for rural development, and also financing for the Rail Baltica project that would promote growth in the Baltic region,” Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined.
Convergence also means equal access for EU Member States and regions to the programmes such as Horizon Europe, so that excellent scientists working in universities and research centres of comparatively smaller member states are not excluded from participation in joint EU-level research projects, said the Parliamentary Secretary in a discussion on the Multiannual Financial Framework. That would help exploit the research excellence potential of the whole of Europe; otherwise, difference would further increase in opportunities for the socio-economic development of the countries.
The morning session of the informal meeting of the General Affairs Council was devoted to discussions with the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets and the responsible rapporteurs on the multiannual budget’s legislative package. The European Parliament’s position largely reflects the issues that are of interest to Latvia and were discussed in bilateral meetings with these MEPs over the past year, explaining Latvia’s interests and its position.
To ensure funding for both the EU new priorities and conventional programmes that have proven their effectiveness a sufficient total amount of EU multiannual budget is required.
After the in-depth discussion, George Ciamba, Minister for European Affairs of the country currently holding the EU Council Presidency, confirmed that an updated MFF Negotiating Box would be presented in April. The document would draw on the current political debate between ministers and heads of national delegations and technical discussions at the expert level. The previous Negotiating Box was published last November during the Austrian Presidency.
At the informal meeting, the Member States also shared views on the Strategic Agenda for 2019–2024, which is to be adopted at the European Council in June. The Strategic Agenda elements important for Latvia are unity and convergence, as well as internal and external resilience.
Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica underlined that in order to ensure economic growth it was vital to ensure an effective and digitalised Single Market, a strong Economic and Monetary Union and an interconnected Energy Union. Meanwhile, the EU role should be enhanced in the security and defence policy, without duplicating NATO, and a systematic approach should be taken to the prevention of hybrid threat and disinformation.
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