On 29 November 2019, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs participated in the annual session of the Baltic Council and Baltic Assembly that took place at the Saeima (Latvian Parliament). The Presidency of the Baltic Council of Ministers is rotated annually among the Baltic States, and, in 2019, Latvia has taken on this presiding role in Baltic State cooperation.
In his welcoming remarks to the Baltic parliamentarians, the Minister thanked them for the current good cooperation and active engagement in resolving issues of high importance for the Baltic States. The priorities we have set for the Latvian presidency are the strengthening of security in the region, development of regional connectivity and standing up for our common interests in the European Union, Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined.
Speaking about strengthening of security, the Minister highlighted the fact that the Baltic States have ensured the Allied presence and regular military exercises in the region. In addition, NATO’s Headquarters Multinational Division North was inaugurated this year in Camp Ādaži. We are pleased about the United States plan to hold a military exercise next spring, envisaging the largest scale deployment of U.S. forces in Europe as part of any exercise over the past 25 years, the Minister said.
The Foreign Minister expressed satisfaction with the establishment of a regional gas market from 1 January 2020 onwards. This will facilitate competition among natural gas suppliers and, consequently, have a positive impact on gas prices and national economies in general, he underlined.
The Minister drew the MPs attention to the key task in the development of the Rail Baltica project: to also ensure the highest possible intensity of co-financing from the European Union in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework after 2021. We have achieved major progress this year, since the largest part of the Rail Baltica main line has reached the design phase, said Edgars Rinkēvičs, adding that meanwhile an agreement should be reached on the model for the management of the emerging infrastructure.
The Latvian Foreign Minister had a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, Linas Linkevičius, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, Urmas Reinsalu, to discuss backing for the Baltic States’ interests in negotiations on the EU’s multiannual budget and the future of the Eastern Partnership initiative. The Estonian Foreign Minister informed his counterparts about the Estonian presidency priorities for the Baltic States cooperation next year.
The Baltic Council meets once a year and brings together members of the Baltic States parliaments and Foreign Ministers. The Baltic Council is a valuable format for cooperation and a discussion platform between the Baltic States’ national parliaments and governments.
On 1 January 2020, Estonia will take over the presidency in coordinating the Baltic States cooperation.
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