On 3 June 2020, Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in video conference meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Nordic-Baltic Eight and the Visegrad Group. Their discussion focused on matters of current importance for the European Union (EU), security policy and international relations on a global scale in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Foreign Ministers talked about the latest developments in relations with China, Russia, the Eastern Partnership, the Western Balkans, and issues concerning cyber security. The Ministers were in agreement that in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, maximum openness and close international cooperation is needed to prevent using the pandemic to advance political agendas.
Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined that strong support is needed for the long-term goals in the development of the Eastern Partnership set by the European Commission by expressing solidarity in addressing the COVID-19 crisis already at the Eastern Partnership summit which is scheduled to take place in the videoconference format this June, as well as drafting a declaration for the 2021 summit.
The Latvian Foreign Minister welcomed the fact that, at this difficult juncture, attention is paid to the Western Balkans. It is essential to take the decision on launching EU accession negotiations with the Western Balkans countries – North Macedonia and Albania – the Latvian Foreign Minister said.
In a conversation on current EU-related issues, the Ministers were in agreement that the coordination of the COVID-19 pandemic exit strategy was the most important. We need a coordinated exit strategy, and balance must be found seeking to improve the economic situation after the crisis, Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined. An agreement must be reached on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework and the Roadmap for Recovery, to achieve as successful rebound as possible. The Foreign Minister noted that the European Commission’s proposal on support from the Recovery Roadmap for the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy is a solid basis for further development and a matter of high importance to Latvia.
Minister Rinkēvičs highlighted the EU’s priorities for promoting development – the Green Deal and digitalisation – mentioning as an example the “Stop Covid” (Apturi Covid) contact tracing application already launched in Latvia.
The participants also expressed support for the first annual report on the situation with the rule of law in the EU and the Member States produced by the European Commission. Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined that the COVID-19 crisis illustrates the true situation with democracy and the rule of law in the countries, and it is vital to prevent the crisis from posing a threat to the EU’s fundamental values and the rule of law.
The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic States and Nordic countries, and the Visegrád Group countries is held annually. This year, the eighth meeting has been organised by countries holding the V4 and NB8 rotating presidencies, the Czech Republic and Estonia. The next NB8 and V4 meeting has been scheduled for 2021 and it will be coordinated by Poland, Finland and Hungary.