On 22 June 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia took part in the meeting of the European Union (EU) General Affairs Council in Luxembourg. The Council’s agenda included preparations for the European Council meeting on 24-25 June, EU enlargement and the stabilisation and association process, the way ahead on the Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as issues concerning Union values and the rule of law in Poland and Hungary.
The ministers considered the agenda for the meeting of EU heads of state and government, or the European Council, which includes five main topics – coordination of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU’s response and economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic, the external dimension of migration, as well as the EU’s relationship with Turkey and Russia.
Edgars Rinkēvičs affirmed Latvia’s support for the draft conclusion of the European Council drawing attention to the need for highlighting the issues of developments in Belarus. The European Council must once again call on Belarusian authorities to stop torture, to release and exonerate all political prisoners and others who have been arbitrarily detained, as well as stopping the repression of civil society and independent media in Belarus, said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
We welcome, the Minister noted, the rapid action taken by the European Council regarding the adoption of an additional list of individuals and entities in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight and the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus. The European Union should continue standing up for the Belarusian people, and it should continue demanding democratic change and urging Belarusian authorities to respond to the calls for organising of free and fair elections as soon as possible. This is the only way to get out of the current crisis, Edgars Rinkēvičs said. The ministers also discussed the state of play with the introduction of the EU Digital COVID Certificate and information concerning its interoperability with third country certificates.
In a discussion on the economic recovery in the EU following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Latvian Foreign Minister noted that it is vital to continue the implementation of NextGenerationEU and the adoption of national recovery plans to facilitate investment flows and enhance economic recovery in all EU Member States. Latvia supports the European Council’s recommendations on the economic policy of the euro area and recommendations concerning the national fiscal policy for 2021, Edgars Rinkēvičs said. He added that when the economic situation across the EU has stabilised, we expect a return to the provisions of the Stability and Growth Pact which ensures responsible and sustainable domestic spending.
In the context of EU enlargement, Edgars Rinkēvičs welcomed the holding of intergovernmental conferences with Montenegro and Serbia, thereby confirming that the EU continues moving ahead with the enlargement process. The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed hope that this will provide the right impetus and encouragement to Montenegro and Serbia to continue focusing their efforts on the main reforms in order to achieve progress in accession negotiations. In view of the progress achieved by Albania and North Macedonia in the implementation of reforms and to meet our commitments, we must continue moving ahead in the adoption of negotiating frameworks for these two countries and arrange the first intergovernmental conferences at the earliest possible time, the Foreign Minister underlined. Edgars Rinkēvičs also expressed Latvia’s support for the efforts of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU and its proposals for solutions to negotiations with North Macedonia.