[FPN] No. 70, 15 - 19 June 2009

19.06.2009. 15:31

LATVIA TODAY: FOREIGN POLICY NEWS

15 - 19 June 2009

No. 70


HEADLINES

Highlights     

Latvian officials participate in the meeting of the European Council

Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins gratified with Council's conclusions on European conscience and totalitarianism

In brief

Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins expresses regret about non-extension of UN Observer Mission mandate in Georgia

Children from Gaza Strip arrive on rehabilitation course in Latvia

Memorial plaques to deportees from Latvia to be installed in Siberia

In Washington, Ambassador of Latvia to the U.S. participates in memorial events devoted to victims of communism

HIGHLIGHTS

Latvian officials participate in the meeting of the European Council

On 17 June, Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, headed to Brussels in order to participate in the meeting of the European Council which is held on 18 and 19 June.

On 18 June in Brussels, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis met Prime Ministers of Nordic countries and the Baltic States. During the meeting, heads of governments, especially of the Swedish Government, spoke strongly in support of the need to gain approval to amendments to the budget of Latvia in order to receive the next tranche of the international loan.

Sweden's Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt expressed firm support to current fiscal policy measures taken by the Latvian Government which are based on securing stability of the Latvian national currency (lats). He also added that currency's stability is key to maintaining economic security and stability in Nordic countries and the Baltic region.

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis also met the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende, who expressed his support to the Latvian economic reform process and budget cuts. In discussions about the economic situation in Latvia, head of the Dutch Government expressed understanding about the Latvian Government's support to the banking sector stabilisation, also adding that similar measures have been taken by the Dutch Government.

On 18-19 June, Foreign Minster Maris Riekstins, as part of the delegation of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, participates in the European Council meeting. 

The European Council is to discuss the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's institutional issues, the economic, financial and social situation in the EU, climate change and sustainable development, illegal immigration, as well as external relations.

At the European Council, it is expected that Member States will achieve an agreement concerning the solution on legal guarantees to Ireland with regard to the Lisbon Treaty. The legal guarantees are planned to be adopted by a joint resolution of Member States and heads of governments. An agreement is also to be reached on the candidate for next President of the European Commission. Latvia supports the provision of legal guarantees to Ireland if their contents and substance will follow the agreement by EU states and heads of governments at the European Council of December 2008. In view of the results of the elections to the European Parliament, Latvia considers that the current President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, is a suitable candidate for a repeated nomination to office.

Based on the European Commission's report on the implementation of the European Economic Recovery Plan, the European Council will evaluate what has been accomplished so far for the stabilisation of financial markets and economic recovery. Discussions have also been planned about the European Commission's proposal on the improvement of financial supervision. With the aim of reducing the impact of economic recession on the social sector, the Council will discuss the proposal by the European Commission to allow the EU Member States to cancel or to reduce national co-financing for the European Social Fund projects to be implemented in 2009 and 2010.

Latvia considers this EC proposal to be a significant step in supporting Member States in the implementation of employment measures during the economic and financial crisis. Latvia would be interested to apply the low co-financing approach also to other EU funds as well as to transpose the European Commission proposals into specific legal acts.

In preparations for the Copenhagen Conference on the regime for the mitigation of post-2012 climate change, the European Council will emphasise that the EU expects an equivalent contribution by other developed countries and the commitment of developing countries which is adequate to their capabilities. The EU Member States have already agreed that all the countries of the world are to contribute (except least developed countries) and the contributions should be based on the adequacy of commitments and 'polluter pays' principles.

At the same time, the EU retains the right not to apply the said principles to the internal distribution of the EU contribution. Latvia holds a view that as many as possible countries should be involved in the implementation of the future climate change policy. Latvia also supports the principles laid down by international agreements. In the nearest future it is necessary to agree on principles for the distribution of commitments within the EU.

Latvia notes with satisfaction that the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is on the European Council's agenda and welcomes the Council decision to adopt the strategy in October 2009. Likewise, Latvia appreciates the reference in the European Council conclusions to the development of the Baltic Region Energy Interconnection Plan, which will be approved at the European Council by signing a Memorandum of Understanding at the level of Prime Ministers.

The European Council meeting also includes an agenda point on fighting illegal immigration by the conclusion of readmission agreements with immigrants' countries of origin, by the introduction of the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, and by strengthening the role of Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union). Latvia recognises the seriousness of the situation in the Mediterranean Region and the urgency of a rapid and rational solution. At the same time, any initiatives on internal displacements of persons within the EU borders should be based on the Member States' voluntary participation.

In the external relations section, it is planned to issue a declaration on Afghanistan and Pakistan, highlighting the EU's interest in the stablisation of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, further EU-Pakistani co-operation areas following the EU-Pakistan Summit on 17 June, as well as the European Union's readiness to support the process of the forthcoming presidential elections in Afghanistan.

The conclusions of the European Council are planned to include also references to the strengthening of the European Neighborhood Policy Eastern Partnership during the Czech Presidency, the need to continue working actively on the Eastern Partnership, as well as transatlantic relations and the situation in Burma/Myanmar.

Read | Other link | Other link | Other link

The Cabinet of Ministers, 16-18 June 2009  

MFA, 18 June 2009

European Council

Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins gratified with Council's conclusions on European conscience and totalitarianism

On 15 June, Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins attended the meeting of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) held in Luxembourg. At the GAERC meeting, the EU foreign ministers prepared for the European Council of 18-19 June as well as discussed topical issues of bilateral relations. The EU foreign ministers also approved the Council conclusions on European conscience and totalitarianism as well as a draft EU-U.S. joint statement on Guantanamo.

While preparing for the European Council meeting of 18-19 June, the EU foreign ministers debated the issues on the European Council's agenda - the Lisbon Treaty and the EU's institutional issues; the economic, financial and social situation in the EU; climate change and sustainable development; illegal migration, as well as external relations. It is expected that the forthcoming European Council will achieve an agreement on the solution of legal guarantees for Ireland with regard to the Lisbon Treaty and on the appointment of the European Commission president. The European Council is to evaluate the measures taken to date for the stabilisation of financial markets and for economic recovery. The Member States will debate a new EU level framework for the monitoring of financial markets. In preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December this year, the European Council will discuss the principles for financing climate change and the sharing among Member States of the relevant EU contribution.

Participating in the discussion on the key points on the European Council's agenda, Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins emphasised the necessity to carry out the EU initiative in the field of employment. The initiative foresees the reduction of member state co-financing to the EU funded projects in 2009 and 2010.

Minister Riekstins expressed satisfaction with the fact that the European Council is to address the issues of vital importance for Latvia – the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the Baltic Region Energy Interconnection Plan.

Minister Riekstins is gratified that the GAERC has approved the Council conclusions on European conscience and totalitarianism and that the Council supports the opinion by the European Parliament regarding the need to raise awareness in Europe on crimes perpetrated by totalitarian regimes.

The GAERC approved a draft joint statement by the EU and its Member States and by the United States of America on the closure of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and on further co-operation in fighting terrorism, while supporting shared values and international law as well as upholding the rule of law and respecting human rights. 

In their discussion on other topical issues of external relations, the foreign ministers agreed on the necessity of a continued dialogue with Cuba, and gave an assessment to the situation in the Middle East, with a particular focus on the recent address by Binyamin Netanyahu, President of Israel.

The EU foreign ministers reviewed the current situation in the Middle East peace process, the role of Syria therein, as well as the expanding of the EU-Syria relations. The ministers also discussed the elections in Lebanon which took place on 7 June and their impact on Lebanon's future development.

The GAERC approved the European Council's conclusions regarding Cuba. Last year the EU came forth with a proposal to resume a political dialogue with Cuba. On 17 September 2008, the Cuban government expressed its consent to renew a political dialogue with the EU and recognised that such a step was taken after the EU suspended diplomatic sanctions against Cuba in June.

The EU foreign ministers adopted conclusions on regional co-operation and visa liberalization for the Western Balkans Region. The Council restated its support for the dialogue on visa liberalisation with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, based on clear and realistic benchmarks and on a country-by-country assessment. Council encouraged the European Commission to present as soon as possible a legislative proposal, in order to achieve a visa free regime by the end of 2009 with those countries that will have met all the benchmarks.

The Council exchanged views on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the light of the upcoming Peace Implementation Council's Steering Board meeting on 29 and 30 June 2009.

Read | GAERC Conclusions

MFA, 15 June 2009

IN BRIEF

Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins expresses regret about non-extension of UN Observer Mission mandate in Georgia

"I note with regret that on Monday, 15 June, the member countries of the UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement on an extension of the mandate for the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), after the Russian Federation used its veto right," says Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins.

"Considering that the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, after the non-extension of the mandate for the OSCE mission to Georgia, remained in fact the only independent international mission which was guaranteed access to a separatist region of Georgia, its termination will considerably reduce the possibilities for the international community to obtain information on processes in those territories as well as to provide purposeful support in seeking peaceful solutions to the conflicts," Foreign Minister Riekstins also indicates.

At the same time, Minister Riekstins reaffirms Latvia's strong support to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. Mr Riekstins also points out that under the conditions when the opportunities for the international community to oversee the security and humanitarian situation have been considerably restricted, even more sensitive has become the issue of securing access by the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia to the country's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The UN observer mission in Georgia was operating since 1993 and had a significant role in the monitoring of security situation in Georgia's breakaway region, Abkhazia, and in the facilitation of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On 15 June in New York, the UN Security Council voted on the resolution which envisaged the extension of the mandate for the UN Observer Mission in Georgia. However, due to the Russian Federation's negative vote, the UN Security Council failed to reach the agreement on extending the UNOMIG mandate. Thus the UN Observer Mission in Georgia was forced to cease its operations by 16 June this year. 

Read  

MFA, 17 June 2009

Children from Gaza Strip arrive on rehabilitation course in Latvia

On 16 June, 18 Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip will arrive in Latvia to undergo a two-week rehabilitation course at the Social Integration State Agency in Dubulti. The Project is implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the financial and organisational support from the Honorary Consuls of Latvia in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as the non-governmental organisation Lidere (The Leader). On the part of the Palestinian National Authority, the project was co-ordinated by the Foreign Ministry and the organisation Give Gaza. The Ambassador of Latvia to Egypt, Maris Selga, met the project participants at the Gaza-Egypt border crossing point and companied them to Cairo Airport.

The Project participants are children from six to eighteen years of age, who have suffered during the recent military crisis either from injuries of from losing their parents. The Social Integration State Agency will provide to each child an individual rehabilitation programme prescribed by a doctor that will include counselling by a psychologist, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, medical gymnastics and, in case of need, also medication. Beside the treatment programme, a programme will be offered for getting to know Latvia: children will see the sights of Jurmala and Riga, visit museums, and experience our Midsummer traditions by taking part in Midsummer Eve celebrations led by folklore groups in Jurmala. 

Invaluable organisational support to the preparation of the Project was provided by the Honorary Consuls of Latvia - Saad Aguizi in Egypt, Khaled Miqdadi in Jordan, Gerard Renno in Lebanon and Nihad Zabadneh in Syria – who ensured communication with the relevant Palestinian institutions and provided financial support for the project participants' travel to the airport. During the project, the Honorary Consul of Latvia in Jordan, Khaled Miqdadi is expected to come to Latvia in order to meet the project participants and treat the children to an afternoon cultural programme.

The Centre of Arab Culture headed by Hosam Meri will provide Latvian-Arabic interpretation and will organise leisure events for the Palestinian children, including a boat trip on the river Daugava.

The NGO Lidere under the guidance of Aiva Viksna, following its motto "to bring more love and warmth into the world", will take the children on a visit to the Museum of the Sun. Palestinian and Latvian children will then have an opportunity to paint images of the Sun and to give well-wishes to one another.

The humanitarian assistance project The rehabilitation programme for traumatised children from the Gaza Strip is Latvia's contribution to the support provided by the international community to the reconstruction in the Gaza's Strip and overcoming the humanitarian crisis after the military operation earlier this year, in accordance with the commitments made by the International Conference for the Support of the Reconstruction of Gaza on 2 March in Cairo.

By the Cabinet Decree of 12 March, the Government of Latvia allocated LVL 17 500 for the implementation of the project The rehabilitation programme for traumatised children from the Gaza Strip. Of these, LVL 8 600 will be spent on a rehabilitation programme at the Social Integration State Agency, and LVL 8 900 is to cover the project participants' travel costs to Latvia.

Read

MFA, 16 June 2009

Memorial plaques to deportees from Latvia to be installed in Siberia

On 17 June in Yeniseisk, Eastern Siberia, representatives from the foundation for support and assistance to victims of communist terror, Sibirijas berni (Children of Siberia), who had survived and returned to Latvia, as well as their relatives, will install a commemorative plaque to honour Latvian mothers who saved their children.

Later, there are plans to install a plaque in Igarka to Latvians, who perished in the permafrost land, and in Kansk – to Latvian children who remained in Siberia.

On 15 June, the Sibirijas berni foundation and film director Dzintra Geka met with representatives of the Embassy of Latvia in Russia and talked about the necessity to promote a discussion on the complex issues of the 20th century history of Latvia.

14 June 1941 saw the deportation of as many as 15 425 residents of Latvia including Latvians, Jews, Russians and Poles, 3751 of whom were children under 16.

MFA, 16 June 2009

In Washington, Ambassador of Latvia to the U.S. participates in memorial events devoted to victims of communism

On 16 June, the Ambassador of Latvia to the U.S., Andrejs Pildegovics, attended the events of the Memorial Day honouring the victims of Communism. This year's remembrance activities have a special symbolic significance as twenty years have passed since a number of important events related to the fall of the "Iron Curtain".

A commemoration ceremony was held at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington. Representatives from more than twenty countries and international organisations laid wreaths to honour all those lost to the Communist regime.

At the U.S. Capitol, the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom Awards was presented as each year for special merits in the promotion of freedom and democracy.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation officially launched a unique project, the Global Virtual Museum on Communism, which has been developed also with the assistance from the state of Latvia.

The mission of the Global Virtual Museum on Communism is to educate this generation and future generations about the atrocities perpetrated by the communist regimes and to keep alive the memory of the more than 100 million victims of communism.

Read

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, 15 June 2009

Embassy of Latvia in Washington, 17 June 2009

COMING EVENTS
27 - 28 June 2009

Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins to participate in the OSCE Foreign Ministers Meeting on Corfu Island, the Republic of Greece

LINKS:

http://www.president.lv

http://www.saeima.lv

http://www.mk.gov.lv

http://www.am.gov.lv


The newsletter "Latvia today: foreign policy news" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the media and official sources. The views published do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs