In 2018, Latvia will retain its focus on driving forward reforms in the European Union (EU), especially in the field of a stronger socio-economic integration, competitiveness, security and defence.
Discussion on the future of the EU
Latvia will actively engage in a debate following a plan for discussions on the EU’s future endorsed by the European Council of October 2017. The issues related to the EU’s future most important for Latvia to be discussed in 2018 are the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework and the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Latvia will continue working so that the upcoming proposal for the EU’s post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework would reflect a balance between the goals of EU internal development and convergence enshrined in EU treaties and support for new challenges faced by the EU, for instance, migration, internal and external security, and climate change. When assessing proposals for the deepening of the EMU, Latvia will focus on principles such as stability of the euro area, competitiveness and convergence among the Member States.
Single Market and the social dimension
Latvia will continue to maintain the integrity of EU Single Market by working on the removal of obstacles and strengthening the services sector. It is essential to continue work on increasing the EU’s competitiveness and invigorating European industry.
Latvia supports the commitment to improve working and living conditions enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. In further work, a well-considered and balanced approach is needed in pursuit of rights and principles provided for in the pillar. It should be taken into account that economic convergence among the Member States is a condition for a more successful resolution of the social dimension issues.
Digital Single Market
It is essential to complete work on proposals set out in the Digital Single Market Strategy, such as the European Electronic Communications Code, the copyright package, and free flow of data. An ambitious approach to the shaping of EU Digital Single Market should be retained, especially to proposals that facilitate the removal of all disproportionate restrictions.
Energy Union and climate policy
Work should continue on the formulation of conditions for the functioning of the Energy Union and deepening a single energy market. In the context of the Climate and Energy Framework it is essential that an agreement be achieved with the European Parliament on proposals such as the Effort Sharing Regulation and the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation.
It is important for Latvia to achieve balanced provisions of the Clean Energy Package that would ensure the delivery of EU targets in a cost-effective manner, not making the targets binding at the Member State level.
Further efforts are required to develop conditions for the implementation of the Paris Agreement pursuant to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, so that they could be approved by the end of 2018.
Latvia will continue supporting a comprehensive approach to migration policy through further strengthening of external border management, implementing an effective return policy and cooperating with the main countries of origin and transit of migrants.
As concerns the reform of the Common European Asylum System, it is essential to achieve a solution acceptable for all Member States. Any involvement in initiatives concerning the reception of third country nationals should be voluntary.
Work is to continue on the multilateral trade system, including the strengthening of the WTO’s role taking into account the interests of EU businesses. Further active work is needed on the opening up and capturing of new export markets by signing balanced and mutually advantageous free trade agreements. The strengthening of transatlantic relations being a priority for Latvia, we are positive about the resumption of the US-EU trade negotiations as soon as the US is ready for that.
Security and defence
In work on the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, Latvia’s interests lie in support for the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
An important issue for Latvia in the field of internal security is information exchange and especially interoperability of EU information systems, which would a more effective fight against terrorism and crime. Latvia remains firm in its belief that the EU should be ambitious, and work on this issue should be intensified in order to ensure interoperability of EU information systems by 2020.
Latvia’s interests lie the return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area in the nearest possible future.
Latvia emphasises the significance of transatlantic relations. It is vital to continue the successful cooperation with the EU’s most important strategic partner – the US, including on security and energy issues. The EU should also continue positively developing and enhancing relationship with Canada.
The implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy should continue, offering support for partners in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood and the Western Balkans with the implementation of reforms and promoting political, security and societal resilience.
A “two-track policy” should be continued in relations between the EU and Russia: restrictive measures (sanctions) alongside a dialogue at the diplomatic and expert level. Such an approach should be maintained until full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Other issues on the EU agenda that are important for Latvia in 2018
Although sufficient progress was achieved in December 2017 in the first phase of talks on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, complicated negotiations are expected in 2018 on several outstanding issues concerning the withdrawal, the possible transition period, and the framework for future relationship. No effort should be spared to ensure that the political agreements achieved are correctly reflected in Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU in order to ensure legal certainty for citizens. It is vital for the 27 EU Member States to also maintain unity in the next phases of negotiations.
The United Kingdom is an important ally and international partner to Latvia: it is still in Latvia’s interests to also ensure close cooperation with the United Kingdom in the future, notably in trade, foreign policy, security and defence, as well as home affairs and justice.