€315bn investment plan 'focal point' of Latvian EU council presidency
EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Latvian prime minister Laimdota Straujuma have met in Riga to kick off Latvia's EU council presidency.
Straujuma said that during its mandate, Latvia would focus on introducing the commission's €315bn investment plan, "which testifies that we are committed to supporting our businesses".
Other key policy areas will be "the digital agenda" as well as "neighbourhood relations and free trade agreements which are essential".
Juncker said this would be "a presidency which will be a symbol of reconciliation between different regions in Europe".
He also said that "presidencies run by smaller countries are more successful, because they seem to focus on the main issues rather than dealing with smaller everyday events".
He pointed out that Latvia's policy priorities "reflect very closely those of the commission itself".
"[This will be] a presidency which will be a symbol of reconciliation between different regions in Europe" - Jean-Claude Juncker
He explained that "the investment plan will be one of the focal points for the six months to come", and that the legislative text would be "adopted in Strasbourg next Thursday".
Additionally, Juncker announced the commission "decided to extend financial support made available to Ukraine", to the tune of €1.8bn.
Following the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week, Straujuma said, "it is a moment when all of us in the EU can show that we are ready to defend the values of humanism".
After asking the people present to observe a minute of silence, she admitted, "it is very difficult to start discussing again the topics that were on the agenda, however, at the same time, I want to express my joy that Juncker is here today and that we had a chance to discuss our priorities in an honest and just manner".
She highlighted that "we won't be able to avoid dealing with matters related to internal security".
Juncker also commented on the Charlie Hebdo shooting, describing it as "an attack against our way of life - Europe needs to react in consequence of that".
However, he warned that "it is time now for silence, not yet for action - my experience shows that one shouldn't react immediately with legislation".
The former Luxembourg prime minister called for "links between what the different national authorities are doing to ensure we can be more effective in fighting terrorism".
He also said that "we will be looking closely at how to improve cooperation between member states in combating terrorism".
He added, "we need to see how Schengen can be improved and made more effective".
Both EU chiefs will face parliament at the next plenary session in Strasbourg.
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