Latvian MEPs react to EU council presidency

Sandra Kalniete, Andrejs Mamikins, Roberts Zīle, and Tatjana Ždanoka share their views on the priorities for the EU council presidency.
Latvia EU council presidency an opportunity to enhance eastern ties

The EU council presidency is Latvia's chance to strengthen Europe's neighbourhood policy, says Sandra Kalniete.

One of the three priorities of the Latvian EU council presidency is achieving a more engaged and globally responsible EU. The dramatic increase of security threats linked to or stemming from the European neighbourhood has put additional focus on this.

Latvia should contribute to the review of the European neighbourhood policy, while keeping the eastern partnership alive. A number of eastern European countries have expressed their wish for closer ties with the EU, and the eastern partnership summit due to take place in Riga should recommit to this. It should also enhance pragmatic dialogue with the whole post-Soviet region. In this context, Latvia aims to revise the EU's strategy for central Asia, where the presence and involvement of the EU hasnot reached its full potential. Of course, Ukraine will be a key issue which will require preserving unity and coherence of the union's actions.

Strengthening the EU's international role also implies global aspects. Latvia should assist the commission's trade agreement negotiations with the United States, Canada and Japan. The ambitious transatlantic trade and investment partnership would increase global income by nearly €100bn and provide economic incentives for the EU, as well as enhance transatlantic security links.

As 2015 is the European year for development, Latvia will focus on the EU's contribution to the UN summit on sustainable development and post-2015 poverty reduction targets. The common security and defence policy should also be gradually enhanced so it can meet global challenges.

Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LV) is a vice-chair of parliament's EPP group

 

Fighting unemployment, social exclusion and inequality should be priorities for Riga

Latvia is in prime position to help the EU tackle poverty within its borders, argues Andrejs Mamikins.

I am very proud that my country, Latvia, has now taken over the EU council presidency. This is both a great responsibility and a great advantage for Latvian officials and politicians. It gives us the opportunity to show off our country and present our vision for the EU's future development.

There are many problems to which Latvia could pay serious attention. In my opinion, the presidency should focus on fighting unemployment, social exclusion and inequalities. Currently in the EU, 24.6 million people are unemployed. Around 25 per cent of Europe's population lives at risk of poverty. In Latvia, 35 per cent of the population lives in poverty. It would therefore make sense for Latvia to pay particular attention to this problem.

"Currently in the EU, 24.6 million people are unemployed"

The 'Europe 2020' strategy aims to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 20 million within 10 years. We are already nearly halfway to the deadline, but unfortunately the results so far have not given us any reason for optimism. This could be due to two problems. Either the plans were too not reached its full potential. Of course, Ukraine will be a key issue which will require preserving unity and coherence of the union's actions. Strengthening the EU's international role also implies global aspects. Latvia should assist the commission's trade agreement negotiations with the United States, Canada and Japan. The ambitious transatlantic trade and investment partnership would increase global income by nearly €100bn and provide economic incentives for the EU, as well as enhance transatlantic security links. As 2015 is the European year for development, Latvia will focus on the EU's contribution to the UN summit on sustainable development and post-2015 poverty reduction targets. The common security and defence policy should also be gradually enhanced so it can meet global challenges. Ambitious and unrealistic, or the way the strategy is being implemented is not effective. In my view, the 'Europe 2020' goals are achievable, but the EU lacks the will and ambition to reach them. Therefore, I would like to see the Latvian EU council presidency put forward a clear strategy within the social field, and demonstrate energetic fulfilment of its goals.

Andrejs Mamikins (S&D, LV) is a member of parliament's foreign affairs committee

 

Geopolitical issues with Russia require 'special attention' from Latvian presidency

Latvia must strive to promote European values in central Asia in order to counteract Russian influence, writes Roberts Zīle.

Latvia is taking over the EU council presidency for the first time. This entails even greater responsibility and, at the same time, a brighter spotlight while Latvia tries to fulfil all duties and objectives set by its government in order to generate a solid performance and outcome for its term.

The top presidency priorities – a competitive, digital and engaging Europe – are already well known. Unfortunately, sometimes new priorities emerge due to unforeseen events, such as the recent tragic Paris attacks, and these need to be tackled as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, I would like to point out another substantial – and judging by the recent issues in Ukraine, also relevant – case. We must pay special attention to the geopolitical issues and challenges that Europe is facing today from Russia.

It is a well-known fact that Russia is desperate to gain power in central Asia and in the eastern partnership states, in order to build up momentum towards the so called Eurasian union pushed by Russian president Vladimir Putin. We must develop a common European approach to these Asian countries, not only in terms of promoting democratic and European values, but also in the interest of limiting Russia's geopolitical intentions among these states. Judging by the reality that Ukraine is facing right now, it is safe to say that Russia's interests do not necessarily match those of other sovereign countries. It is our duty and responsibility to act.

Roberts Zīle (ECR, LV) is a member of parliament's transport and tourism committee

 

Latvia must seize chance to 'tone down' Europe's aggressive Russia rhetoric

Poor Russian relations and an EU recession mean no major outcome can be expected from the Latvian presidency, argues Tatjana Ždanoka.

Because of previously established adverse conditions in Europe, we can hardly expect any notable or revolutionary improvements to come out of the Latvian EU council presidency. The largest European economies slowed down in 2014, leading the EU to recession. This circumstance has made it very difficult for Latvia to reach one of its main presidency goals – promoting the competitiveness and growth of the EU. Now, we must start thinking of ways to soften the social impact of the recession in EU member states.

"The main concern is that the world teeters on the brink of a large scale military conflict"

The EU's conflict with Russia, and the fact that our heads of state simply let the US take the lead, has weakened the EU's role on the global stage. We have now reverted back to the same climate that ruled during the cold war, when geopolitical competition suppressed all other forms of international relations. The impact of mutual sanctions has worsened the recession in Europe. However, the main concern is that the world teeters on the brink of a large scale military conflict.

Of course, Latvia itself cannot find a way out of the situation – that depends mostly on the behaviour of leading global actors. The best thing Latvia could do during its presidency is to tone down the aggressive rhetoric towards all topics related to Russia, paving the way for future reconciliation.

Tatjana Ždanoka (Greens/EFA, LV) is a member of parliament's employment and social affairs committee

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