Latvia remains consistent supporter of ENP and enlargement

Despite the difficult situation in Georgia after the military conflict of August 2008, which will probably have an indirect – possibly also direct – impact on both the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the enlargement of the Union, Latvia remains a consistent supporter of both the ENP and the idea that the EU should not close its doors to new and worthy members. EU enlargement and the ENP will, in all likelihood, continue be high-salience topics in Latvia. Evidence for this comes from the public statements of Latvian leaders and the recent policy documents issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A policy document on EU enlargement was issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 29 December 2008.[1] After an endorsement of the Union’s enlargement in Southeast Europe in general, and the candidacies of Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia in particular, there is an explanation which sheds light not only on Latvia’s attitude toward these particular issues, but also on EU enlargement and the ENP in general: “From our own experience, we know how significant the European perspective is for each country’s democratic stability, development and well-being of the people. Only close inter-state cooperation within a regional and a European framework can provide them with solidarity, regional development, security and peace. Latvia is ready to assist these countries in their development because it understands the value of such assistance on the road to membership of the EU.”[2]

Although the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not issued a policy document specifically on the ENP, there is no paucity of official statements on the ENP and related initiatives, which demonstrate Latvia’s basic commitment to the ENP and its desire to make the policy more effective and more responsive to those to whom it is addressed. Speaking to the European Parliament on 13 January 2009, President Valdis Zatlers said that “Latvia is and will continue to actively support and implement the European Neighbourhood Policy.”[3] This view is also mirrored in the documents on Latvia’s foreign policy priorities during the past and the current EU presidencies. There is an entire section with detailed recommendations on the implementation of the ENP in the compilation of priorities during the French Presidency. The document makes it clear that although Latvia’s principal focus is on the EU’s Eastern neighbours, it is important that ENP is balanced and develops cooperation also with the EU neighbours to the South.[4] In that spirit, Latvia takes part in the Barcelona Process.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs Māris Riekstiņš noted in his address to the annual conference of Latvian ambassadors on 17 December 2008 in Rīga, from its inception, Latvia has been a staunch supporter of the EU Eastern Partnership, and looks forward to its launching in spring 2009 during the Czech EU Presidency.[5] Likewise, President Valdis Zatlers in his speech to the European Parliament stressed the significance of the Eastern Partnership and endorsed it enthusiastically.[6]

 

 

 

[1] Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Eiropas Savienības paplašināšanās, available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/eu/ES-paplasinasanas/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[2] Ibid.
[3] The full text of President Zatlers speech is available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/Runas/2009/janvaris/13-1/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[4] Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Latvijai būtiskākie jautājumi ārlietu jomā Francijas ES prezidentūras laikā 2008. gada otrajā pusē, available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/eu/Prioritates/FrancijasPrezidentura/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[5] The full text of the speech is available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/Runas/2008/decembris/17-1/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[6] The full text of President Zatlers speech is available at: http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/Jaunumi/Runas/2009/janvaris/13-1/ (last access: 25 January 2009).