Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Priorities of Latvian Presidency of European Council: Latvian Ambassador to Ireland

2:30 pm

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

As the Chairman did, I welcome the ambassador and his colleague to the committee. I compliment him on his presentation and wish his country well in its Presidency. I welcome that Latvia has decided to prioritise economic growth and job creation as key goals. He outlined the overarching priorities of a competitive Europe, a digital Europe and an engaged Europe. There are challenges arising from the technological expansion across the EU. It is important for all member states of the EU and its citizens that we boost smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. I welcome that Latvia hopes to advance the formulation of a proper framework for data protection, which is important in this era in which we are living. Reducing telecommunications costs is an issue particularly for people who travel a good deal and for somebody like myself who lives in a Border constituency. Unfortunately, we have a land Border in our own country and we have to put up with those costs.

With regard to the European External Action Service and the Lisbon treaty of 2009, both of those in their own way have made Europe a more visible actor in international affairs and in trade and diplomacy also. The ambassador outlined that Latvia wants to facilitate a continued and an increased presence of the EU and better engagement and relations with its immediate neighbours.

With regard to the Eastern Partnership, does the ambassador believe that a more prudent approach is needed by the European Union in its dealings with neighbouring countries? He stated in his presentation that Latvia intends to contribute to the strengthening of the Eastern Partnership as an inclusive platform and to promoting a more individual approach to each partner country, respecting their own ambitions. That is a mutual requirement for both the EU and its neighbouring countries.

Last summer Latvia increased its defence budget on its eastern border with Russia and it requested additional security help from NATO. I note in a comment Latvia's ambassador to the United States made last Thursday that he stated that citizens of Latvia remain nervous and concerned about the rising tensions between Russia and the West. He also stated that the situation is getting worse. Has Latvia felt supported sufficiently by the European Union and the European External Action Service when dealing with Russian aggression on its borders? As we review the work of the Presidency of the EU, the heightened tension and conflict in the Ukraine today and the major loss of life is a very worrying development. We sincerely hope that a ceasefire will be achieved and that progress will be made in bringing about real and meaningful dialogue to bring that dispute to a proper conclusion. I thank the ambassador and wish his country well in its Presidency.


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