Task of the science is to serve
people.

– Tolstoy –

Science is the captain, and
practice the soldiers.

– Leonardo da Vinci –

Frontiers of science are like the
horizon: the more we approach
it, the more it moves away.

– Boiste –

The fantasy is more important
than knowing.

– Albert Einstein –

Science – it means organized
knowledge.

– Spencer –

Freedom for the science the
same as the air for a living soul.

– Poincaré –

Research area of all sciences is
endless.

– Pascal –

System of science must be
looked at as the system of
nature: all in it is endless and
necessary.

– Cuvier –

Scientific plan without working
hypothesis is a skeleton without
living body.

– Hirschfeld-

The main research subject of
mankind is the human.

– Goethe –

All is important in science.

– Heine –

Books must be results of
sciences, but sciences not results
of books.

– Bacon –

Scientist is not the one, who
gives the right answers, but the
one, who asks the right
questions.

– Claude Lévi-Strauss –

The more we will seek for the
truth outside us, the more we
will move away of it. The more
we will be able to understand
who we are, the more the truth
will assert us in ourselves.

– Antonio Meneghetti –

Before being dictated the nature
needs to be obeyed.

– Bacon –

A true scientist is not one who
has more acquired, but one who
has more understood.

– Leibniz –

Science – to know how the
being acts. To know the action
of the being.

– Antonio Meneghetti –

Science is benefactor of
mankind.

– Berthelot –

Latvia external relations briefing: Latvia will become more integrated in Baltics and European Union

As Latvia is a relatively small economy the external cooperation between Baltic countries and European Union has been crucial for the recovery after economic and social  consequences caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Because of that it is seen that within the upcoming months Latvia’s  cooperation with both members of Baltic countries and European Union will continue to increase and Latvia will integrate even further within the European Union.

Latvia could become more integrated in European Union 

Evaluating the European Commission proposals to the European Union Council for the European Reconstruction Fund and the Multiannual Budget it can be seen that the overall amount that Latvia could receive as a support aid, the main criterion for the distribution of money being the severity of the economic shock, according to the Fiscal Discipline Council it is seen that Latvia could receive 2.9 billion Euros in grants and 1.6 billion in loans. These proposals for financial instruments have yet to be agreed by EU Member States, so the total amount of funding earmarked and its distribution among Member States is considered as indicative.

Although the macroeconomic impact of these EU financial instruments will be relatively small (around 1.5% of EU GDP against the current 1%), it is significant that part of the financing is planned to be obtained through European Comission maturing bonds in 2027 and 2028 and increased revenues from the European Unions’s own resources, all this can be seen as a step towards fiscal union, which is essential for the stabilization and more balanced economic development of the euro area.  Because of that it can be seen that Latvia will become more integrated into Euro zone.

Although the governments of the member states have become the main reference point in the conditions of the pandemic and the previous closure of the borders has been a strictly national measure, the European Union will be even more important for Latvia after the post-Covid crisis. Latvia’s economic growth in recent years has been based on the openness of the Latvian economy, active exports and the fact that the environment of Latvia has opened opportunity of tourism. For this reason, countless small companies have developed that provide  catering, beauty, health, cultural and many other services. In the post-Covid conditions, Latvia’s ability to join the wave of economic recovery of the entire European Union will be very important. If the crisis caused by Covid-19 is symmetrical – everyone is equally affected, the recovery from it will be asymmetric – those with more resources and smarter management will recover faster. For that reason, it can be seen that Latvia will follow more to the guidelines of EU to ensure stable recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Currently more focus has been put on European Recovery Instrument regarding envisaged proposal of grants and loans that Latvia will receive to mitigate the consequences of Covid-19 crisis rather than assessing Latvia’s potential contribution to the recovery funds.

The cooperation within the Baltic countries and Poland will be increasing

The outbreak of Coronavirus in 2020 has strengthened the cooperation between the Baltic countries. With the current political developments, it is seen that within the upcoming months the links between the Baltic countries will be even closer.

The Covid-19 crisis had marked similar challenges and situation in all three Baltic countries. The unprecedented prevalence of Covid-19 in all countries has created challenges that will affect their economies and societies in the foreseeable future. In addition, in recent months, national measures of all three Baltic countries have made undeniable progress in curbing the spread of Covid-19 and a gradual easing of restrictive measures has begun. The great achievements with Covid-19 crisis prevention in the health sector and noting the need to restore regular cross-border passenger traffic by road, rail, air and sea between the Baltic States in order to reduce the economic and social impact of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to ensure the free movement of persons across borders, Baltic countries were one of the first European Union member states, which partially re-opened the borders by not enforcing the 14 days quarantine.

The early re-opening of the borders came with additional challenges. Such as considering that, as Covid-19 continues to spread, the resumption of regular passenger traffic between the Baltic States without strong safety measures may increase the prevalence of Covid-19 due to increased travel intensity. Furthermore, noting that the promotion of regular cross-border passenger traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic may require, in the interests of public health, the collection of information to ensure the protection of public health from serious cross-border health threats related to the spread of Covid-19.

These and other previously mentioned aspects served for the reason for closing Memorandum of Understanding between the Baltic member states  about abolition of travel restrictions between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania for road transport, rail, air and maritime transport and cooperation in this field during the Covid-19 crisis.[1]

The Memorandum provides that the Baltic countries will encourage the establishment of communication systems or the use of existing systems by the competent authorities of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to collect, process and transmit information confirming that a person is aware of the Covid-19 restriction conditions in place to protect against cross-border health threats. According to the Memorandum of Understanding Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will continue to contribute to the Baltic countries cooperation by facilitating consultations between the responsible authorities on measures affecting cross-border movements, including, but not limited to, plans to facilitate border controls with other countries, exchange of information on flights and maritime routes to be detected, while active operations and measures to combat the Covid-19 crisis  in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania remain.

During the June of 2020 Baltic countries together with Poland marked the priorities regarding the partnership between the countries.  One of the main priorities still remains strengthening security in the region.[2] In addition, the need to further develop NATO’s defense capabilities in the Baltic and Polish region is emphasized, including through training, maneuvers and increasing the interoperability of the four NATO multinational battle groups and enhancing the region’s air defense capabilities. An agreement was reached to expand work to build resilience to cyber and hybrid threats, thus contributing to EU and NATO action in this area. Representatives of the Baltic and Polish countries have emphasized the urgent need to make appropriate investments in the development of military mobility infrastructure and procedures. The foreign ministries of all four countries have noted that the United States’ expanded military presence in the region is an essential component of security. In addition, a target has been set to improve the security of communications between countries, including 5G.

An important aspect of increasing security is the emphasis on the development of regional connectivity, the implementation of strategic regional energy and transport infrastructure projects, including in the framework of the Three Seas Initiative, and the implementation of the European Union’s digital agenda. More modern and developed connections are important to expand the economic potential of the whole region. The synchronization of the electricity systems of the Baltic States with the European networks through Poland remains essential for the energy security of Baltics and Poland. Given the economic difficulties caused by Covid-19, sufficient European Union  funding is crucial for the successful conclusion of this project. In addition, strengthening the region’s economy, together with the EU-level economic recovery plan, will contribute to the economic growth and job creation of the Baltic and Polish economies, also exploiting the potential of the European Union’s transition to a green economy. Economic cooperation at regional and European Union level must be pursued in a coherent and effective way in various directions, including in order to strengthen and support the European Union’s joint market. Global efforts must be continued to work together to maintain open and flexible international trade and transport opportunities, thus minimizing the already huge impact on the regional economies.

Summary

The role of both European Union and Baltic member states has played significant role for mitigating the consequences of Covid-19 crisis. It is seen that because of the increased cooperation due to the outbreak of Coronavirus Latvia will become more integrated in the European Union. Evaluating the European Commission proposals to the European Union Council for the European Reconstruction Fund and the Multiannual Budget it can be seen that the overall amount that Latvia could receive as a support aid, is approximately  2.9 billion Euros in grants and 1.6 billion in loans. As the Latvia’s economic growth in recent years has been based on the openness of the Latvian economy, active exports and the fact that the environment of Latvia has opened opportunity of tourism, with the current Covid-19 crisis the European Union will be even more important for Latvia. The recently closed Memorandum of Understanding between the Baltic countries aims to strengthen the cooperation to prevent the health system threats due to the Covid-19.  As for the Baltic countries and Poland the main priority within the upcoming period will remain safety of the region.

[1] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66002-saprasanas-memorands

[2] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66061-baltijas-valstu-un-polijas-arlietu-ministru-kopigs-pazinojums-pec-tiksanas-tallina-2020-gada-2-junija

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia external relations briefing: Latvia sets challenging and ambitious Foreign Policy goals

Introduction

As the Covid-19 crisis inevitably remains the most important challenge in the international system, Latvia continues to work actively together with other countries in order to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. However, it is important for the European Union (EU) to focus on the regular agenda as well, so that other important issues are discussed. In recent months, Latvia’s management of the Covid-19 crisis outbreak has been among the best in Europe and Latvia has showed relatively successful epidemiological results. Government action combined with solid work on behalf of the institutions of the interior and health sectors have led to a well-managed crisis response. Needless to say, there still are many challenges and uncertainties affecting society as whole. Foreign Ministry of Latvia has actively taken part in discussions and decision-making with other EU Member-States in order to work on recovery and budget planning for the upcoming years. Latvia has also set new, challenging and ambitions Foreign Policy goals. Latvia’s announcement of the candidacy for the United Nations (UN) Security Council has been an important and brave step towards a new status for Latvia on global scale, however, it is important to analyse and be aware of the main challenges that this candidature will reflect. 

Latvia sets its own priorities for the EU regarding the Covid-19 crisis

On July 2020, Foreign Ministry of Latvia took part in several important negotiations with Foreign Ministers from other EU Member States. As the Covid-19 has affected many industries and economies in general, Latvia works closely together with international institutions and EU partners to improve the socio-economic stability. Members of the Latvian Foreign Ministry took part in negotiations where the possible recovery and budget planning were discussed. During the discussions, Latvia emphasized its priorities and its main challenges, also addressing the importance of cooperation between all the EU Member State

Latvia’s priorities regarding the recovery plan, is to focus on agriculture as the Baltic farmers receive the lowest direct payments in the European Union.[1] At the same time, Cohesion Policy will be one of the most important tools for promoting and achieving long-term economic growth for Latvia, as well as to improve national prosperity and reduce regional disparities. The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Latvia is ready to invest funding in sustainable, climate-friendly and modern initiatives. By taking part in funding and supporting different initiatives, Latvia is becoming more competitive internationally. Thus, contributing to the development of Latvia’s welfare and economy. It also shows that Latvia is ready to take various actions to achieve internationally agreed goals. For Latvia, it is vital to have sufficient and fairly distributed funding for the economic recovery process for reforms and investments in the medium term.

Latvia aims for seat on UN Security Council

Latvia has set a rather ambitious foreign policy goal – to run for the seat of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the first time in 2025. According to experts, membership in the Security Council will strengthen Latvia’s international image, as well as the role of the state in global decision making will increase. The candidacy also confirms and proves that the State and its leaders are ready to take a step further and become more dominant in the international arena.

However, this candidacy also reflects a number of challenges. Being aware of the fact that Latvia is a small country on a global scale, it will not be easy to collect all the necessary 125 votes. [2] The President of Latvia has noted that recognition of the country in Asia, South America and South Africa is relatively low, so it is important to focus on development of Latvia’s international image. Its outlines the necessity to set new Foreign Policy goals and plan a strategy how Latvia’s recognition could be improved in those specific regions. In the run-up to the Security Council elections, Latvia hopes to use Estonia’s experience, which currently serves on the Council.

As the experts emphasized, although the elections will take place in five years’ time, Latvia should start preparing for the elections already. This will require resources, diplomatic efforts and publicity campaigns in the international media. Despite the fact that this would be an ambitious goal in shaping Latvia’s global image, there are opinions that emphasize the necessity to have a clearer vision for this goal. It would be necessary to analyze whether other foreign policy challenges and objectives are not a higher priority, also due to the Covid-19 crisis. Nevertheless, according to the experts, the experience of Latvia in the 30 years of independence shows that the country is prepared to take on global challenges and it will definitely open new opportunities for Latvia at national and international level.

Latvia’s first National Action Plan for the implementation of the goals of UN Security Council has been approved

On 14 July 2020, the Cabinet approved Latvia’s first National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia for the term of 2020-2025. [3] The implementation of women’s rights both in Latvia and everywhere else in the world is an essential precondition for a safe, sustainable and prosperous society, which confirms that for Latvia this is a significant step forward to work on eradication of gender-based violence. The Plan was drafted under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and envisages three main tasks. The first task is to raise public awareness of gender equality issues and the elimination of gender-based violence, especially among the younger generation. To achieve this, the involvement of educational institutions will be important, as well as the development of various informative materials. It is also necessary to organise training for the defence and interior sector, as well to establish a gender adviser’s position. The planned measures will be implemented in cooperation with ministries and non-governmental organizations. General Statistics Office in Latvia shows that 38.6 % of women have suffered from physical or sexual violence, and 60 % of women have been subjected to psychological violence.[4] These data confirm how significant problem this is for Latvia, so it is very vital to address this problem and work on reducing and eliminating gender-based violence. Implementation of the Plan will not only improve the image of the State, but also serves as a contributor for deeper integration and acceptance of UN values.

Latvian Foreign Minister discusses the European Union, security and current international affairs 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkevics, took part in the annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States and Germany. Issues of current importance for the European Union, NATO and European security, and topics on the international agenda were discussed. Latvia has expressed support for the priorities set by the German presidency of the Council of the EU, commending the focus on the European Green Deal, digitalization and the rule of law, as well as the intention of strengthening the Single Market. [5] The Minister of Foreign Affairs has emphasized Latvia’s position on collaborating with Germany, saying that it has been an important strategic partner for the Baltic region and has made a significant contribution to NATO’s collective defence and the strengthening of security in the Baltic region. Furthermore, Latvia’s position stands on the fact that although overcoming the COVID-19 crisis is a priority, it is necessary to return to the regular agenda of the European Union.

Conclusion

The current situation in the international system shows that dealing with Covid-19 crisis is still a priority, however, it is also very important to focus on regular agenda of the European Union. Latvia has set ambitious foreign policy goal – to run for the seat of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2025. On global scale, it confirms and proves the maturity of the State, as well as shows that the country is prepared to take on global challenges. However, the low recognition of Latvia internationally may affect the possibility to get all the necessary votes from 125 countries. Furthermore, a great success has been the approval of Latvia’s first National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia for the term of 2020-2025. The plan outlines very clear and achievable goals, that focuses on reducing and eliminating gender-based violence. Latvia has also been active in working closely together with other EU Member States to mitigate the negative consequences of Covid-19. Latvia has stated that its priorities regarding the recovery plan is to focus on agriculture and cohesion policy, as well as to have sufficient and fairly distributed funding for the economic recovery process for reforms and investments in the medium term.

[1] Foreign Ministry of Latvia emphasizes the need to ensure sufficient and fair distribution of EU funding for economic recovery https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66279-zanda-kalnina-lukasevica-uzsver-nepieciesamibu-nodrosinat-pietiekamu-un-taisnigi-sadalitu-es-finansejumu-ekonomikas-atveselosanai

[2] lsm.lv, Latvia’s ambitious goal is a seat on the UN Security Council:https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/latvijai-ambiciozs-merkis-vieta-ano-drosibas-padome.a368511/

[3]  mfa.gov.lv, Latvia’s first National Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia 2020-2025 has been approved. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66274-apstiprinats-latvijas-pirmais-nacionalais-ricibas-plans-ano-drosibas-padomes-rezolucijas-1325-par-sievietem-mieru-un-drosibu-merku-istenosanai-latvija-2020-2025-gadam

[4] csb.gov.lv, Gender Based Violance, https://www.csb.gov.lv/en/gender-equality-indicators/Violence

[5] mfa.gov.lv, Foreign Minister discusses current affairs of the European Union, security and international politicshttps://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66296-arlietu-ministrs-tallina-parruna-eiropas-savienibas-drosibas-un-starptautiskas-politikas-aktualitates

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia external relations briefing: Belarusian Presidential Elections as an important foreign policy issue for Latvia

Original publication available at the China-CEE institute website

Introduction

While the international system continues to work on mitigating the consequences of the Covid-19, the recent Presidential election in Belarus has now become the most important and discussed issue in Europe. The official preliminary results confirmed that Alexander Lukashenko won the election, however, the outcome has been widely disputed regarding opposition accusations of vote-rigging. As the situation has escalated in violations and protests in the whole country, Latvia together with other EU Member States has expressed the solidarity and the necessity to hold a new election. Latvia as a neighbouring country of Belarus, fully supports the deep desire of Belarusian people to live in an independent, free and democratic Belarus governed by the rule of law. Following the situation in the neighbouring country, Latvia has expressed its support and solidarity in various ways.

Presidential elections in Belarus – Latvia’s statement

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes that the presidential elections in Belarus on 9 August have not been held in conformity with the standards of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected to a sixth term in office, with about 80% of all votes in his favour according to official results, having won every presidential election since 1994. Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya declared herself the winner of the elections and called on Lukashenko to start negotiations, meanwhile, her campaign team stated that they were ready to hold “long-term protests” against the official results. [1] Latvia calls on the Belarusian Government and law enforcement authorities to respect civil liberties of Belarusian people and their rights to freely express their political opinion. The use of force against peaceful protesters is unacceptable. Furthermore, Latvia calls for an immediate release of the detained participants of protests and regrets that international observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe have not been able to participate in monitoring of the elections. The work of the mass media in covering the election process has also been restricted. Latvian representatives have also emphasized that it is deplorable that several presidential candidates had been denied the possibility of registering their candidacy for the election. A positive development of relations between the EU and Belarus is only possible through observing fundamental democratic rights and freedoms. Latvia, being a neighbour to Belarus, is interested in such development.

The president of Latvia discusses the issue of Belarus with the Presidents of neighbouring countries

President of Latvia Egils Levits, took part in the video call together with Presidents of Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. All the presidents came to a joint agreement that elections are needed These elections should respect the basic principles of democratic elections and ensure the monitoring of international observers, however, none of these aspects were perceived. [2] The presidents also agreed that a European Council meeting should be convened as soon as possible to decide on sanctions against Belarusian officials who repressed members of the public or participated in the change of election results. All the Presidents emphasized the important role of the UN Security Council and other international organizations in this situation. It is important step that all these countries show a common position towards this issue.

Latvia’s ambassador to Belarus: situation is very tense

Latvia’s ambassador to the country Einars Semanis says that the situation in Belarus is very tense and stressed that the wide protests, especially among young people, broke out after presidential elections. Semanis believes that Latvia’s government and other EU member states have taken an active and responsible stance. [3] Preparations are being made for the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, where the situation in Belarus will be one of the topics discussed. Ambassador emphasized that prior to presidential elections, Latvia and Belarus maintained an active dialogue, also – it was planned that President of Latvia and Lukashenko meets in the end of August, however, due to the current events, it is not clear whether the scheduled meeting will happen or not. Semanis noted that Latvia is worried as the country wants Belarus to be independent, sovereign, successful and democratic. Furthermore, it is clear that the situation can escalated in different ways, and for Latvia – it is important to stay focused on the ongoing actions. Analysing the position from the ambassador’s view, it is clear, that the tension in Belarus can escalate in different ways, however, for Latvia, it is vital to maintain politically diplomatic position.

Latvia will allocate financial support to Belarusian civil society

According to Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior, Latvia is prepared to accept political asylum seekers. [4] However, currently a large flow of refugees is not predicted and Latvia has not received requests for political asylum from Belarusian citizens. All the measures could change depending on the development of the situation, therefore, Latvia is following the situation very closely. Latvian Government has also agreed to strengthen Belarusian civil society by allocating €150,000. Commenting on the allocation of money, Latvian representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will meet with non-governmental organizations and will discuss the strands of possible projects related to the funding. It is said that one of the directions is the provision of legal aid to those in administrative or criminal proceedings, as well as to support the media. The support and solidarity towards Belarus prove that this is an important foreign policy issue for Latvia.

In solidarity with efforts of the Belarusian people fighting for freedom and democracy, Latvians as well as residents of Latvia are invited to the historic Baltic Way – Freedom for Belarus, which took place on 23rd of August.

Latvian Parliament adopts a statement on the presidential election in Belarus

The Parliament of Latvia adopted a Statement on the presidential election in Belarus, urging to hold a new presidential election in line with internationally recognised standards, while providing the opposition with equal access to all state-controlled mass media and allowing the opposition to participate in the election on equal footing. In the Statement, the Parliament expresses concern about the repressions and violence against representatives of civil society and independent mass media before, during, and after the presidential election in Belarus. Moreover, the Statement underlines that the right to participate in free elections is a fundamental value of democracy, that the freedom of speech and assembly is a basic human right, and also that current actions of the Belarusian authorities violate internationally recognised human rights norms and principles of democracy. According to the Statement of Latvian Parliament, social dialogue and reforms will improve the development of Belarus by promoting good neighbourly relations in our region and re-establishing successful relations with the European Union. In addition, the Latvian Parliament calls on the government of Latvia to support the introduction of EU sanctions against the Belarusian officials responsible for the violations of human rights and tampering with election results. The Statement also urges the government of Latvia and institutions of the European Union to provide support to the Belarusian society, including financial support aimed at the development of Belarusian civil society and independent mass media.

Conclusion

Covid-19 crisis remains as one of the top priorities and challenges for Latvia. However, the presidential elections in Belarus have significantly exacerbated the situation not only in the whole country but has also raised concerns at the international level. Latvia, together with other EU Member States has expressed its solidarity and fully supports the deep desire of Belarusian people to live in an independent, free and democratic Belarus. Latvia calls on the Belarusian Government and law enforcement authorities to respect civil liberties of Belarusian people and their rights to freely express their political opinion. Furthermore, Latvia agrees that that a positive development of relations between the EU and Belarus is only possible through observing fundamental democratic rights and freedoms. The support and solidarity towards Belarus prove that this is an important foreign policy issue for Latvia. Latvian Parliament has also made the Statement and calls on the government of Latvia to support the introduction of EU sanctions against the Belarusian officials responsible for the violations of human rights and tampering with election results.

[1] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66388-e-rinkevics-uzsver-nepieciesamibu-sniegt-atbalstu-baltkrievijas-pilsoniskajai-sabiedribai

[2] https://www.delfi.lv/news/national/politics/levits-ar-kaiminvalstu-prezidentiem-parruna-baltkrievijas-jautajumu.d?id=52385113

[3] https://bnn-news.com/latvias-ambassador-situation-in-belarus-is-very-tense-216084

[4] https://eng.lsm.lv/article/politics/diplomacy/latvia-will-allocate-150-000-to-belarusian-civil-society.a370820/

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intellectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia external relations briefing: Latvia facilitates foreign policy cooperation with EU, Canada and Central Asia under COVID-19 second wave

Original publication available at the China-CEE Institute website

Introduction

In October, Latvia is facing increase in COVID-19 cases and biggest total daily number since its first wave. New COVID-19 restrictions are in place for travel and public places. External relations of Latvia in October were evolving around cooperation with its external partners to mitigate consequences of pandemic both by Latvia providing expertise and sharing the best practice, and learning from its allies and partners.

From now on travelers to Latvia must complete an electronic questionnaire

As of 12 October, all travelers to Latvia must complete an electronic questionnaire on the website covidpass.lv [1]. Latvia imposed stricter restrictions in October regarding travelling abroad. It is not recommended to travel to or from countries with more than 61,9 new cases of Covid-19 per 100000 inhabitants over the course of the last two weeks. However, for the persons who travelled anyway, 10-day self-isolation must be observed after arriving in Latvia from those countries. Consequently, it is now possible to enter Latvia from countries with a lower infection rate than Latvia without the need for 10 days of self-isolation. The European countries that qualify for this are Greece, Norway, Estonia, Finland and Cyprus.

Citizens entering the Republic of Latvia up till 11 October at 23:59 had to fill in paper questionnaires, but as of 12 October, all persons crossing the border of the Republic of Latvia are required to fill in an electronic questionnaire on the covidpass.lv website. Completion of the contact information form is mandatory for all travelers, and it must be completed no earlier than 48 hours before crossing the Latvian border. After filling in the form certifying their contact information, the traveler will receive a QR code which is assigned to them personally and which also confirms that the information they submitted was received. The code is required for the transportation service providers, the State Health Inspectorate, the State Police, the Municipal Police, and the border guards to ascertain that the health safety restrictions are being observed. Registration with covidpass.lv is also compulsory if the person is crossing Latvia in transit.

Foreign Minister supports a coordinated approach and criteria in EU Member States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic

On 13 October 2020, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the meeting of the European Union General Affairs Council in Luxembourg. EU Foreign Ministers discussed and adopted a recommendation to promote a coordinated approach by EU Member States as well as criteria in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Latvia highly supports the need for greater and closer coordination between EU Member States concerning national measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. By setting out common thresholds for the spread of the disease and criteria for travel restrictions, the recommendations will help avoid fragmentation and promote transparency and predictability for persons and businesses. At the meeting, the Commission presented its First Annual Report on the Rule of Law situation across the European Union, with a positive rating of Latvia’s efforts and achievements with regard to the fight with pandemic.

In a discussion on the EU’s external policy, the parties shared the view that the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the EU agenda, and that Germany, upon assuming the Presidency of the Council of the EU, was confronted with a number of serious challenges. Some of them are produced by the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the EU, including to the good functioning of the single market and the euro area. This has led to a growing consensus on the need for a common recovery plan complementing national stimulus package. [2]

Therefore, Latvia and participants welcomed the agreement between the EU’s heads of state and government on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework and the European Union Recovery Instrument. The European Commission has put forward a proposal to establish a €750 billion European Union recovery instrument, Next Generation EU (NGEU), on top of a revised 2021-2027 MFF worth €1.1 trillion. The financing of the instrument would come from funds borrowed on the markets by the Commission on behalf of the EU, while a mix of new and already planned instruments under the EU budget would channel expenditure, combining grants (€500 billion) and loans (€250 billion). [3]

Latvia stresses the importance of transatlantic partnership in addressing COVID-19 crisis

The crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the transatlantic partnership. In October, the Foreign Minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, underlined the vital importance of transatlantic unity and partnership for fight the COVID-19 crisis and pandemic consequences. [4]

The Latvian Foreign Minister noted that in particularly Canada is an important strategic partner to Latvia and the EU. Latvia encourages cooperation between Canada and Latvia, and also EU to Cooperation of the EU and Canada and joint acting can demonstrate to the rest of the world that democratic societies can recover from the pandemic in the most effective way and return most rapidly to economic growth. Europe, Canada and the United States of America are united by shared strategic goals, which include transatlantic security, and can jointly fight with the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Latvia is sharing the experience in digitalization of education with Central Asian countries to fight COVID-19 consequences

In Latvia, the digitalization of education has been one of the current issues on the agenda for several years, while the Covid-19 crisis especially emphasized the importance of digitization and innovation in ensuring a continuous and high-quality educational process. At the moment restrictions are put in force, that from 26 October to 30 October education for years 7-12 must be organized remotely.

The Ministry of Education and Science has organized the online conference “Promoting cooperation and exchange of experience between Europe and Central Asian countries on education digitalization issues” on 14-15 October. [5] The Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, took part in a conference; among other participants of the conference were EU Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian, as well as representatives from Lithuania, Estonia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the European Commission. The webinar was implemented with funding granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with Latvia’s Development Cooperation Policy Plan for 2020 and its chapter, “The EU-Central Asia cooperation on education, including implementation of activities under the Central Asia Education Platform Project”.

The conference aimed to address challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to national educational systems and to discuss experience with the further digitalization of educational processes and opportunities for strengthening cooperation with the Central Asian countries.

The discussion has pointed on the national challenges and solutions available to mitigate the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the role of digital transformation in education. At this point in time, when the world is facing challenges caused by COVID-19, Latvia’s priority is to ensure the accessibility of education. Digital tools make this possible, and Latvia has experience to share in the introduction of a number of different solutions to its Central Asia partners.

Summary

To sum up, external relations of Latvia in October were aimed at addressing of COVID-19 negative consequences. The Foreign Minister of Latvia participated in various meetings with its cooperation partners to develop common mitigation measures. Latvia strongly supports coordinated approach of EU in response to the coronavirus crisis to help to avoid fragmentation and promote transparency and predictability for persons and businesses.

Latvia is also looking forward stronger cooperation with its transatlantic partners, such as Canada, and encourage to stimulate joint action for faster recovery from pandemic negative impact.

In October Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also underlined Latvia’s readiness to further strengthen cooperation with Central Asian countries in sharing reform experience in education digitalization and held an online conference together with EU Special Representative for Central Asia and representatives of different countries. During the conference, the participants emphasized that in the current situation, the exchange of experiences on the digitalization of education between countries and regions is particularly important in helping to tackle challenges posed by COVID-19 and find more effective solutions to ensure the quality and accessibility of education for all.

References

[1] Covidpass.lv https://covidpass.lv/en/

[2] Website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/news/latest-news/66728-the-state-secretary-discusses-the-eu-security-and-foreign-policy-issues-with-his-baltic-and-german-colleagues-in-riga

[3] European Union Recovery Instrument. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-budgets-budg/file-european-union-recovery-instrument

[4] Website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/news/latest-news/66791-at-the-meeting-of-the-baltic-and-canadian-foreign-ministers-edgars-rinkevics-underlines-the-importance-of-transatlantic-partnership-for-european-and-global-security

[5] Website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/news/latest-news/66766-foreign-ministry-s-parliamentary-secretary-underlines-latvia-s-readiness-to-further-strengthen-cooperation-with-central-asian-countries-in-sharing-reform-experience

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intellectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia external relations briefing: Summary of Latvian foreign policy in 2020

Original publication available at the China-CEE Institute website.

Latvia’s foreign policy priorities in 2020 were mainly aimed at overcoming the COVID-19 crisis. Challenges faced by Latvia in its external relations have been reinforced by the coronavirus outbreak in the world. It means Latvian foreign policymakers worked especially hard to set and reach foreign policy goals for 2020. Pandemic brought a special focus on external cooperation and the importance of multilateralism and the importance of transatlantic partnership for Latvia and Baltic states, as well as raised discussions about challenges of globalization processes. The summary of the most remarkable foreign policy events and priorities in 2020 is presented below.

Full publication can be found here.

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intellectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvian foreign policy prospects and relations with EU, US, China in 2021

Original publication available at the China-CEE Institute website.

Introduction

Pandemic crisis has highlighted challenges of a new level both to individual countries and international organizations, and to the principle of multilateralism in general. In 2021 it is expected that already existing global challenges like globalization process, rivalry between the great powers, populism, and doubts on effectiveness of international organizations, will rise. Under such circumstances, cooperation and synergy in all possible formats and at all levels is vital to reach Latvia’s policy goals.

In 2021, Latvian foreign relations will evolve around the four largest power centers – the European Union, the United States of America, China, and Russia, and try to resolve topical issues like Covid-19 crisis and facilitate long-term foreign policy priorities.

Full publication can be found here.

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intellectual property of China-CEE institute