As the war in Ukraine continues, Latvia’s co-operation with Russia is declining faster and faster. At the beginning of the month, the closure of the Russian consulates in Liepaja and Daugavpils was announced, at the same time expelling diplomats and classifying them as undesirable to the state. The security of Latvia and Europe is one of the most topical issues now, so a ministerial meeting was held in Spain, in which the need to deploy NATO permanent troops in the Baltic States was emphasized. The Latvian state, society and businessmen persistently aid Ukraine by regularly sending humanitarian aid consignments, donating money, food and other necessities, as well as various technologies and electrical appliances. In parallel, ties with the UN are being strengthened – Latvia has been admitted to two important UN councils.
In April 2022, the situation created by the Russo-Ukrainian war continued to dominate Latvia’s foreign relations. Ties with Ukraine continue to be strengthened – Latvian society, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, state and local government institutions continue to provide selfless assistance to the Ukrainian population afflicted by the war caused by Russia. At the same time, the strengthening of the security of the Latvian state and the whole of Europe is being considered and intensively discussed at the international level. Despite the geopolitical situation, Latvia also works for the development of Latvian society and human rights on an international level. This External Relations briefing outlines the most noteworthy events of April 2022 in the field of Latvia’s foreign affairs.
I Closure of Russian Consulates
On April 5, 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to revoke the consent to the activities of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Daugavpils and Liepaja in the Republic of Latvia, thus closing both Russian consulates. The diplomatic staff of these consulates were declared undesirable in Latvia.
The decision was taken in solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable military aggression and war. Latvia hereby repeatedly and in the strongest possible terms condemns the military aggression of the Russian Federation and the large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
On April 5, 2022, the decision was announced to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Latvia Mikhail Vann. The activities of the Consulates General of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Latvia are not permitted after the end of April 30, 2022. Until then, the persons subject to expulsion had to leave the Republic of Latvia.
II Spain Increases Number of Soldiers in Latvia
On April 26, 2022, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkevics, met in Madrid with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union (EU) and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain, José Manuel Albares Bueno, to discuss bilateral relations, including economic and international cooperation. Ministers also discussed regional and security policy issues, in particular assistance to Ukraine and preparations for the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Madrid.
Minister Rinkevics thanked for Spain’s contribution to the NATO Expanded Battlegroup in Latvia, as well as for its regular participation in the NATO Baltic Air Patrol Mission. Spain’s decision to increase the number of troops in Latvia is a step towards strengthening NATO’s defence and deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank. Minister Rinkevics emphasized that strengthening Latvia’s eastern flank is important for Latvia now and in the long term.
During the conversation, the Latvian Foreign Minister expressed the position that sanctions against Russia should remain in force until the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the establishment of a reparation mechanism for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Thus, political, and economic pressure on Russia must continue, and Latvia will support further restrictive measures in the energy sector, such as the oil trade embargo.
The issues of the EU’s strategic autonomy, EU enlargement and the EU’s relations with its southern neighbours were discussed during the meeting. Ministers also discussed EU and NATO support for Ukraine.
During the visit, Minister Rinkevics met with the Speaker of the Spanish Congress Meritxell Batet Lamaña and the President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Spanish Congress of Deputies Marí Klose. Minister Rinkevics confirmed Latvia’s interest in developing more active economic co-operation with Spain, as well as expressed satisfaction that active co-operation between the two parliaments was planned. For example, in May this year, the heads of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Baltic Parliaments will visit Spain.
III Latvian Support to Ukrainians
The information provided by the Latvian charity organisation “Ziedot.lv” shows that Latvian people have donated 7,501,044 euros in support of Ukraine. These funds were used to purchase medicines and medical supplies, complete humanitarian aid supplies, and provide support for the protection of Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in Latvia. A total of 41 humanitarian aid worth more than 2 million euros has now been delivered to Ukraine. Cargo is still being assembled and an average of four are shipped per week.
“Ziedot.lv”, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has sent 19 cargoes to the Zakarpattia, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kirovgrad, Kramatorsk, Mykolaiv and Zaporozhye areas with medical supplies, hygiene, household and necessities, food, as well as cargo to several hospitals. Cargo for Kyiv is currently being prepared.
Association “Viegli palidzet” in cooperation with entrepreneurs, Ziedot.lv and in close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) sent 18 cargoes to the Transcarpathian, Odessa and Rivne regions with necessities and hygiene goods, medicines, food and clothing. The cargo of necessities and food was also delivered on April 7 to the Ukrainian Refugee Centre in Chisinau, Moldova.
The “Entrepreneurs for Peace” Initiative and the Latvian Information and Communication Technology Association (LIKTA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have sent four cargoes donated by entrepreneurs with communication technologies and electrical equipment, including to the Ministry of Digital Affairs of Ukraine. Donors include large and small businesses, start-ups, and sole proprietors. In total, the donated funds were used to purchase goods needed by Ukrainians worth more than 1 million euros. Certain goods, such as drones, cars, electrical appliances, clothing, and footwear, are also donated and delivered to Ukraine. Entrepreneurs have also paid for transport and fuel for civilians fleeing Ukraine to Latvia.
Figure 1. Donated Buses on the Way to Kyiv, Ukraine in Riga, Latvia. April 26, 2022.
Photo: Edijs Palens/LETA
On April 19, Riga City Council decided to donate 11 public transport buses to Kyiv. From April 20 to 22, residents of Riga were invited to donate food and hygiene items, as well as food for animals, to the people of Kyiv. A total of 50 tons of goods were donated. Buses with humanitarian aid on their way from Riga to Kyiv went on April 26. On the evening of April 27, the buses reached the Polish-Ukrainian border, where they were handed over to representatives of the Kyiv public transport company.
IV Latvia Elected to Important UN Councils
On April 13, 2022, the member states of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected Latvia to two important UN bodies – the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
The election of Latvia to the Executive Board of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women is a confirmation of the country’s performance in the field of gender equality and women’s rights at both the national and international levels. Latvia will serve on the Executive Council from 2023 to 2025.
Latvia has long supported the work of the UN in international projects promoting gender equality and women’s opportunities. Latvia will continue to implement UN Security Council Resolutions no. 1325 “On Women, Peace and Security”, which is one of the priority areas of the UN Agency for the Promotion of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. Since 2020, Latvia has also been elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which develops international standards in the field of gender equality and the promotion of women’s rights.
Latvia has been elected to participate in the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development from 2023 to 2026. Latvia has been participating in the work of the commission since 2007 to promote the effective use of science and technology for sustainable development.
The war in Ukraine have demonstrated the European Union’s dependence on external suppliers for strategically important products. It is needed to strengthen the resilience of the economy by tackling dependency, the supply chain and the scarcity of some important resources and materials. In addition, to improve resilience, increase national defence budgets and develop NATO’s civilian and military capabilities in a complementary way. It is also very important to reach an agreement on the establishment of a permanent defence presence in the Baltic States before the NATO summit, which will take place on 29 and 30 June this year, as this is a necessity in the current security situation. Supporting Ukraine, the hospitality and responsiveness of the Latvian people is immeasurable. Ukraine and its people have been ravaged by the war. The Latvian society must continue to provide all kinds of support for as long as necessary. In turn, Latvia’s forthcoming membership in UN councils is a significant event. It paves the way for the development of education, science, and human rights. It also is a ray of hope that societal growth will continue, and humanity will win as the core value – something the global events will prove.
- Ārlietu ministrija. (2022a). Ārlietu ministrs: Līdz NATO samitam Madridē ir jāvienojas par pastāvīgas aizsardzības klātbūtnes izveidi Baltijas valstīs. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/jaunums/arlietu-ministrs-lidz-nato-samitam-madride-ir-javienojas-par-pastavigas-aizsardzibas-klatbutnes-izveidi-baltijas-valstis
- Ārlietu ministrija. (2022b). Latvijas sabiedrība turpina sniegt nesavtīgu atbalstu Ukrainas iedzīvotājiem: ziedoti 7,5 miljoni EUR, un nosūtīta 41 humānās palīdzības krava. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/jaunums/latvijas-sabiedriba-turpina-sniegt-nesavtigu-atbalstu-ukrainas-iedzivotajiem-ziedoti-75-miljoni-eur-un-nosutita-41-humanas-palidzibas-krava
- Ārlietu ministrija. (2022c, April 5). Latvija slēdz Krievijas ģenerālkonsulātus un izraida to darbiniekus. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/jaunums/latvija-sledz-krievijas-generalkonsulatus-un-izraida-darbiniekus
- Ārlietu ministrija. (2022d, April 13). Latviju ievēl nozīmīgās ANO Ekonomisko un sociālo lietu padomes struktūrās. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/jaunums/latviju-ievel-nozimigas-ano-ekonomisko-un-socialo-lietu-padomes-strukturas
- Ārlietu ministrija. (2022e, April 26). Edgars Rinkēvičs: Spānijas lēmums palielināt karavīru skaitu Latvijā ir solis plašākai NATO aizsardzības un atturēšanas stiprināšanai. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/jaunums/edgars-rinkevics-spanijas-lemums-palielinat-karaviru-skaitu-latvija-ir-solis-plasakai-nato-aizsardzibas-un-atturesanas-stiprinasanai
- (2022, April 5). Latvija slēdz Krievijas ģenerālkonsulātus un izraida to darbiniekus. https://www.diena.lv/raksts/latvija/zinas/latvija-sledz-krievijas-generalkonsulatus-un-izraida-to-darbiniekus-14278426
- TV3 ziņu dienests. (2022, April 28). “Rīgas satiksmes” autobusus un rīdzinieku atbalsta sūtījumu Kijivas mēram nodos Smiltēns. tv3.lv. https://zinas.tv3.lv/arvalstis/rigas-satiksme-autobusus-un-ridzinieku-atbalsta-sutijumu-kijivas-meram-nodos-smiltens/
This briefing was written by the Institute of Economics of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the China-CEE Institute, and is the intellectual property of the C hina CEE-Institute. https://china-cee.eu/2022/05/06/latvia-external-relations-briefing-topical-issues-of-latvias-foreign-affairs-in-april-2022/