Cooperation, EU – Baltic States, Latvia

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 21.02.2024, 12:37

Egils Levits: Reforms are needed within EU as crises have highlighted its weaknesses

BC, Riga , 30.09.2020.Print version
Reforms are needed within the European Union, as crises have highlighted the bloc's weaknesses, Latvian President Egils Levits said during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Riga last night.

''This visit shows the wish of the President of France to learn more about Latvia, to exchange opinions and ideas on deeper cooperation both in European matters and more widely,'' Levits said.

''This visit brightly illuminates the cooperation that takes place on an everyday basis between our countries and peoples, and deeply rooted in history. France supported us in the War of Independence and the efforts to achieve de iure recognition for our state one hundred years ago. France never recognized our occupation as legitimate. President Mitterand of France was the first head of state of a major Western country to visit Latvia after our independence was renewed,'' the Latvian president went on to say.

''The nature of our relations rose to a new level when Latvia joined NATO and the EU in 2014. We are like-minded with France on many issues, thanks to our common values and support for a multilateral approach,'' Levits emphasized.

The Latvian president also said that during this visit, the two sides will discuss the challenges to European security.

''Latvia highly values the participation of French troops in NATO’s multinational Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania. They strengthen security in the whole Baltic region. We will discuss how to strengthen transatlantic ties while boosting European capacity in the alliance,'' he said.

''We will discuss the European Union’s relations with neighboring regions. We must consistently support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia, and offer our solidarity to people of Belarus who are fighting for democracy in their country,'' the Latvian president pointed out.

''We will discuss the impact of digital technologies and social media platforms on democracy and on the shaping of public opinion. We will discuss the phenomenon of disinformation, which is now reaching new heights in the digital era and creates new challenges to democracy,'' Levits said.

''Today in a public discussion the President of France and I will hear the views of Latvian experts on these themes. I am pleased that Latvia hosts the NATO Centre of Excellence for Strategic Communication, which has an important role in the analysis of these issues,'' he emphasized.

''I am also pleased that Latvia together with France and Lithuania has agreed on a joint declaration on the protection of democracies. During this visit our Ministers for Foreign Affairs will sign documents on our cooperation in education and science, as well as priorities for our Strategic Partnership Plan of Action until 2022,'' Levits said.

''France has become the only member of the EU to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This gives France a particular opportunity to defend the European viewpoint on resolving international conflicts and reducing threats. Latvia hopes to gain its first non-permanent seat on the Security Council in the 2025 elections, giving us, too, a chance to magnify the EU’s voice,'' the Latvian president pointed out.

''However, in order to be able to voice and defend a European opinion, we first have to arrive at one. It is clearly evident that the European Union needs reforms. The President of France has already spoken about this many times and has assumed a certain leadership in this discussion. However, there is more to be done in tandem with Germany, which also has a crucial role in the workings of the EU,'' he said.

Levits also emphasized that each and every EU member state needs to take an active part in the process of achieving reform and boosting unity.

''A series of crises – financial, Brexit, migration, now pandemic – have exposed the EU’s weaker points. We have much work ahead of us to help European economy recover from the effects of the pandemic. We must use this opportunity to strengthen the European Single Market – our great strength and value – with a serious turn towards a green and digital path,'' Levits said.

''We cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope to carry on as usual. That is why Latvia fully supports the call of the President of France to launch the Conference on the Future of Europe this autumn,'' the Latvian president went on to say.

''We must listen to the honest thoughts of European citizens, without taboos, to arrive at sensible reforms that renew the effectiveness of the European Union. Only in such a way can we achieve our ambitions for Europe and the world,'' he pointed out.

''Latvia will always be a constructive proponent of the European idea. Latvia can connect Europe – geographically, politically, culturally, digitally. When crises hit, Latvian society always mobilizes quickly, overcomes them effectively and comes out ever stronger. Latvia is an excellent place for introducing innovations, whether in the field of social policies or high-tech,'' he went on to say.

''Latvia and France are bound by common values. While the motto of the French Republic is ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’, the Preamble to the Constitution of Latvia states that freedom, equality and solidarity are the foundation of a cohesive society. These common values are a stable foundation for our increasingly close cooperation,'' the president emphasized.

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