“The United States of America is Latvia’s most important strategic partner, and we greatly appreciate the US support, inter alia, in strengthening our national defence and border protection capabilities,” Ināra Mūrniece, the Speaker of the Saeima, emphasised when meeting with high-ranking Congress officials during her visit to the USA.
The Speaker of the Saeima and Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima, met with Orrin Hatch, President pro tempore of the Senate, Senator Ben Cardin, Co-chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and Senator John McCain, Chair of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.
“Latvia is aware of the existing security challenges, and we are committed to increasing the national defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2018. This commitment has been supported not only by the parliament and government, but also the people,” Speaker Mūrniece said. The US officials welcomed Latvia’s commitment and noted that it serves as a good example for many other NATO member states.
“It is important for Latvia and the whole Baltic region that the upcoming Warsaw summit yields a decision on increased and long-term NATO presence in our region,” the Speaker of the Saeima pointed out, underlining that a strong and united Europe and strong transatlantic relations are important for all of us. Speaker Mūrniece noted that the regular military training in the Baltics attests to the unity of the alliance.
The Latvian delegation expressed gratitude for the support in strengthening security of the Baltic region, including the proposal of the United States government to grant USD 3.4 billion to the European Reassurance Initiative, which will significantly improve European security.
Strategic communication is one of Latvia’s top priorities. The NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in Riga plays a crucial role in the fight against propaganda. The Baltic Centre for Media Excellence has also been launched, and it will implement projects in the Baltics, as well as in Eastern Partnership countries, Speaker Mūrniece asserted.
The situation in Ukraine was also discussed during the Latvian delegation’s visit to the Congress. The representatives of the Saeima emphasised that Latvia highly appreciates the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine, highlighting the importance of transatlantic unity. Both parties agreed that the economic sanctions against Russia must be kept in place until the Minsk Agreements are fully implemented.
Speaker Mūrniece is visiting the United States from 9 to 13 April, and Canada from 13 to 18 April; she is accompanied on the visit by Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima. On location, the delegation of the Latvian parliament is accompanied by Andris Razāns, Latvian ambassador to the United States, and Juris Audariņš, Latvian ambassador to Canada.
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Saeima Press Service