Ojārs Kalniņš: Saeima can play a significant role in shaping foreign policy

(13.04.2012.)
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Ojārs Kalniņš, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima, when asked to evaluate the work of his Committee during the winter session of the parliament, affirmed that members of the Saeima can influence foreign policy through interparliamentary contacts, as attested by success in defending Latvia’s interests with regard to the European Union’s (EU) sanctions against Belarus.

“I have already stressed during the foreign policy debate held at the Saeima in January that members of the Saeima can significantly influence foreign policy and that MPs are also diplomats. During this winter session, we saw to what extent our Foreign Affairs Committee, European Affairs Committee and MPs in general can influence foreign policy. Our foreign policy is jointly shaped by the President, the government and the Saeima,” emphasised Kalniņš; as an example, he mentioned how MPs actively lobbied Latvia’s interests with regard to the EU’s sanctions against Belarus.

The Committee considered this issue at several meetings. It invited representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant experts to express their opinions on how to influence the decision of the EU so that the eventual sanctions would harm Latvia’s economy as little as possible.

The Chairman stressed that afterwards, members of the Committee actively participated in lobbying Latvia’s interests on the parliamentary level. “In early March, I had an opportunity to attend the conference of chairpersons of EU’s parliamentary foreign affairs committees in Copenhagen, where I addressed this issue during talks with both EU's foreign affairs representative Ashton and the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs. Thus the EU heard the opinion not only of our Minister for Foreign Affairs and other diplomats but also of the Saeima on this issue,” said Kalniņš in his video interview.

Chairman Kalniņš pointed out that the decision adopted by the EU in late March showed that Latvia is being heard. “We achieved a compromise that perhaps was not completely satisfactory for us, but at least it was much better than the one we had hoped for. I think that this was possible only because in Brussels, a single and coordinated message was expressed by all Latvian officials,” stressed Kalniņš.

Furthermore, the Chairman indicated that the Committee tries to predict upcoming topicalities by addressing related issues at its meetings.

“For example, when the Committee heard controversial opinions on ACTA, we invited representatives from the Ministry of Economics and opponents of the ratification of the Agreement to take part in a discussion that we held within the Committee even before ACTA was submitted for consideration to the Saeima. Thus we made it possible for society to get acquainted with the Agreement whose consideration has been put on hold,” explained Kalniņš.

The Chairman also was gratified that members of the Committee unanimously supported the draft law with which Latvia ratifies the amendments to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, or the so-called Treaty of Lisbon, which envisage establishing a European Stability Mechanism aimed at ensuring financial stability in the euro area. “Amendments to the Treaty of Lisbon were necessary. Although Latvia is not in the euro area yet, by supporting these amendments, we allow members of the euro area to establish a stability mechanism. I am glad for this outcome because although we had postponed consideration of this issue earlier, now we supported the draft law unanimously,” emphasised Kalniņš.

 

Video of the interview with Ojārs Kalniņš is available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZccYUE767rU
When using the material, please give credit to the Saeima Chancellery.


Saeima Press Service

Svētdien, 4.decembrī