On Friday, 22 November, during a meeting of the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima when priorities of our presidency were broadly discussed for the first time in Latvia, Chairperson Zanda Kalniņa Lukaševica stressed: “The involvement of NGOs and social partners, as well as the importance of business competitiveness, cannot be forgotten when concluding work on the priorities of Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union. Communication strategy has to be addressed in order to make the principles and priorities of our presidency understandable to everyone.”
Inga Skujiņa, Head of the Presidency Secretariat, informed the MPs that the potential priority areas of Latvia’s presidency are the EU’s growth and competitiveness, use of the EU’s digital potential and movement towards an information society, as well as strengthening the EU’s role and developing a global-scale welfare state. The Head of the Secretariat indicated that these possible priorities are linked to about 300 to 400 specific legal acts or political initiatives envisaged for EU’s agenda in 2015. She also mentioned that the Cabinet of Ministers is expected to start discussing the priorities in December and adopt them at the end of next year.
The already proposed principles of Latvia’s presidency are involvement, growth and sustainability, stated Skujiņa, noting that they can be applied to the activities of the presidency ranging from the individual to the international level.
Atis Lejiņš, Deputy Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, praised the investments made in the human resources of our public administration while preparing for the presidency, and he inquired about the presidency costs, which have recently come into the focus of discussions. Skujiņa stated that although the total costs of Latvia’s presidency are not yet known, the Cabinet of Ministers has set the maximum permissible level of costs. Furthermore, EU funds are also available for presidency-related activities.
She also stated that it is not proper to compare our presidency costs with those of the states which have assumed this duty more than once. It will be more objective to compare them to the total costs of Lithuania’s presidency.
When Igors Pimenovs, Secretary of the European Affairs Committee, asked how the presidency will improve Latvia’s competitiveness, the Head of the Secretariat responded that during Latvia’s Presidency, our country will be visited by 25,000 people, and thus local companies will have an excellent opportunity to offer their goods and services, as well as establish new contacts.
Sergejs Dolgopolovs, a member of the Committee, indicated that upon assuming the presidency of the Council of the European Union, Latvia will receive numerous assignments from the previous presidency that will have to be completed or continued; nevertheless, our country has to declare one overarching initiative which it will undertake to implement during the presidency. Dolgopolovs mentioned that one such initiative could be the issue of migration, which is a problem in all EU member states.
Daina Kazāka, a member of the Committee, suggested that Latvia already has to start preparing materials that give concise explanation about the history of Latvia and our overall attitude towards historical events.
Andris Gobiņš, President of the European Movement – Latvia, expressed gratification that one of the fundamental principles of Latvia’s presidency is involvement, but he noted that it is necessary to specify the results we want to achieve from that. He also clarified that in addition to 200 events to be organised by the government during Latvia’s presidency, there will be numerous events organised by the non-governmental sector aimed at encouraging involvement.
During the meeting, Inese Stepiņa, Deputy Director General and Adviser on International and EU Affairs of the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, emphasised the need for the presidency agenda to contain and explain the notion of economic growth which is based on competitive entrepreneurship and its facilitation as a prerequisite to development and job creation.
The presidency trio programme agreed upon by Italy, Latvia and Luxembourg has to be submitted to the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU at the end of this year. It is planned to adopt it at the General Affairs Council in June 2014. The 6-month programme of Latvia’s presidency is expected to be elaborated until mid-2014 and adopted in the autumn of next year.
The European Affairs Committee will continue discussing the potential priorities of Latvia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, including our goals in the sphere of foreign affairs.
Saeima Press Service