Opening address of Ināra Mūrniece, Speaker of the Saeima, at the conference “Security in the Baltic Region: Current Developments and the Way Ahead“

(13.05.2016.)

Excellencies,

Honourable Prime Minister,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you today to the Latvian Parliament – Saeima! We are delighted to have you here to discuss the security in the Baltic Region.

In 1990-ties, when I started working as a journalist for the Latvian daily newspaper, we received information from global news agencies only by fax. Today transmission of information is much faster - we have digital media.

We have more opportunities. However, modern media can pose a great danger in a free society. The impact of media on the security has increased tremendously. Media can spread disinformation and propaganda. Specific groups of people can be targeted and influenced.

Why is it so dangerous? It is because we face completely new security situation in Europe. We experience Russia’s massive hybrid warfare in Eastern Ukraine, the military exercises and provocative behavior near our borders.

State and non-state actors can use hybrid campaigns - propaganda, cyber-attacks, terror acts, and attacks on critical infrastructure. Asymmetrical tools are often backed by use of military force to deter or even to rob sovereign states in their territories. We are vulnerable. No longer can security be ensured only by the state, the military, or by the police alone.

I see two key aspects in dealing with the complexity of hybrid threats - strengthen our resilience and cooperation.

Resilience involves becoming stronger. Latvia has done a lot both nationally and internationally to strengthen its security. This year’s military budget has increased by 45%. There is a broad public support to the need of investing in our security. We are committed to increase defence spending up to 2% of GDP by 2018. We are doing our part to provide the necessary host nation support for the Allied forces.

We have invested in developing NATO Stratcom Centre of Excellence and the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence in Riga. These efforts slowly but steadily help to increase our resilience against hybrid campaigns in the information domain.

We have the National Cyber Security Strategy and the key institutions in place. We often join and organise multinational cyber exercises. Our cooperation with the Baltic and Nordic neighbours and the United States in cyber domain is growing. We put our efforts into countering hybrid campaigns.

However, no institution, nation or international actor today is capable of responding to hybrid warfare alone. This is a cross-border and cross-institutional problem, which should be addressed through cooperation – at national, regional and international level.

We must promote cross-border information and intelligence sharing, as well as coordination efforts. We should start with the three Baltic States, and set a strong example for the rest of the EU and NATO.

Cooperation, unity and solidarity within the EU and NATO is more important than ever. Latvia welcomes the NATO Strategy on countering hybrid warfare, ensuring that Article 5 collective defence applies to hybrid campaign scenarios. We hope that the Warsaw Summit will yield concrete measures to better prepare, deter and defend against any threat to any Ally.

We also welcome the EU Joint Framework to counter hybrid threats, adopted a month ago. It is one of first positive outcomes of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council a year ago.

I hope that the window of opportunity that will open in the coming months will be used to strengthen the EU and NATO cooperation in countering hybrid threats and developing more coherent and effective tactics for strategic communication and cyber defence.

The world has become more challenging, complex and uncertain. Yet, with joint Baltic efforts to strengthen our own resilience and through building a better cooperation among us, as well as with our allies, we can make the world more predictable and much safer.

And before I hand over to Prime Minister Mr Māris Kučinskis, let me once again welcome you here. It is a pleasure to see all of you here.

 

13 May 2016, Riga, Latvia

 

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