The rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union is fillied in the first six months of 2015 by Latvia. On this occasion, Diplomacy & Trade asked the country's ambassador to Hungary, Imants Liegis, to share his views with our readers.
Latvia has chosen the grindstone as its symbol for our first Presidency of the EU Council beginning January 1, 2015. This ancient circular stone once innovated and triggered change in homes across Europe. Being at the wheel of the dynamic movements of 28 countries, we hope to contribute to guiding the EU along a path of growth and energy for half a year.
The three broad areas for our priorities are competitive Europe, digital Europe and engaged Europe. We will try to enhance competitiveness and growth to improve the welfare of Europe’s citizens. We want to fully exploit the jobs and growth potential offered by today’s digital economy. And our aim is to reinforce the global role of the EU by helping to shape engagement with the rest of the world on current issues of concern.
Every Presidency has to deal with unexpected surprises. One year ago, I doubt that Greece was anticipating that Russia would invade and annex part of Ukraine a few months into their Presidency. This, of course, had profound implications for EU (as well as NATO) policy. In handling the anticipated EU agenda for 2015, Latvia has spent the last couple of months dealing with the new EU institutions – the European Parliament, the new Commission and President of the Council. It has been crucial to develop speedy and close cooperation with our new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, who coordinates and guides the common foreign policy of the Member States. We have agreed with the EU top diplomat that the foreign policy priorities will be the Eastern Partnership and Central Asia. Riga will host a Summit of EU and Eastern Partnership leaders on May 21 and 22. Concerning Central Asia, we aim to have a review of EU policy with the region given the prospects of developing further economic ties.
These EU ‘openings to the East’ will go hand in hand with Latvia’s determination to achieve progress in negotiations with our most important partner – the USA. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) offers enormous mutual benefit for both the United States and the EU. Negotiations will have to move ahead in the context of providing increasing transparency and listening to the concerns of our citizens. Given the changing energy security landscape, the TTIP offers an opportunity for Europe to tap into potential exports of America’s energy resources.
The Presidency in Hungary
Hungary has been generous in providing Latvia with valuable information about its 2011 Presidency. Moreover, Latvia will be serving Hungarian wines at some of the more than 200 Presidency events that our country will be hosting.
Meanwhile in Budapest, together with my talented staff, I have been busy using the opportunity offered by the Presidency to plan a variety of Presidency events. The cultural highlights will be on January 22–24. Thanks to excellent cooperation with the Budapest Music Centre (BMC), we will offer top quality classical and jazz music. The Hungarian public will get the chance to meet, and hear the works of, Latvia’s most famous contemporary composer, Peteris Vasks at the BMC. In this way, not only diplomats, but also Hungarians will notice Latvia’s EU Presidency 2015.