PRESS BRIEFING CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thanks. Aim of Presidency - work together to help Europe and its citizens in 2015 and beyond.
It is this approach which inspires our Presidency logo – a circular grindstone representing productivity and nourishment, but also dynamism and energy.
We want Latvia’s Presidency to help strengthen Europe’s recovery, restore confidence in its politics and inspire belief in its future.
Latvia’s first Presidency of the Council. And we assume it against a backdrop of geopolitical and economic challenges. After looking at these challenges I’ll say a few words about the costs and benefits of the Presidency.
We want Europe to be more engaged as a global actor.
Last year saw a fundamental change in the security system in Europe. Russia broke international rules and agreements such as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on security assurances for Ukraine. The post-Cold War era as we know it came to an end. A European country and neighbor of Hungary was invaded and part of its territory annexed.
Working closely with the USA, the EU brought in effective sanctions against the aggressor. A strategic discussion on how to handle relations with Russia may well come onto the agenda.
Latvia’s Presidency will support High Representative Mogherini in upholding EU unity and striving for peace and stability in our own neighborhood.
So we will support a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
And we will host the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in May. This must send a clear signal of EU support for the Eastern Partnership. We must strengthen the Eastern Partnership by tailoring our approach to each country. It cannot be one-size fits all because some of our partners have chosen the Eurasian Union rather than the EU. However, as Commissioner Hahn said to a meeting of Latvian Ambassadors in Riga just before Christmas, some countries in the East have a European perspective.
Engaged Europe also means Global Europe. We will work to update and reinvigorate the EU’s Central Asia Strategy. Central Asia is a region that is the neighbor of our neighbors. There are opportunities to promote dialogue and cooperation, especially in the areas of security, education and sustainable development.
During our Presidency we want to move ahead with the negotiations for the free trade agreements with the US in light of the EU decision in December to try to have the agreement signed by the end of this year. The negotiations are complex, but as Germany’s Minister of Agriculture said recently, “we can’t protect every sausage”. Improved access to US energy resources could be addressed in negotiations. We welcome more transparency in the negotiations, and consider that geostrategic considerations are an important factor.
And we will carry forward important work on European Security and Defence. It is time to review the European Security Strategy, adopted in 2003. We hope that the European Council meeting in June will address this issue.
Low growth and unemployment haunt the EU balance sheet.
That is why Latvia will use its Presidency to stay the course and reinforce the recovery. This is the path to stability and prosperity.
Our priorities to achieve this relate to competition and the digital agenda.
Europe can become more competitive through a new investment drive. One that produces concrete benefits for citizens and reflects the diversity and circumstances of Member States.
We welcome President Juncker’s €315bn investment plan. We stand ready to fast-track a proposal in the Council to ensure we have a European Fund for Strategic Investments in place by June. We will try to achieve Member State consensus on the “Investment Plan for Europe” and create the framework for generating private investment. We await the proposals from European Commission on Energy Union with effective governance, and drawing on the best examples of regional energy cooperation [such as in the Baltic region].
We will continue work to strengthen the Single Market, to unlock its potential and unleash its benefits. With a renewed focus on better regulation and implementation, and recognition that the four freedoms are its four cornerstones.
Placing at its heart a new Energy Union.
We will implement the streamlined European Semester based on the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy. And we will promote action on industrial competitiveness, Social Dialogue and Economic and Monetary Union.
Our goal is to fully exploit the digital potential in the economy and work on enhancing trust in the Digital market by developing a Digital Single Market Strategy.
We believe that EU policies to develop digital potential should focus on 3 directions – boosting economy and growth, providing a secure digital environment and promoting modernisation of public sector and digital skills.
Europe should become more digital. Digital solutions should be promoted automatically - ‘digital by default’ - to help transform Europe into the world’s leading knowledge-based economy.
We will take forward work on data protection, cyber security and consumer rules. And we will pursue balanced telecommunications reform.
We are planning to host Digital Agenda Assembly in Riga (June17-18), which we will organize together with the European Commission.
We hope that these moves will help towards creating jobs, growth and consumer benefits.
Ours will be a hard-working Presidency. Pragmatic and determined. A maturing Member State with experience of austerity and reform, hardship and progress.
The EU has a clear set of priorities. These are laid out in the Strategic Agenda, the Trio Presidency Programme and President Juncker’s Political Guidelines.
Latvia does not want to add to that list, we want to implement it. Not reinvent the wheel, but move it forward.
COSTS AND BENEFITS
The costs of our presidency are estimated to be 70 million euro. But I want to highlight 3 benefits:-
According to a study by the accountants KPMG, the total benefit for the Latvian economy will amount to 64.5 million Euro. This consists of additional tax revenues, increased employment, increased resident income, the positive affect on tourism development and improvements in the professional capacity of the staff of state institutions.
Secondly, we have benefited from Hungarian generosity. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary has donated a selection of almost 500 bottles of Hungarian wines worth about 5000 euro to be served at meetings of Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Agriculture in Riga. Many thanks to our Hungarian friends for this!
( - 124 bottles of Hungarian sparkling wine (Hungarian Extra Dry / Etyek), 124 bottles of Hungarian dry white wine (Furmint Grand Selection / Tokaj), 124 bottles of Hungarian dry red wine (Áldás Bikavér / Eger) and 92 bottles of sweet dessert wine (Aszu 5 puttonyos / Tokaj)
Thirdly, the Hungarian public will benefit from Latvian culture. In a few weeks time, the Budapest Music Centre will host Latvian Music Days from 22nd to 24th January. I would invite you to go along and enjoy some top class Latvian classical and jazz music performed by exceptionally talented musicians.
Latvijas Republikas vēstniecība Ungārijā
Vas Gereben utca 20, Budapešta 1124, Ungārija
Telefons: +36 1 310 72 62
Fakss: +36 1 249 29 01