Magazine article Europe-East

Latvia : President Zatlers: Neighbourhood Policy a Priority for Riga

Magazine article Europe-East

Latvia : President Zatlers: Neighbourhood Policy a Priority for Riga

Article excerpt

Obtaining the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) were the two issues highlighted by Latvian President Valdis Zatlers in his speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on 13 January. He underlined that his country's membership of the EU since 2004 has clearly proven to be positive.

For Zatlers, the role of the EU is to assure stability and security for its citizens and vis-a-vis neighbouring countries and to assert its values: democracy, rule of law and equality. Effectiveness in this field will be reinforced with the Lisbon Treaty, he emphasised.

Since its independence in 1991, after years of "imprisonment" during the Soviet era, Latvia's objective has always been to join the EU and NATO, which it did five years ago, noted Zatlers. And, after five years, the assessment is positive, because Latvia was thus able to strengthen the democratic allegiance of its institutions and benefit from the various advantages offered by the Union, underlined the president, quoting the free movement of persons and goods, Europe's power on a global level and aid from the Structural Funds. Moreover, Zatlers welcomed the solidarity demonstrated by member states in the context of the financial crisis. He was referring to the recent granting of financial support for his country's balance of payments (3.1 billion, which the Ecofin Council is scheduled to endorse on 20 January). It was agreed at the Latvian level that these funds would be used for the competitiveness of the economy, the lowering of the public deficit and measures leading to membership of the eurozone in 2012, he specified.

Zatlers, however, acknowledged that mistakes had been made by his country, particularly the fact of having "rested on its laurels" once EU membership had been gained and of not having effectively benefited from the Structural Funds. …

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