Rihards Kols: Primary task of foreign policy is to ensure the continuity of Latvia’s independence

Press release from the Saeima

On Thursday, 23 January, during the annual Saeima Foreign Policy Debate, Rihards Kols, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima, underlined the ensuring of the continuity of Latvia’s independence as a constant and fundamental task of Latvia’s foreign policy.

“Foreign policy is said to reflect domestic policy. Today, I invite you to take a different view, namely, that foreign policy is also an instrument of pursuing the interests of Latvia’s society as a whole. Foreign policy is an instrument for the national interests of Latvia. That was the case in 1918 when Latvia, along with our allies, won its independence. That was also true during the Awakening when our national interests determined Latvia’s return to Europe. Our interests must also continue to define our actions in the future,” emphasised Kols.

Looking back at the foreign policy developments in 2019, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said that a distinctive characteristic of the year was the declining influence of international organisations and norms, that is, the international order. He highlighted the challenge related to restoring Russia’s voting rights at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and expressed his appreciation for the unwavering position Latvia adopted on this issue. Kols used this session to once again invite Latvia’s delegation to firmly request that the Assembly explains whether the resolutions previously adopted by the PACE regarding violations are currently binding on Russia.

Kols stressed that Russia continues to engage in a retaliatory and aggressive foreign policy aimed at destabilising democratic states, sowing the seeds of distrust and doubt in the society, while simultaneously enacting unlawful military expansion and aggression. Softening of attitude only strengthens the regime’s conviction about its impunity, said the Chair of the Committee, adding that it might induce other countries to follow suit.

NATO remains the cornerstone of our security, emphasised Kols, adding that during the London Summit at the end of last year Heads of NATO Member States had agreed on an updated defence plan for the Baltic States and Poland. We have to demonstrate our deep appreciation for the ally input in reinforcing the security of Latvia and the whole alliance, and the support received from the USA at the end of last year clearly shows that the allies adhere to their commitments in the area of collective security in the East European flank, accentuated the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The are problems that can only be addressed within the framework of multilateral cooperation, such as climate change, control of migration, control of arms and weapons of mass destruction, cyber security,” said Kols, noting that people throughout the world call for decisive action in the fight against climate change and it is the duty of politicians to answer this call. “Developing a smart climate policy must be one of the important tasks for 2020. Latvia is among the leading countries in the field of the new green transformation, so we are presented with an opportunity to create a climate policy that not only avoids lowering the level of welfare, but also becomes a catalyst for improving it, said the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, stressing that global consensus is needed to introduce changes.

In addition to a secure, international rules-based environment, Latvia needs a successful external economic policy, the goals and priorities of which still need to be defined as measurable criteria,” said Kols, emphasising the necessity to create a platform for coordinating the acquisition of investment and market niches.

Regarding Brexit, Kols underlined that when it comes to talks between the EU and the UK on their future relations, Latvian nationals, their rights and status after the withdrawal remain our priority.

Saeima Press Service

Date of publication: 23 Jan 2020

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