Vike-Freiberga, Blair focus on energy

  • 2006-07-12
  • Staff and wire reports
RIGA - Energy is one of the most crucial issues facing Europe and should be the focus of the upcoming G8 summit in Russia, British Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasized during a meeting with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

The Latvian president arrived in London on July 10 with a delegation including Economy Minister Aigars Stokenbergs and Education and Science Minister Baiba Rivza. Although the group discussed bilateral relations, education and the upcoming NATO summit, energy was the main focus point.

"I think the [G8] summit will focus particularly on the issue of energy and energy security and supply," Blair told a joint news conference in London with Vike-Freiberga.
The annual G8 conference, which begins in St. Petersburg on July 14, brings together leaders representing eight of the world's most powerful countries.

"Across Europe and the world, people want diverse sources of energy to give us a balanced mix and allow us to make sure that we have energy security in a world of rising prices," Blair said.
Vike-Freiberga echoed this opinion. In addition to considering nuclear energy, she said, Europe should think about alternative energy resources and transportation routes.

Recent press reports have suggested that the British government's energy review will support nuclear power, arguing that it is not only viable but can help Britain reach its future energy needs alongside a five-fold expansion of renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.
As for the Baltic states, discussions have already begun on developing a new nuclear power plant near Ignalina in Lithuania.
Yet energy wasn't the only subject on the table during Vike-Freiberga's visit. The two leaders also discussed bilateral relations.

According to the head of the president's office, Andrejs Pildegovics, Blair said 2006 has marked a significant turning point in British-Latvian relations. He mentioned the visit by Queen Elizabeth II, scheduled for this October, to Latvia and the upcoming NATO summit as examples.

"This is the year that we will mark the 15th anniversary of our relations and Blair's participation in the NATO summit. It is yet another sign that the United Kingdom pays great attention to the Baltic states," Pildegovics told the Baltic News Service.
During her talk with Blair, the Latvian president highlighted Latvia's development since joining the EU in 2004. She said that foreign trade between Latvia and the U.K. was impressive and still growing. But Latvia would like to see more investment in its production and services sector, Vike-Freiberga added, especially in view of the U.K.'s growing importance on the global market.
The Latvian president also touched on the EU services directive, Latvia's increased competitiveness, and issues related to the opening of labor markets. Both leaders shared similar positions on these subjects.

The president further discussed the EU services directive with British House of Commons leader Jack Straw, underlining that Latvia and the U.K. held a common position on this subject. Europe, she said, needs more flexibility in providing services across Europe.
Both leaders agreed that this was one of Europe's most aggravating problems, and that Latvia and Britain should work toward a conclusion. The two also spoke about education and health care, as well as the EU neighbor policy.