RIGA - Riga once again was placed on the international stage as Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis hosted the third gathering of the Northern Future Forum. This was a meeting of Baltic prime ministers plus the leaders from the UK, Nordic countries and Iceland, along with industry experts, businesspeople and others holding discussions related to green technology and bridging the digital divide between the young and old, and within the region.
This year’s event was the Latvian government’s way of showing to Europe that Latvia is indeed a strong regional player and innovator when it comes to green technology. It was also a way to show that the country is on the way to meeting the requirements for the 20/20/20 EU mandate, and is a leader with proven business development experience related to ‘thinking green.’
Additionally, the Forum focused on the digital divide, and how through Latvia’s federal policy and social responsibility, the age of the Internet is obtainable for all, especially inclusive of senior citizens.
An example of an outreach program was shown to the gathered press on Feb. 27 with a tour of a homeless shelter, of an installation center of computers, and a demonstration of the training of senior citizens in the usage of the Internet.
Users of such centers throughout Latvia can accomplish tasks such as writing their CV’s or email messages, to Internet banking on-line. Some 6,000 seniors have thus far taken advantage of this country-wide program, with leadership provided by trained staff. Some seniors now have email addresses for the first time in there lives.
When it all started
The original idea for such a regional gathering was first discussed in 2010 when newly-elected UK Prime Minster David Cameron suggested an informal ‘Baltic get-together’ with Swedish Prime MinisterJohn Fredrik Reinfeldt. Latvia took the lead at this third such meeting; Sweden hosted this Baltic forum last year. Cameron was the host for the first event in 2011 in London.
During the day long interaction with regional business leaders on Feb. 28, the gathered prime ministers had the opportunity to listen to representatives from countries including Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Lithuania, as they discussed their successes as well as challenges, suggesting what policymakers need to do in order to make for a more friendly and economically beneficial environment for business – especially in the green sector.
A healthy exchange was experienced by all, as the prime ministers were placed in an environment where feedback and interaction from the selected participants was done in a face-to-face meeting. Participants made five-minute presentations on their given subjects, and the prime ministers listened and asked questions directly to each presenter.
Baltic ministers speak
During the afternoon session, the moderator of the group asked each of the prime ministers: “What will you take away from this session.” Each responded with observations and comments from their own vantage point, based on what they learned during the day-long gathering.
Estonia’s Prime Minster Andrus Ansip spoke about what he learned from the meeting, addressing the issue of energy inefficiency, stating that “our existing housing stock [of Soviet era construction] wastes a lot of energy.”
Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius spoke on the issue of “changing our national legislation” in order to provide financial reasons by which citizens can seek out programs designed to entice upgrades in energy efficiency in existing housing stocks.
Prime Minister Dombrovskis thanked each of the visiting PMs for coming to Riga. He additionally spoke of the success and work that still needs to take place in order for Latvia to continue to reduce its dependence on old energy solutions, and instead look forward to cleaner and sustainable power sources.
Finland will host next year’s meeting.