RIGA - Latvia joining the eurozone should be seen as a “symbol of freedom” for the country, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a discussion - Latvia and the Netherlands: Partners in Europe - with students and other members of the public at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga on Oct. 10.
Latvia officially switches currencies on Jan. 1, becoming the 18th European country to do so.
“I hope we can convince the Latvian population that the euro has the right to be seen as a symbol of freedom alongside the lat,” said Timmermans.
“The euro is a very strong currency. It allows Latvia to grow without being hampered by currency exchange problems and other issues. It allows ġrowth of exports to other countries. I’m convinced Latvia will profit greatly from this.”
“Latvia joining is good, not because it will give them greater say in Europe; it gives [the Baltic] countries a fundamental security that could not otherwise be gotten in another way.”
Addressing the Baltic-Russia relations and recent trade sanctions by the latter against Lithuania, Timmermans, who apologized this week to Russia after Dutch police detained a Russian diplomat in the Hague, said:
“A stronger Europe will be a great benefit to Europe and to Russia. We need Russia as a strong and reliable partner, and Russia needs Europe as strong, reliable partner as well.”
Timmermans also addressed the issue of cultural differences and integration in Europe after taking questions from the audience. He said: “We need borders because it defines who we are, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do away with borders in others areas, such as monetary policies. We need to do away with these borders.”
“We all share the same language in Europe, we speak bad English,” he joked.
However, the foreign minister also admitted that European integration had not been a smooth ride and called on European countries to work together to fix the problems. “Is this boat leaking? Absolutely,” he said.
“We need collectively to fix this leaking boat.”
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