Economic security is as important a cornerstone of national security as military security - Braze

  • 2024-06-05
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Economic security, reconstruction projects in Ukraine, sanctions and development cooperation projects were the main topics discussed during the meeting on June 5, 2024 between the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia (LDDK) and the Foreign Ministry, LETA learned from the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Minister Baiba Braze said: “Today, economic security is as important a cornerstone of national security as military security, and cooperation between the public and private sectors is strategically important in the current geopolitical environment, especially in the long term. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs meets regularly with representatives of the non-governmental sector and social partners, including business organizations. In 2023, the Ministry met with the LDDK several times in relation to the reconstruction of Ukraine. The Latvian Foreign Service has a number of effective instruments at its disposal – embassies abroad, representations to international organizations, a network of honorary consuls, as well as cooperation with representations of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia. Therefore, in the future the Foreign Service should play a more active and broader role in helping to promote Latvia’s economic interests.

When discussing support for Ukraine with representatives of the LDDK, the Minister emphasized that Latvia is one of the most active supporters of Ukraine. In addition to all the support provided so far, in May this year, Latvia and Ukraine signed a bilateral agreement on long-term support and security commitments, with Latvia committing to devote at least 0.25 percent of GDP to military support for Ukraine over the next few years.

“It is clear to us that support to Ukraine and the future security in Europe are closely linked. But it is not self-evident to everyone. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs various events and formats to explain both Latvia’s position and the significant contribution made to Ukraine’s security so far. Latvia and the other Baltic countries have already exceeded the NATO target and Latvia’s defense contribution currently stands at 3.11 percent of GDP. The good news is that by the time of NATO’s 75th Anniversary Summit in Washington, the absolute majority of NATO Allies will have reached at least 2 percent of GDP in defense contributions, and some Allies even much more,” explained Braze. The Minister also stressed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs constantly uses bilateral cooperation formats – both to provide information about the support provided by Latvia (financial, political, human resources, etc.) and to explain the situation, and to discuss future cooperation, including the potential for economic cooperation in various fields.

During the meeting, Latvia’s involvement in the reconstruction of Ukraine (Chernihiv Region) was discussed. A total of EUR 2.4 million is earmarked for social reconstruction projects in 2024, including EUR 400,000 for psychological support projects, EUR 100,000 for the Euro-integration of Ukraine, and EUR 100,000 for digitization projects. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to aim at involving Latvian businesses in the reconstruction of Ukraine, both by helping to establish contacts and by informing them about projects with funding from other donors,” emphasized Braze.

Regarding sanctions against Russia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed that Latvia consistently advocates for the broadest and strongest possible EU sanctions to reduce its military capabilities. Strengthening EU sanctions is an ongoing effort, including ensuring the most effective implementation of the sanctions already adopted and preventing opportunities to circumvent them. “It is in Latvia’s security interest to reduce its economic dependence on Russia. It is critical to continue to cleanse ourselves by severing economic ties with Russia and also with Belarus. In order to maximize uniformity in the implementation and application of EU sanctions, we are actively cooperating in the formats of the Baltic countries and the NB8 (the Baltic countries and the Nordic countries), coordinating cooperation at the level of sanctions experts, financial supervisors and customs authorities,” said Braze.

She also stressed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to work on strengthening existing trade ties with the EU and North American markets, Japan, Republic of Korea and Australia, while in the export sector, the priority now is to explore new and fast-growing markets, including Africa and Latin America.

Development cooperation projects, whose role in the recent years has significantly increased, were also discussed at the meeting. Take the record number of projects submitted for the 2024 grant call. Of the eleven projects approved, four are Ukraine-related: medicine (microsurgery), business support, machine translation and strengthening human rights.

The meeting also discussed the forthcoming amendments to the Immigration Law in the context of employment. On May 15, the Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee will decide on passing the amendments onto the third reading in the Saeima. Within the context of the Human Capital Development Strategy (2024–2027), which envisages attracting a highly skilled workforce and a strong role for continued education, the LDDK and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agree that employer demand should primarily be met by capable and skilled local employees, especially given the fact that Latvian missions abroad mostly receive visa and residence permit applications from low-skilled workers.