RIGA - The government today heard Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics’ (Unity) annual report on the state of Latvia’s foreign affairs and future plans, as well as EU-related issues.
Latvia’s external security and the unity of the EU, the competitiveness of the Latvian economy, the EU’s neighbors and cooperation with the diaspora have been defined as Latvia’s foreign policy priorities in the report.
According to Rinkevics’ report, Latvia intends to provide its contribution to the creation of a European center for analyzing and countering hybrid threats. In his report, which will be submitted to Saeima ahead of lawmakers’ annual foreign affairs debate, the foreign minister also notes that methods of hybrid warfare could be seen in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the tactics employed by Islamic State terrorist group, as they combine military and nonmilitary means like cyber attacks and public communication channels to attain their goals.
Rinkevics indicated that Russia has continued its attempts to influence public opinion and political sentiment in various countries and to prevent the international community’s possibilities to respond to these actions. Latvia is, therefore, interested in strengthening the ability to counter the hybrid threats on the national level, as well as in allied countries and neighboring regions.
Along with boosting its cyber defense capabilities, Latvia also intends to enhance coordination among EU member states in order to increase resilience to cyber attacks, as well as to engage in an active dialogue with partners on strengthening critical infrastructure.
Regarding strategic communication, Rinkevics says in his report that the Russian government’s aggressive policies and activities in Ukraine have not subsided since 2014, that Latvia will continue to support the work of the EU’ East Strategic Communication Team, which regularly releases reports on Russia’s disinformation activities.
The foreign minister also notes in his annual report that line in previous years, Russia continued in 2016 its usual criticism of Latvia’s human rights record, accusing it of restricting freedom of speech and supporting neo-Nazi trends. Russia also actively implemented its “compatriot” and “soft power” policies with the aim to influence society integration processes in Latvia.
Latvia, however, will be prepared to respond to the attempts to split its society or threaten its democratic system and national security, Rinkevics assured the ministers. Latvia will continue to counter Russia’s propaganda activities in international organizations and the media, as well as will take measures to strengthen the media environment in Latvia and the EU in general.
Speaking of the refugee crisis, Rinkevics said that Latvia will continue to support the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, contributing experts and equipment to the European border and coast guard agency Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office.
Latvia backs the approach approved for enhancing work with the countries of origin for the largest numbers of illegal migrants. “We expect these partnerships to bring about tangible results,” the minister said.
He also noted the need to continue work on measures aimed at the strengthening of the EU’s internal security and the bloc’s external borders in order to ensure a normal functioning of the Schengen Treaty again.
Regarding the planned form of Europe’s asylum system, it is essential to agree on solutions that would be acceptable to all member states, Rinkevics said, stressing that any migrant relocation or redistribution mechanisms have to be based on the principles of voluntarism.