RIGA - Latvia is no longer a little brother in the international arena - our country is heard and respected, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said today during the annual foreign policy debates at Saeima.
He pointed out that there are four major power and economic centers in the world: the United States, the European Union (EU), Russia and China. "It is clear that Latvia, together with the EU and its strategic allies in NATO, as well as other organizations, has a place in this broad worldview. ''This cooperation with our Western allies is the foundation, the basis, of our country 's independence," the prime minister said, stressing that every effort would be made to assist partners who help to ensure military security.
Latvia's interest in foreign policy is to ensure independence, Karins repeated, adding that this can be achieved in political and economic terms. Politically, Latvia, as a part of the EU, is part of a rich market that has not yet developed into the most important military player in the world. "Today, the economic plays a larger role within the EU. It is also a great center of values. Democracy, freedom and equality are the values that follow the EU. Our country also plays a special role in strengthening relations with the Eastern Partnership countries," Karins said, stressing that Latvia is interested in giving a friendly hand to these countries, showing that there is an alternative to Russia as a power center.
Karins reminded that he visited Belarus last week, whose leadership had expressed an open desire to expand cooperation with Latvia, including by encouraging cooperation involving Latvian ports. "Politically, we are in a situation we have not been in for a long time. This will be a challenge to our own companies. Are our companies operating in the port industry ready for this?" asked Karins.
He said that this is a big challenge because historically Latvian ports have had various difficulties and stagnation, because for years it has been said that the Russian policy is to divert their cargo away from Baltic ports. "I am not convinced that all our companies have understood this - they must take the necessary action," the prime minister said.
The prime minister said that the state has taken over the administration of Latvia's largest ports. "We still have a second challenge - to encourage private companies operating at our ports to participate in the real development and modernization of the global economy. We are a democratic state, so we cannot, by government decree, force a private company to do this or that," Karins said.
"I invite port companies and terminals to see the opportunity to work with cargo flows to and from Belarus, not just reloading Russian goods to the west. It is an opportunity, considering also the development of our railway," said Karins, adding that politically this is an important aspect, as economic links also open human contacts. "It is in our interest that our neighbor moves closer to us and Europe, and not go in a completely different direction," the prime minister said.
Economic development depends on exports and investment, Karins said. He called on all diplomats and staff of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) to recognize that facilitating investments from Western allies is a priority.
In the context of exports, Karins emphasized that Latvian companies have grown more and more competitive in the world market, and are thinking about exports not only to the West, but also to the East and other parts of the world.
"We have a job to work on attracting investment from our Western allies in high technology, without which Latvia will not be able to secure high wages. The second is to promote exports worldwide," said Karins.
"In the past, Latvia was more of a foreign policy observer, a consumer. In recent years, however, Latvia has evolved from being a passive observer into an active policymaker. This role has been achieved by individuals, institutions and the state as a whole. ''We need to strengthen this role," Karins said, highlighting the contribution of high-ranking officials and civil servants within European structures.
Karins is convinced that Latvia's voice is being heard in the world. Latvia is in favor of a single market, and is against money laundering. "We are no longer the small country that accepts everything. We are an equal voice which arguments its position, listens and helps shape politics. We do not need to shy away from this role," Karins said.
"We are no longer the little brother - we are being heard. Of course, we continue to listen and debate, but we are also active in forming policy," the prime minister emphasized.