Vike-Freiberga dismayed by slow progress with Russia

  • 2006-09-07
  • From wire reports
RIGA - President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has expressed dismay over relations between Latvia and Russia, which are still stunted despite determination shown by both countries.

In an interview with public radio on Sept. 1, the president said that during her negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin a year ago, it was agreed to organize an exchange between ministers and prime ministers.

"[At the time] both parties agreed: 'we are ready.' So then how is it possible that, having openly expressed readiness to forward a number of agreements, there is no progress? However, one should never lose patience in politics," said Vike-Freiberga.
It was up to Latvia, she added, to take initiative and demonstrate its readiness to sign agreements with Russia.

"At the moment we have something significant to do, Latvia is ready to invite the Russian president for an official visit as our neighbor," Vike-Freiberga said.

The president noted Russia would not be participating in the upcoming NATO summit, which is scheduled to be held in Riga at the end of November. "The NATO secretary general has already announced that only member countries will attend the summit and thus guests from other countries will not take part," she said.

Asked whether Putin might visit Latvia before the end of her term, which ends next August, Vike-Freiberga said that "time is short, and such visits need much preparation, so I cannot offer any detailed information."
The president also spoke about possibilities of singing the border treaty between Russia and Latvia, which are still being discussed.

"Arguments heard from the Latvian and Russian foreign ministries are still in force, and therefore I think that both ministries should continue negotiations and find a solution," said the president.
Yet as of now, the situation is stalled, she added.

"Latvia has declared that it's come to legal deadlock. And if this is so, how can anything move further? Our politicians should find a way out of the deadlock, while at the same time maintaining negotiations with Russia. We have told our partners in Europe that we are ready to sign the border treaty. Russia also said that it was ready to sign," said the president.

In the past few months, Latvian and Russian officials have convened several times to discuss bilateral relations. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis met with his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Fradkov, in Iceland earlier this summer and also spoke with Putin in St. Petersburg. Russian ex-president Boris Yeltsin visited Latvia in late August.

A number of Latvian-Russian draft agreements are still waiting to be signed. Most recently, draft treaties on economic cooperation and principles for the inter-governmental commission to work on were coordinated in Moscow in June.

Still, on Sept. 5 it was announced that Parliament's foreign committee chairwoman, Vaira Paegle, and the Russia Federation Council foreign committee chairman, Mikhail Margelov, have agreed that foreign committee representatives of Latvian and Russian parliaments could meet after the parliament elections in Latvia scheduled for Oct. 7 this year.

Paegle told the Baltic News Service that she had had talks with Margelov over the weekend during a discussion on EU-Russian cross-border cooperation organized by the U.N. The two did not discuss historical issues and instead focused on energy and transport.

Paegle said during the talks that Russia should change its tone in the relations with the Baltic states "so that we would be equal partners in talks, not former colonies."

It was agreed that foreign committee representatives from both countries could meet and cooperation was necessary to diversify the information flow, as "each country lives in a different information space."