European presidents meet in Riga

  • 2007-04-11
  • Staff and wire reports
The presidents of eight EU countries gathered in Riga on April 10 and 11 to hold "informal meetings." The leaders agreed on a number of topics but did not announce any sort of formal declaration.

The leaders pointed out that such informal meetings are very useful, as they provide a chance to debate various European issues more freely and creatively. Aiva Rozenberga, spokeswoman for President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, said that "the aim [of the conference] is to exchange views on European integration, the role of EU in the global arena, etc. […] Sometimes informal gatherings can in the long term play a more important role than official settings."

One of the topics discussed at the meeting was the EU constitutional treaty. When asked about her thoughts on the treaty at a news conference after the April 11 talks, Vike-Freiberga said it was necessary for the member states to agree on a new treaty. "The issue must be resolved so that the EU as a whole could function more efficiently," the president said.
The EU leaders also discussed the formation of a common immigration policy in Europe, an issue that has plagued EU leaders for some time. They agreed that it is necessary to find a solution to the problem by developing a common immigration policy for the whole EU that will facilitate an even distribution of immigrants across all regions. "Borders cannot be opened without setting an acceptable limit... If the number of immigrants in a country exceeds 8-10 percent of the total population, it becomes a problem... It is necessary to provide asylum, but rules are necessary, too," Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom said.

Other topics discussed included the bloc's global competitiveness, balanced teaching of the organization's history in schools, the future of EU integration, and environmental issues.
The participants of the informal talks included Vike-Freiberga, Finnish President Tarja Halonen, German President Horst Kohler, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Austrian President Heinz Fisher, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom, as well as the spouses of the European leaders.

Portuguese leader Jorge Sampaio organized the first such informal meeting four years ago. The tradition was continued with similar meetings in Helsinki in 2005 and in the German city of Dresden in 2006.
The next informal meeting is scheduled to take place in Austria.