Questions arise over Kalvitis' visit in Moscow

  • 2009-10-21
  • Staff and wire reports

LET'S DEAL: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) with Latvian counterpart Maris Riekstins push for mutual trade relations.

RIGA - European Parliament member Inese Vaidere (Civic Union), commenting on the recent meeting between former Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, sees similarities between Kalvitis and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who was appointed as the head of the Russian gas-pipeline project Nord Stream after he was defeated in the 2005 German federal elections, reports news agency LETA.

Vaidere pointed out that in order for a meeting to take place, there need to be reasons, a discussion topic for instance. She allowed the possibility that Kalvitis, similar to Schroeder, had such a topic.
As reported, Kalvitis (People's Party) participated in an investment forum in Russia in September, where he had a meeting with Russia's Premier Putin. "We discussed the current relations between Latvia and Russia, and their development prospects," Kalvitis said afterwards.

Both politicians agreed that the dialogue between the two countries was improving in political as well as in economic context. "Certainly, economic ties should be strengthened much more actively," said Kalvitis, adding that the economic crisis intensified the need for closer cooperation. "We discussed the necessity for the intergovernmental committee to continue work on preparing a set of agreements, where the most crucial document would be the agreement on elimination of double taxation," Kalvitis said.

World Federation of Free Latvians Chairman of the Board Martins Sausins said that he was concerned about Russia's increasing influence in Latvia at a time of crisis, and that the United States could turn its back on Eastern Europe, stressing that the United States must remain a strategic partner of Latvia. "It is impossible to deny that a serious threat of Russification still exists [here]," he says.
In the near term there could be a noticeable flow of Russian capital into Latvia, says Baltic-Black Sea Alliance director Sarmite Elerte, reports news wire She believes that this will come with increased risks, that "Our state could be used as a Trojan horse, or secret weapon, against the European Union and NATO."

She adds that it is "Russia's interest to acquire, in this region, a central authority, and that Latvia needs to resist Moscow's desire to destabilize the state." Latvian Foreign Institute director Andris Spruds considers the risks that Russian capital brings is in its "non-transparent business culture."
Political analysts say that Latvia has to make clear to Russian that Latvia's strategic partners are the EU and NATO, and that Russia its 'secondary partner.'
Relations with Russia are going in the right direction, says Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins (People's Party). "Blaming one another may be necessary at times, but if neighbors keep yelling at each other forever, nothing good will come of this."

Riekstins said the two sides are trying to come to agreement in areas of mutual interests. This past summer, the third intergovernmental committee meeting took place, which led to more progress in relations.
"In order to continue the cross-border dialogue, during my visit to Moscow in October last year, I invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to visit Riga. We have offered the Russian side possible dates for the visit and are awaiting an answer. The cross-border dialogue is moving forward normally enough. However, we still have various issues where our points of view are different," explained Riekstins.

On Kalvitis' visit, he mentioned the questions raised over whether "the ministry is in complete control." He said that Kalvitis was not given a mandate to speak in Latvia's name.