top_img
Valdis Zatlers

Valdis Zatlers

Annual Report 2010

Foreign policy

Foreign policy in brief

 In 2010, the main emphases in President Zatlers’ foreign policy activities related to Latvia’s external economic contacts and co-operation, facilitation of the country’s external security, strengthening of the strategic partnership with the United States, strengthening of Latvia’s role in the European Union and NATO, more intense co-operation with the Baltic States, the Nordic countries and Poland, as well as facilitation of mutually advantageous and respectful neighbourly relations with Russia.
 
With the purpose of confirming co-operation between Latvia and its partners and to encourage the further development therein, President Zatlers paid state visits to Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Czech Republic, as well as an official visit to the Russian Federation in 2010.
 
Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Slovenian President Danilo Türk paid state visits to Latvia in 2010, while Czech President Václav Klaus and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich paid official visits to the country.
 
In 2010, President Zatlers continued to implement Latvia’s foreign policy interests by going on 24 foreign visits and receiving the presidents of seven countries in Latvia (two of these were official visits, and two were state visits). Also in 2010, President Zatlers accredited 23 foreign ambassadors to Latvia and issued letters of accreditation to 11 Latvian ambassadors.

Strengthening economic co-operation

 Improving Latvia’s economic competitiveness and facilitating exports and investments were among the basic priorities in 2010 for President Zatlers’ foreign policy activities. He makes use of every opportunity to promote Latvia as a country which has successfully overcome the economic crisis and restructured its economy, to attract foreign investments, and the promote the export of goods and services from Latvian companies. During visits to five countries, the President opened seven business forums (in Belgrade, Skopje, Prague, Shenyang, Shanghai, Moscow and St Petersburg).

 

 

In 2010, President Zatlers particularly focused on the development of economic relations between Latvia and the Balkan countries. The President considers this region to be a unified economic zone under the framework of the European Union, and he has helped to ensure the political support background that is necessary for Latvian businesspeople to launch operations in these markets, which have not been used to a sufficient extent. In Belgrade, national leaders discussed closer co-operation between the two economies, as well as Serbia’s interests in the context of EU integration. In Skopje, the President discussed co-operation in the defence industry, particularly focusing on the development of the IT, aviation and tourism industries. When Slovenian President Danilo Türk visited Latvia, the focus of attention was on economic development and facilitation of trade links.
 

 

While in Prague on a state visit, President Zatlers was accompanied by representatives of the metals processing, machinery, IT, energy, heat production and wood processing sectors who were seeking new sales markets in the Czech Republic. The development of economic contacts has been one of the basic subjects in the President’s discussions with foreign leaders during state, official and working visits. Before and after foreign visits, President Zatlers always organises discussions with businesspeople so as to get a better sense of what the Latvian economy needs in each specific case, as well as to learn from earlier experience. Businesspeople say that high-level political contacts have often been of fundamental importance in establishing and expanding business links.

 

 

President Zatlers has also met with foreign economic experts to help in the development of views about Latvia. While in New York, the President organised a roundtable discussion with US financial and political experts, as well as media experts, to talk about the economic and political situation in Latvia. During an appearance at Harvard University, President Zatlers delivered a lecture to faculty members and students, “Latvia and Europe After the Economic Crisis.” The President’s main purpose was to explain the way in which Latvia takes advantage of the opportunities that are offered by the European Union and NATO, as well as the way in which it makes its own contribution toward security, stability and growth at the national level, as well as at the regional and Transatlantic level. At the Shenyang North-western University in China, President Zatlers delivered a speech on prospects in the bilateral relationship between Latvia and China, particularly in terms of co-operation in the fields of the economy and education.

 

During President Zatlers’ working visit to the People’s Republic of China from October 17-23, the main focus was on the development of economic contacts between the two countries. While in China, the President attended the Shanghai Expo on Latvia’s national day. Business forums were organised in Shenyang and Shanghai during the visit. While in Beijing, the President discussed economic relations with the vice president and deputy prime minister of China, Xi Jinping and Hui Liangju.

 

The strategic partnership with the United States

 President Zatlers met with US President Barack Obama several times during 2010 as part of the strategic partnership between the two countries. On May 8, the President attended a dinner for Central European leaders which was organised by President Obama to talk about co-operation between America and the relevant countries. Issues that were discussed included the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and the Balkan countries, as well as the partnership between the EU and the USA. President Zatlers and President Obama also met at the opening session of the UN General Assembly in September, as well as at the NATO summit which took place in Lisbon in November. President Zatlers, in discussions with President Obama, US Senator George Voinovich and other US officials, expressed Latvia’s support for the START arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, which the President considers to be an important step in enhancing global security in the 21st century.

 

 

The United States is an important and trusted partner for Latvia in the area of security, but there have also been developments in the economic links which exist between the two countries. One area in which these two aspects interweave is the transit of non-military cargoes via Latvia on the way to Afghanistan. This helps the NATO ISAF mission there, and also ensures additional revenues for the Latvian national economy. Development of this project was discussed on an ongoing basis by President Zatlers and American government officials during the course of the year. Since the beginning of the project in 2009 and through the end of 2010, a total of 18,000 containers of non-military cargo were delivered through Latvia.

NATO

On November 19 and 20, President Zatlers attended the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal. A new strategic concept was approved by NATO at the meeting – one that was prepared over the course of more than one year. The strategic concept was also one of the main subjects of discussion for President Zatlers and the secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, when the secretary general visited Rīga on June 1. The same was true when the President met with the commander-in-chief of the Allied Joint Force Command, Egon Ramms.

 

 

Representatives of Latvia took an active part in the development of the new strategic concept, which is fully in line with Latvia’s long-term interests – preservation of balance between defence of the alliance’s territory under the auspices of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on the one hand and operations outside the alliance’s territory on the other. Work done by President Zatlers and other Latvian government officials over the course of several years ensured that Article 5 was put to practical use in the Baltic States via military exercises and planning related to the alliance’s capabilities.
 
The document offers new guidelines for the development and operations of the alliance over the course of the next 10 years. Along with the concept, member states have also taken a number of decisions about those areas of NATO capacities which require further development, as well as about how this can best be achieved. Also at the Lisbon summit, top officials discussed NATO reforms, co-operation with partners, and, especially the role of NATO member states and partner counties in Afghanistan in terms of further involvement and co-operation. President Zatlers also attended a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, where a series of practical co-operation initiatives in relation to Afghanistan were approved and other aspects of international security were discussed.

The European Union and European partners

During the course of 2010, President Zatlers focused stronger attention on the development of bilateral relations with European Union member states. Bilateral relations and economic issues were the main subject for discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (September 7) and German Foreign Minister and Deputy Chancellor Guido Westerwelle (June 11). Economic and security issues were also discussed with British Prime Minister David Cameron (November 20). During various visits, President Zatlers met with leaders of other EU member states, as well. Discussions about the EU, as well as bilateral and economic issues, with European leaders occurred not just at bilateral meetings, but also at summits, conferences and other events organised by the EU and other international organisations.

 

 

Over the course of 2010, President Zatlers represented Latvia at three European Union summits – the EU-Latin America summit in Madrid in Main, the EU-Asia summit in Brussels in October, and the EU-Africa summit in Tripoli, Libya, in November. At the sixth summit for heads of state and government from the European Union and Latin America in Madrid, the focus was on the creation of a new international financial architecture, on ways of overcoming the economic crisis, climate change, and the lessons learned in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. President Zatlers delivered an address at the summit’s plenary session, talk about ways of recovering from the global economic crisis and creating a new financial architecture. At the EU-Asia summit, the President talked about more effective management of global finances and economics. During the EU-Africa summit, President Zatlers took part in working sessions to talk about security, peace, global problems, regional integration, energy issues, the environment, and other issues which have an effect on co-operation between African and European countries, not least in terms of Millennium Development Goals and efforts to reduce poverty. During the various sessions, the President talked about Latvia’s experience in terms of the importance of regional co-operation in the successful development of energy projects. He also began a discussion about the importance of good governance in ensuring sustainable development.

 

 

All of these summit meetings were used not just to express Latvia’s position about co-operation with the relevant countries, but also to allow the President to hold bilateral meetings with officials from those Latin American, African and Asian countries that are of interest to Latvia. President Zatlers has also represented Latvia’s interests, particularly its economic interests, when meeting with leaders from those countries with which bilateral visits have not been planned because of distance or inactive international relations. The development of such bilateral contacts has been of key importance. During the various summits, for instance, the President met with the president of Algeria and the vice president of India, indicating that Latvia is very much interested in promoting co-operation in areas such as transport and logistics, biotechnologies and pharmaceutics, food processing, the metals industry information technologies, as well as tourism.

Co-operation with the Baltic States, the Nordic countries and Poland

 President Zatlers worked very actively in 2010 to strengthen co-operation between the Baltic States and Poland. Latvia wants the Baltic and Nordic countries to be a unified economic region which encloses the Baltic Sea. For that reason, the President continued to work on co-operation among the Baltic States, Poland and the Nordic countries. In addition to contacts among Baltic leaders, the presidents of Poland and Finland visited Latvia. President Zatlers took part in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence on March 11, while Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite attended commemorations of May 4 in Rīga. During an introductory visit on February 23, the President also met with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis.
 

 

While on a working visit to Estonia on June 15, the President delivered an address at the Baltic Defence College to talk about the restructuring of the armed forces in the Baltic States, as well as the development of joint projects in areas such as weapons procurement.
 
During Finnish President Tarja Halonen’s state visit to Latvia on June 7 and 8, she and President Zatlers talked about economic co-operation, regional security, the development of the European Union, as well as relations with neighbouring countries.

 

 

 

The presidents of the three Baltic States and Poland met at the Rīga Castle on September 9 to talk about energy issues, including the delivery of electricity and gas in the region. They also talked about how the four countries were preparing for the upcoming NATO summit. After the meeting, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski visited Latvia to commemorate Poland’s participation in the liberation of Daugavpils during World War I, as well as to discuss further development of economic relations between the Latvian region of Latgale and the businesspeople of Poland.

Relations with Russia

 Also in 2010, President Zatlers worked hard on establishing relations with the Russian Federation. The President believes that if two neighbouring countries have such a wide range of mutual contacts, there must be regular high-level dialogue. He also feels that Latvia’s relationship with Russia must be seen as part of the relationship between the European Union and Russia. Although there are many differences of opinion between Latvia and Russia, President Zatlers sought to develop dialogue with Russia in 2010 with the aim of establishing normal relations that are based on mutual advantage and respect.
The President had three main goals in the development of relations with Russia in 2010. First, he sought to ensure political dialogue at the highest level. Second, he tried to promote economic contacts between Latvian and Russia – an area in which, of course, businesspeople have a major role, but also in which the government must ensure a competitive environment and a legal basis for the successful development of economic co-operation. Third, the President sought to reduce tensions in those areas which have traditionally been difficult to discuss with Russia. The most important of these is the fact that Latvia and Russia have very different approaches to the matter of history.

 

  

During the course of the year, President Zatlers met with Russian officials several times. On February 10, for instance, he met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the Baltic Sea Summit in Helsinki. The two officials discussed economic co-operation between the two countries, as well as preparations for President Zatlers’ visit to Russia.
 
On May 9, President Zatlers took part in events in Moscow to commemorate the destruction of Nazism and the victims of World War II. There, too, he met with Russia’s top officials.

 

 

President Zatlers’ official visit to Russia took place from December 19-21, 2010. In Moscow and St Petersburg, President Zatlers met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin, Federation Council chairman Sergey Mironov, local government leaders and religious leaders. This was the first official visit at this level in the history of relations between Latvia and Russia, and it was full of content which produced a fundamental impulse in the development of the legal relationship between the two countries. A series of agreements were signed to help in improving the business environment between the two countries, in facilitating inter-sectoral co-operation, and in addressing a series of issues in the bilateral relationship. Agreement was reached to set up a joint commission of historians to discuss the more difficult aspects of the two countries’ history. There was also talk about aspects of the relationship between the European Union and Russia, as well as NATO and Russia. The visit also included the largest Latvian business forums ever to be held in another country, with 120 Latvian businesspeople taking part.

Latvian communities abroad

 While visiting Boston, Lisbon, St Petersburg, Moscow, New York, Beijing, Shanghai, Tartu and Vancouver, President Zatlers met with representatives of the local Latvian community to talk about issues in Latvia, as well as the successes and challenges of Latvian communities in various countries. The President feels that although the Latvian nation is not too numerous, Latvians can be found in nearly all of the world’s countries. Latvians abroad are wealth for Latvia, and so everything must be done to maintain their belonging to the country.