Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to open the World Latvian Economic and Innovation Forum for the fourth time and a pleasure to welcome each and every one of you.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first Forum and it has become a tradition that must be continued. Thank you to the World Federation of Free Latvians, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and everyone who has been involved in organising the Forum over the years.
Many of you in this room are pursuing your professional careers outside Latvia. However, in your home country, city or workplace, you are also serving as an informal ambassador for Latvia.
Your contribution is highly valued and very important for us in Latvia. Thank you for devoting your time and ideas to strengthening Latvia!
Latvia's economic development is and will continue to depend on external conditions, as well as on our own decisions and actions - right or wrong.
Russia's war against Ukraine is also affecting Latvia's economy, but we will help the Ukrainians for as long as it takes - until Ukraine's victory.
We have felt the impact of this war in many sectors of the economy, such as rising energy prices, supply chain disruptions and rising inflation.
One of our tasks is to explain and tell potential foreign investors that Latvia is a safe country for investment. As Professor Daunis Auers has said, we are an island of stability in Europe, and even more so globally. This message needs to be passed on to potential investors. This is where each and every one of you can be of great help.
Climate change is a global challenge for all, including Latvia, and cannot be tackled within national borders. Every country has a responsibility to act to reduce its emissions and preserve biodiversity.
The transformation to a fossil-free economy is a priority for the European Union (EU), and the EU has allocated significant resources to it. This is an opportunity for the Latvian economy.
I believe that the European Green Deal is in Latvia's interest. It is in our interest not to resist it and try to do everything that is necessary as slowly as possible, but on the contrary to be at the forefront of this transformation. First come, first served. This is in the interest of our economy.
Latvia already generates almost half of its electricity from renewable energy sources. However, we need to continue to invest in wind energy, hydrogen technology and other technologies in order to increase our green energy capacity and become an exporter in the coming years.
I believe that Latvia has the potential to make this transformation faster than the European average. We need to mobilise this potential, to put it to use.
I believe that economic transformation is possible if we grow our investment, science, research, innovation and the transfer of these innovations to production and later to exports. We already have various innovation plans and strategies in place, but we still lack clear policies to move higher in the European and global innovation indices. If we are talking about the development of the Latvian economy, I think that this is the point on which we should focus our attention. Public and private investment in research and development is also insufficient.
At the same time, there are already innovation success stories in Latvia, both in science and business. For example, we are able to provide technology for international space exploration missions. We have an excellent infrastructure and a track record in 5G technology development. When we are abroad, we often get angry about the poor internet connections in highly developed countries. These infrastructures and advantages are the base on which we can build.
We also have world-renowned experts in the development of quantum technologies. Quantum technology is, of course, the technology of the future, even in the not-so-distant future of 5-6 years, so we need to start thinking about it now. This includes the security and legal aspects, because the current legal and security infrastructure will no longer be valid if quantum technology comes into play. We already know that, so we need to start thinking about it so that we are ready sooner than others.
Quality education and human skills development policies are the foundation for the whole economic transformation. People are the only possible resource for Latvia's sustainable development, for Latvia's competitiveness in the world. We need competitive, educated, skilled people who at the same time feel a sense of belonging to Latvia, the Latvian language and culture.
I wish you fruitful discussions! May we all succeed in our work for the growth of Latvia!