Press Statement by H.E. President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis After the Informal Meeting of the Arraiolos Group
These two days have been rich in events and new cognitions. I am honoured that my counterparts, the Heads of State from 12 countries, visit Latvia in the year marking the centenary of its statehood. This is a historic time for Latvia, and this is the time of new changes and challenges for Europe.
This meeting was an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the major issues in the direct and open debate regarding the way to maintain and further develop a united, secure, and prosperous Europe.
For many years, discussion about the future of Europe has been the central topic of the presidential meetings of the Arraiolos Group.
We discussed the challenges, which the EU Member States and their citizens face, as well as solutions to overcome those challenges when policymakers and citizens join their efforts. We were looking for an answer to the question whether the public demand for a future Europe has been identified sufficiently. What is the vision of the EU citizens on the development and the future of the European Union? Citizens are those who elect politicians. Without their perspective and engagement, we will not be able to achieve sustainable and stable development of the European Union.
Responsible attitudes towards the future of Europe are deeply rooted in the tragic pages of the European history. Latvia has a clear perspective on the development of Europe, which is determined by a century-long history of Latvia’s statehood. It is closely linked to the destiny of many European countries and nations. We have experienced two world wars, three occupations, changing regimes, and the tragic fates of people above all. Nevertheless, human courage, determination, and faith in the future counterbalanced the latter.
Now, the debate on the future of Europe can no longer be left exclusively as a topic for philosophical recitation. The future of Europe features practical necessity to evaluate where we have made mistakes. It is a necessity to make quick decisions and implement result-based solutions. It is a necessity not to waste resources and to shape a sustainable policy that the citizens of the European Union can benefit from.
In our turn, we talked about modern security challenges during the working session in the Rundale Palace yesterday.
The successes of the European Union over decades such as prosperity, peace, and political stability have been called into question in recent years. External attempts to deny the achievements of European democracy and even intervene in European political life have also caused that. One must admit that we have been cautious about recognising these challenges internally and lagging behind with sustainable decisions that are crucial to the public and explanations about them.
Efforts to intervene at national elections and influence national political choices, fake news, manipulating the public opinion, the use of technology to disseminate misinformation and many others have become an everyday element of the political life in Europe.
Given the diversity of challenges and their frequently unpredictable impact, ensuring the availability and modernisation of a wide range of security policy mechanisms and tools is crucial. Europe must continue its commitment to strengthen hard security. We cannot afford being careless about challenges like inequality, the gap between power and society, the risks posed by climate change, the fragmentation of society, and living in so-called information bubbles. These are contemporary challenges that external parties manipulate with now and then to discredit our ability to act. Essential national and European resilience in soft security will decline if we have not done enough to strengthen our hard security, whereas hard security will suffer if we do not act to strengthen soft security.
Latvia is committed to identifying and preventing potential risks, as well as making the security of Europe and its citizens sustainable. Latvia is proud of its contribution to strengthening European security. Latvia hosts the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, and we are one of the Founding Members of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats.
Once again, I would like to thank my counterparts, the Presidents, for our excellent discussion and their presence in Latvia on such an important and symbolic anniversary for our state.