New Latvian Prime Minister visits Estonia (4)

New Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis (ERR/EBU)
3/2/2016 1:13 PM
Category: News

His first official visit abroad took new Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis to Tallinn, where he met with his Estonian counterpart, Taavi Rõivas (Reform), on Monday. At the press conference following the meeting, Kučinskis stressed the importance of cooperation between the Baltic states.

The two countries share interests as well as areas of concern. In the matter of the asylum seekers distribution quota, Latvia is ahead of Estonia, with the first refugees having made it to the country. Kučinskis confirmed that the new arrivals were studying Latvian, and that the state was working on integrating them into society. Latvia has agreed to receive 531 refugees.

Kučinskis said that Estonia and Latvia were cooperating here as well. Both Estonia and Latvia had defined very clearly which category of refugees they were ready to receive, he said, namely families with children, which would be the easiest to integrate into society.

The Prime Minister pointed out that though the Latvian state was doing what it could to integrate them, and though the results so far had been positive, the attitude towards the migrants in the Latvian population was very negative.

“The question is whether or not we’ll be able to get the same quota, as it doesn’t always have to be just the kind of quota we want,” said Kučinskis. He stressed that despite the fact that the European Commission wanted the target countries to speed up the process, just like they had demanded it of Estonia, Latvia was still proceeding at its own pace, choosing only families wherever possible.

Kučinskis also said that security was an area where cooperation and coherent positions were important. “We need coherent positions in all three countries to gain the strength not to attack, but to be strong in our own country,” the Prime Minister said about pan-Baltic cooperation in matters of national defense.

He went on to say that the Baltic countries had a good understanding of the elements of hybrid warfare, and that this understanding had to be shared with other European governments.

When the topic of Rail Baltic came up, Kučinskis confirmed that the route of the new railway wouldn’t go through Valga. Just like in Estonia, there were a lot of sceptics in Latvia that didn’t believe in the project’s chances to succeed, and Kučinskis said that he recognized he needed to be able to deal with them.

“I understand that the process can’t be stopped anymore, and that all three countries will begin construction in the near future. In my opinion it is very important that our three countries don’t lose our unity in this project, and for this we need top-level meetings as often as possible. At the moment every country is working on its own part of the project, but the political task is to finish it together,” Kučinskis said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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