Aigars Kalvitis, prime minister ret.
Interview "Berliner Zeitung" 2007
Latvia's Prime Minister on Relations EU-RussiaBerliner Zeitung published the below interview with the then- prime minister of the Republic of Latvia in its issue of Monday, April 23, 2007, with slight editorial modifications by Frank Herold. Please read the full version below. Aigars Kalvitis answers Herold's questions on the North European Pipeline, EU-Russia relations, the prospects of Latvia in general, Latvian-German relations and many more topics.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: Baltic countries had strong arguments against the Baltic Sea gas pipeline. Now the project seems to be in some troubles. Does that leave you with a broad smile?
KALVITIS: Latvia recognizes the Nord Stream project as a commercial undertaking, aimed at meeting growing consumer needs in the EU. At the same time, Latvia is involved in the Assessment of Impact on Environment that is currently being performed under the auspice of the Espoo convention. Although the project does not cross Latvia’s territorial waters, it is important that no harm is done to the Baltic Sea. The consortium is addressing these issues and we hope that we will be able to find a mutually acceptable solution.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: What will be your answer, if the consortium knocks on your door and asks for permission to use - let’s say - the Latvian economic zone for the pipeline?
KALVITIS: I am not aware of such plan of the consortium. However, if the consortium did request permissions to use Latvian economic zone for the pipeline, we would still maintain that environmental aspects have to be taken in account. At the same time, such a development, might lead to a more positive evaluation of our proposal to use Latvia’s natural underground gas storage capacities as a supply buffer for the pipeline.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: Do you feel that Russia has a strategy to divide Europe over energy security and missile defense?
KALVITIS: The European Union is already divided in its energy security policy, but this is basically not due to something Russia has or hasn’t done. The source of our fragmentation is within our physically divided markets and hence policy requirements of each Member State. Our mission should be to unite our energy markets into a single inter-connected entity that provides the grounds for international energy trade among Members of the Union. Then we can truly unite our policy and talk about united energy security policy and a single energy market. I believe that the EU has had progress in uniting its efforts and policies towards third countries, by speaking with one voice at important events, like the previous EU-Russia summit. Evidently, there is a growing threat emanating from proliferation of missile technologies, coupled with some countries’ persistent attempts to develop nuclear technologies outside the established international controls. The US-Polish-Czech missile defense project is one technological solution aimed at countering that threat. Secondly, it is quite obvious that this project cannot possibly threaten Russia. The small scale of the project makes it clear that it cannot affect Russia’s defensive or offensive capacities. Against this background, why has Russia chosen to protest, trying to speak also on behalf of “many” European nations? I think, you ought to ask Russians themselves for their motives.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: From Your perspective: Do you feel, that the Russia of Putin and of the post Putin period is able to share the Western values - or is dealing with Russia simply a matter of Realpolitik?
KALVITIS: A stable, prosperous and democratic Russia is in everybody’s interest. The cooperation should include promotion of common values such as political pluralism, the rule of law, and human rights, including freedom of media, expression and assembly. Areas of mutual interests such as regional issues, counterterrorism and energy security will also remain as very important ones. Latvia’s goal is to build good, long-term neighborhood relationship through both bilateral and EU-Russia cooperation based on common values and interests.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: How do you define the role of Latvia concerning Russia: as a bridge or as part of a new cordon sanitaire?
KALVITIS: Latvia has always been a historic bridge between the East and the West, nowadays boasting an outstanding transit infrastructure – three large ice-free ports and a well-developed railway network fully interconnected with Russian railways suitable for high-capacity cargo transfers. In a wider context, Latvia may also serve as a key node along the Transeurasian trade corridors, effectively linking East Asia and Europe. With major bottlenecks and security concerns along the traditional East-West sea routes, Eurasian land transit is growing rapidly – a new Silk Road is in the creation. Today Latvia is a perfect springboard to the 450-million consumer strong EU market in the West and the rapidly growing Russia and CIS markets in the East, and in - a more global perspective – a key node along the Transeurasian overland trade corridors.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: What do you expect concerning the EU-Russia Summit to be held in Samara in May?
KALVITIS: There is variety of issues to be discussed during the upcoming EU-Russia summit in order to continue balanced and successful implementation of the Four EU-Russia Common Spaces. We need to discuss energy security, Russia’s WTO accession, its progress in solving key outstanding issues – in particular, for us the key issue is the elimination of discriminatory railway tariff policy. Also, future EU and Russia trade and economic cooperation after Russia joins the WTO should be discussed in the summit. EU- Russia’s discussion with the view to reach common understandings and to begin cooperation in the Common Neighborhood area is important. Samara would be a very appropriate moment to launch the negotiations on the new EU-Russia partnership agreement.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: Chancellor Merkel promised carefully to consider the interests of smaller EU-countries. What did you get and what do you expect?
KALVITIS: We have always emphasized that all EU Member States should have equal chances to participate in the process of policy creation, deliberation and decision-making. Our cooperation with Germany is constructive, based on mutual understanding and respect. German Presidency of the EU is a good proof for Chancellor’s intentions to find a compromise between all Member States, be it big or small. We appreciate Germany’s efforts to balance different points of view what we see, for example, at current negotiations on the future of the Constitutional Treaty. And we should not forget the decisive role of the Chancellor at the final stage of negotiations about the Financial Perspective.
BERLINER ZEITUNG: Generally speaking: Where do you see common interests of Latvia and Germany?
KALVITIS: As allies and partners in the European Union and NATO, Latvia and Germany actively cooperate on a number of issues within the framework of these organizations. We also have a well-established regional cooperation within the Council of the Baltic Sea States, where Latvia will hold the presidency from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008. The bilateral relations between Latvia and Germany are excellent – we have an active political dialogue, as well as dynamic economic cooperation. There are wide-ranging contacts between different institutions, regular parliamentary contacts, direct cooperation with the federal states and last but not least people-to-people contacts.