By Danuta Pavilenene
January 20, 2014
President Dalia Grybauskaite, being on a working visit to Riga, met with President Andris Berzins of Latvia. She was visiting Latvia at the invitation of this country’s President and attended the opening events of Riga as the European Capital of Culture 2014, informed BC presidential press service.
The Presidents discussed the projects that are important for energy and economic security of both countries, implementation of the Rail Baltica project, integration in the euro area, experience of Lithuania’s Presidency of the EU Council, and Eastern Partnership issues.
They reviewed Latvia’s experience of joining the euro area. Dalia Grybauskaite congratulated Latvia on adopting the euro. Next year Lithuania is also set to adopt the single EU currency. According to the President, Lithuania already meets Maastricht criteria, but it needs to continue reducing the budget deficit and seek that inflation rates are compliant with the norms. Single currency will serve to boost competitiveness of the region, attracting more investment.
During the Lithuanian EU Presidency agreement has been reached on the list of strategic EU energy projects, including 15 projects from the Baltic States. Swift implementation of these projects as well as the EU’s Third Energy Project will not only enhance energy security in the region, but will also ensure competition and lower consumer prices.
The topics discussed at the meeting included prospects of the Rail Baltica project. President Grybauskaite underlined that a modern contemporary railway should connect all three Baltic capitals, without excluding any of them, and works should be performed on time as scheduled.
“We need to take a number of concrete urgent steps that are essential for the security and well-being of our people. Standing together we will successfully resist external challenges, speed up implementation of key projects, and strengthen energy and economic security in the Baltics,” the President said.
President Grybauskaite thanked her Latvian counterpart for support during Lithuania’s Presidency of the EU Council. We have been the first Baltic country to stand at the helm of the Council of the European Union. Latvia will take over the presidency from 1 January 2015. Lithuania, according to the President, is ready to share its experience with neighbors to ensure continuity of the works started. The two Presidents pointed out that the Eastern Partnership program after gaining new impetus at the Vilnius Summit would be continued during the Latvian EU Presidency. The next, fourth, Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Latvia in 2015.
Lithuania and Latvia have been invited together to open talks for accession to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in 2015. Membership in this prestigious organization which can only be joined by economically strong and stable countries would substantially benefit Lithuania’s economy as it would enhance its international standing, step up attractiveness for foreign investors, and increase the credit rating.
The heads of Lithuanian and Latvian states touched upon ways to promote cultural cooperation. According to President Grybauskaite, the year of Riga becoming the European Capital of Culture opens up new opportunities to introduce the unique culture of the Balts to Europe. Andris Berzins presented Dalia Grybauskaite with a replica of Terra Mariana, a historic album which tells about the ties connecting the Baltic nations. As this year marks the 300th birthday anniversary of Kristijonas Donelaitis, the Lithuanian President made a gift to Latvia’s President of a facsimile of Donelaitis’ poem The Seasons, published in 1888. Terra Mariana will complement the presidential collection at the Vilnius University Library where all books presented to Lithuanian Presidents are kept.
Later in the day (January 17th), Dalia Grybauskaite together with the Latvian President took part in an official opening of the Riga as the European Capital of Culture Year. The festivities opened with Richard Wagner’s opus Rienzi, conductor Modestas Pitrenas from Lithuania.
As part of the opening program, the National History Museum in Riga hosts an exposition “Amber through the ages” representing the history of the Baltic amber.
This year Riga is co-sharing the title of the European Capital of Culture with the Swedish city Umea. Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture in 2009, Tallinn – in 2011.