The FIRST Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2015 and its main priorities

Latvia is a member of the EU since 2004 and from January 1, 2015, it will become the presiding country of the Council of the European Union (hereinafter — the EU), taking over the lead from Italy, which held the Presidency of the Council for the second half of 2014. Then following Latvia the Presidency will be taken over by Luxembourg in the second half of 2015.. The so-called Trio Presidency of the EU Council has been introduced since 2009, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Practically the Trio Presidency means that each Presidency is being implemented jointly by three Member States, each assuming the presiding role after the other. Each Trio country consecutively holds the Presidency for six months, based on a joint work program established for that Trio.

This Trio Presidency principle is designed to ensure continuity in the work of the Council of the EU, as well as to promote an efficient use of resources. Since accession to the EU Lithuania was the first among the Baltic States to become the presiding country of the EU Council in the second half of 2013. Estonia will be presiding over the EU Council in the first half of 2018.

As evident from the experience gained so far the Presidency provides for each EU Member State, irrespective of its size or time of accession, an opportunity to shape and influence the EU agenda and drive the EU Council’s efforts to cooperate with other Member States and the General Secretariat of EU Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. The Presidency represents the EU Council in its relations with the European Commission, as well as the EU Council outside the EU.

Ministers of the Latvian government will be representing Latvia in meetings of ministers to be held during its term of the EU Council Presidency. Head of the Permanent Representation of LR to the EU (Latvian Ambassador to the EU) and his deputy will represent Latvia at the meetings of Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). Ministry experts will participate in the working group and meetings of the committees. All of these meetings during the Presidency will be chaired by the Latvian representatives. There are also some exceptional cases where the meetings will not be presided over by the Presidency representatives, such as the meetings on foreign affairs issues or in cases where the management of the working groups or committees work will be entrusted to designated representatives of the European Commission.

Each Presidency of the EU Council has its own logo that becomes a country-specific symbol of recognition for the particular Presidency.  The Presidency logo is used in publications and presentation materials,  on souvenirs, as well as on three-dimensional objects and in digital environment. The Presidency logo will decorate the building of the EU Council in Brussels and the Presidency website.

On February 17, 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the logo of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council. The author of the Latvian Presidency logo — a millstone, is also the author of the Latvian euro coin concept and design Gunārs Lūsis.

Each presiding country of the EU Council does not only have its own logo, but also a specific agenda and main priorities approved at the state and EU level.

Latvia began its work on the program for the six-month Presidency in 2012, when the first public discussions were initiated on any priorities and goals that the Latvian Presidency could set forth.  In order to form a unified and comprehensive vision of the work planned under the EU Council in the first half of 2015, the six-month program for the Latvian Presidency was developed in cooperation with all the ministries, with the Latvian Permanent Representation to the EU and the various EU institutions, its partners within the Trio from Italy and Luxembourg as well as with an active involvement of the general public in Latvia.

The program development was influenced by the current situation in Europe and the whole world; the long-term planning of the European Commission (review of the existing legislative instruments and policy initiatives, development of new initiatives); the issues currently on the agenda of international organizations; the interests of the EU Member States and the EU institutions; any outstanding issues “inherited” from previous presidencies as well as the priorities of the current presidency.

The work programme of the Latvian EU Council Presidency was finalised in early December, 2014, and confirmed the following areas of priorities were approved:

1) EU competitiveness and growth;

2) using the EU digital potential in the development of EU development;

3) strengthening the role of EU on a global scale.

EU competitiveness and growth covers topical areas such as the promotion of employment, social affairs and the strengthening of social security and job creation, and EU growth. Attracting investment. Single market and strengthening the Union’s energy sector. Economic and Monetary Union and its reinforcement, as well as a number of other issues related to social security and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and quality of life.

The use of opportunities of the European digital potential includes the challenges presented by the possibilities provided by the digital single market and the use of digital solutions, as well as digital security issues.

Particular focus under the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council will be on the area of European neighbourhood, actively implementing existing policies and initiatives current for the Eastern Partnership and the relations with the Central Asian countries confirming that the EU is ready to develop, and to develop cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries. Latvia will continue to promote the strengthening of transatlantic ties, with particular emphasis on the preparation of the EU-US Trade and Investment Partnership Contract. There will be around 200 events held at various levels during the Latvian Presidency of the EU. These include informal meetings of the EU councils of ministers, expert working groups, summits, forums and a variety of conferences, such as, meeting of ministers of education of Europe and Asia (ASEM), Eastern Partnership Summit, Eastern Partnership NGO Forum, ,  Eastern Partnership Youth Forum, Eastern Partnership Media Conference, Eastern Partnership Summit Business Forum, European Standardization Summit , as well as many other national and international events.

The activities will comprise different areas including also an extensive cultural program, which will take place not only in Latvia, but also in many other EU countries, including a number of the Eastern Partnership countries, thereby strengthening the cultural and cross-border cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries. The level of ambition of some activities to be organised alone testifies to the fact that in a sense Latvia in the first half of 2015 will become the locale where some pivotal events of the EU will take place in the first half of 2015.

In May 2015, the Eastern Partnership Summit will take place in Riga, as the  cooperation with the Eastern Partnership member countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) is not only the Latvian foreign policy, but also a priority of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council.. While organizing the Summit, Latvia will be actively driving the Eastern Partnership policy at the EU level, thus contributing to the move of the Eastern Partnership countries closer to the EU, as well as implementing its national interests in the development of bilateral cooperation with the countries in this region. For the Eastern Partnership Summit representatives of EU institutions, national and government leaders from all EU Member States and Eastern Partnership countries will arrive in Latvia.

One of the priorities of the Latvian education is strengthening the competitiveness of its education, including higher education internationalisation and promotion of its export capacity, and therefore during the Latvian Presidency  the meeting of Europe and Asia (ASEM) Ministers of Education will take place in Riga, emphasizing the EU’s promotion of cooperation in the field of education in Asia. Representatives of the secretariats of the EU member states, 17 Asian countries, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the European Commission and the ASEAN will participate in the meeting.

The European Standardization Summit will take place in Riga within the scope of the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council. Standards and standardisation are some of the European Union policy instruments used to ensure an unimpeded functioning of the EU internal market. This particularly refers to the information and communication technology sector, where European standards are gradually replacing the national standards, which are often conflicting and may pose technical obstacles to the free movement of goods and services.  Threrefore, during its presidency Latvia will pay special attention to these issues. Heads of the European standardization bodies, senior officials from international standardization bodies — the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Representatives from more than 50 countries worldwide are expected to take part in this event.

This presidency is an opportunity for Latvia as an EU member state for more than 10 years now not only to reinforce its role and influence at the EU and global level but to promote its cultural and artistic achievements and success in the digital sector as well. This presidency also represents the opportunity to facilitate the development of the Latvian public administration and professionalism through application of the EU decision-making mechanism for the representation of national interests.

To find out more about the Latvian Presidency, visit : http://www.es2015.lv/en/in-english

 Sintija Bernava, Chairman of the Board of the Association  “DONUM ANIMUS”, LATVIA

Sintija Bernava has a long-standing professional experience working for the Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) and the Government of Latvia.

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