Speech by LIIA Honorary Director Atis Lejins at Foreign Affairs Debate at Latvian Parliament

The essence of the Foreign Minster’s Report is to be found in one sentence. Mainly, that the EU has to maintain its unity and solidarity in order to become a globally influential force. Our interests require a strong Latvia in a strong EU, otherwise we will disappear in the battle of giants in the emerging world new order, indeed, as we did once disappear.

The accent must be placed on the the word „to become” because at present, despite the fact that the EU is the largest economic bloc in the world, its influence in global affairs is not as big as one could wish for. This is understood by Great Britain’s prime minster Cameron, who in his long awaited speech yesterday acknowledged that: „There’s no doubt that we’re more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi, because we’re a powerful player inside the European Union.”

But the problem remains – how to convince the public?

This applies also to us – how can we become a strong state in the EU if we are the third poorest country in it? In esence this is what our prime ministre was talking about in his New Year’s Eve speech to the Latvian people – the foremost priority is to diminish inequality in Latvian society. Only a domestically strong Latvia can be astrong player in the EU.

Let us briefly survey two reģions in the world, which challenge both Europe and America.

Asia

Both Japan and Chine have scrambled their jets over some tiny islands whose Japanese ownership is challenged by China. Will it come to shooting? We all know that national passions can be easily stirred up again. China has border dispute about other small, uninhabited islands elsewhere with other countries. Confrontations do take place. And I haven’t even mentioned North Korea.

The well-knowned strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, who often visits China, has writted: the main challenge to world piece will be how to avert in Asia those world wars that Europeans caused in the previous century.

A precondition for this the US capability to work closely with China while at the same time safeguarding her allies and friends who are afraid of China. Hence the USA pivot from Europe to Asia. Is the US capable to do this? And how can the EU help?

The Middle East

The huge region from Casablanca to Kabul is in turmoil. Essentially the conflicts and wars are between moderate, radical, even more radical Islamist’s, between Suunis and Shiits, between different ethnic groups, and in such states as Eqypt, Palestine,and Syria caught in the crossfire are Christian minorities, not even to speak of the ambitions of some states in supporting one or the other side.

Yesterday’s election results in Israel apparently have put a stop to the political forces that don’ want to recognise Palestine as a state, but would rather annex a large part of Palestine to Israel.

Netanjahu openly interfered in the US elections against Obama, but Obama won nevertheless. Now Obama has indirectly won in the Israeli elections, since the USA will continue to seek a two-state solution to the drawnout Israeli-Palestine conflict, as, indeed, does the EU.

The good news is that President Obama averted a war with Iran. But what will developments in the future lead to?

One thing is clear. America has had enough of fighting, especially in this region. The fighting must now be done by Europeans, as we have seen in Libya and Mali. The US can only assist with its superior capabilities, as it already does.

What role in this area will the EU play in the future? We shall see in our next foreign affairs debate after a year.

Until then it is wise to remember a ancient Roman saying: if we don’t hang together we will all hang separely.

Published 30 January 2013

Author Atis Lejiņš