C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIGA 000037
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL EU LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA LOOKS TO U.S. TO STRENGTHEN EU
Classified By: Bruce D. Rogers, Deputy Chief of Mission, for reasons 1.
4 (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary: Although supportive of the new European institutions,
the Latvian perception is that Van Rompuy and Ashton are weak,
undermining the ability of the EU's to speak with one voice and
reinforcing the power of the larger Western European members. To
counter this perceived weakness, Latvian officials would like the U.S.
to engage early and often with Van Rompuy and Ashton as a means of
bolstering their credibility and the future authority of their
positions. End Summary.
Reinforcing the Power of Big Countries
Â¶2. (C) Despite the hope that the Lisbon Treaty would strengthen the
influence of small member states, Latvians believe that the selection o
Van Rompuy and Ashton was a clear indication that France, Germany and
the United Kingdom would seek to keep these new institutions weak.
Right-of-Center MEP Inese Vaidere told us that the lack of transparency
in the selection process showed how Sarkozy and Merkel, in particular,
sought to remove any potential challenge to their power within the EU.
Vaidere said pointedly that "We need leaders, not technocrats." Althoug
neither the MFA nor the PM's office would offer such a blatant critique
both offices noted that a more powerful choice might have enhanced the
ability of the EU to act with one voice, particularly on issues of
foreign policy. The Head of the MFA's European Department, Indulis
Abulis, told us that U.S. engagement would help establish the
credibility and authority of these new positions and offered the that
U.S. will engage immediately with the new leadership. He concluded
that, for now, Lisbon's changes require real commitment if they are to
become functionally important.
Â¶3. (C) Abulis praised Spain's emphasis on energy security, transatlanti
relations and EU enlargement. The PM's Foreign Policy Advisor, Solveig
Silkalna, noted that the Spanish rotating Presidency would logically
shift some of the EU's focus from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean,
but that the overarching goal of promoting EU enlargement was consisten
with Latvia's interest. Latvian FM Riekstins' announcement of support
for Turkey's EU integration on January 6 was consistent with this view.
Silkalna also emphasized the importance of Spain's attention to the
transatlantic relationship. MEP Vaidere wasn't as kind, claiming that
the potential lack of interest in Eastern Europe is especially dangerou
given what she described as Russia's ambition to re-exert its sphere of
influence in Eastern Partnership countries. All interlocutors describe
the difficult logistical challenges faced by Spain in leading the
transitional presidency and expressed satisfaction that Spain, at least
has the administrative capacity to deal with these issues.
European External Action Service
Â¶4. (C) Latvia's most concrete Lisbon Treaty objective is to ensure a
strong EEAS. Latvia wants at least one third of the EEAS' staff to be
comprised of members states' diplomatic services and is pushing hard fo
the EEAS to provide consular services as part of its core function. Thi
would expand Latvia's ability to provide consular services in a broader
range of countries given its limited diplomatic presence abroad and lac
of funding for new missions.
Latvian Engagement with the EU
Â¶5. (C) Abulis pointed out that Latvia's principal forum for developing
its EU positions comes at the Nordic-Baltic six, or NB6, meetings. He
said the Latvian chairmanship of the Baltic Council in 2010 would also
be a venue for the development of regional positions on EU matters.
Still, neither the PM's office nor the MFA could describe any prime
objectives or strategic thinking about how it might engage with the EU
and help shape its new institutions. Silkalna said that Latvia's EC
commissioner, Andris Pielbags, is in a good position to influence the
EEAS' development as the commissioner for development, but wasn't clear
on how he would use this position or what his specific goals are.
Hope Springs Eternal
Â¶6. (C) While Latvia's European Parliament delegation is small (8
members, going up to 9 under Lisbon), Abulis noted the improved
professionalism and effectiveness of Latvia's current MEPs. He said
this is a possible area of strength and noted that former PM Godmanis i
now on the budget committee. Vaidere said Latvia's MEP's are active an
cooperating on issues of importance to Latvia, including agricultural
policy, budget policy and the Eastern Partnership. (Vaidere is one of
the European Parliament's Ukrainian election observers.)
Â¶7. (C) Comment: Latvian officials hope that the new institutions create
by the Lisbon Treaty will bolster the authority of small states on the
broader EU agenda. Nevertheless, Latvia still has not developed a
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strategic vision for how it wants to approach the EU. The fact that
Latvian officials and politicians are looking to the U.S. to boost the
authority of Europe's new leaders shows just how much Latvia relies on
the U.S. for leadership on foreign policy issues.