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Latvia: Embracing EU membership with sights on the euroBaltic countries
15 Jul 2013 Beata Balogová Other
THE LATVIAN capital Riga will become the European Capital of Culture in 2014, with Indulis Berzinš, the Vienna-based Latvian ambassador to Slovakia, where the city of Košice holds the culture capital title this year, believing that it will offer more incentives for international tourists to visit his homeland. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Berzinš about the cultural exchange between the two countries, EU membership and its challenges as well as the business prospects between Latvia and Slovakia.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Your country became a member of the European Union in 2004, along with Slovakia. What benefits and challenges has EU membership brought to your country? How would you assess the public’s attitude towards EU membership today?
TSS: Estonia adopted the European single currency in 2011, Latvia is going to do so at the beginning of 2014 and Lithuania wants to follow as of 2015. How do you expect adopting the euro will benefit your country? What are the most frequently voiced concerns?
TSS: Could you assess the current state of economic cooperation and trade between Latvia and Slovakia?
In this respect Latvia aims for a more balanced trade with Slovakia by promoting higher value added exports. Compared to the corresponding period last year, Latvian exports to Slovakia have increased by 127 percent, but the volume of imports is almost two times higher than exports. Main export goods to Slovakia are chemical products, electrical equipment and metals and metal products; the main import goods are electrical equipment, chemical products (pharmaceuticals) and wood pulp.
TSS: Is there any unexplored potential for economic cooperation between our countries, and if yes, what areas are interesting to investors from Slovakia?
TSS: Are there any organisations to support business links between the central European and Baltic regions, or more specifically, Slovakia and Latvia?
TSS: There are several examples of regional cooperation, such as links between the Benelux countries and the Visegrad Group. On what levels do the Baltic countries cooperate? What are the benefits of this cooperation for your country?
Likewise, the Nordic Baltic Eight (NB8) region is bound not only by historic and cultural ties, but it also has a common interest in economic prosperity and interconnectedness of the energy market in the region. NB8 cooperation recommendations have shown tangible results. A perfect example is last year’s cooperation in the field of deployment of diplomats at a mission of another NB8 state in a third state. In the current European crisis, regional cooperation and close ties among its countries contributed to a certain stability of the countries of the region and the region as a whole. Following the example of other EU countries in the region, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region will receive high attention during Latvia’s EU presidency in the first half of 2015.
TSS: Do you feel that Latvians and Slovaks know about each other enough? What aspects of the culture of your country could in your opinion be appealing for Slovaks? Is there any cultural exchange between Slovakia and Latvia?
Our countries have a rich cultural exchange, for example on May 3 and June 9, 2013 an exhibition of Slovak visual arts between 1993 and 2000 was held at the Riga City Exhibition Hall, “Riga Art Space”. In early 2012, an exhibition of Slovak graphics was held in Riga. Also, the Artists’ Union of Latvia began in 2012 cooperation with the Slovak Union of Visual Arts. In August 2012 an exhibition of contemporary Latvian sculptures was held at the Gallery of the Slovak Union of Visual Arts. Between November 27 and December 19, 2012 the exhibition of Slovak contemporary sculptures and jewellery was held at the Gallery of the Artists’ Union of Latvia.
TSS: Have Slovaks, in your opinion, discovered the Baltic countries, specifically Latvia, as a tourist destination? What could inspire more interest in your opinion?
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