Membership in OECD will enhance Latvia’s recognition. Membership in OECD will also benefit the country’s governance system, economy, credibility and banking system. The world sees us as an economically powerful country, former Prime Minister of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma told BNN in an interview.
You had once said that ‘it is improbable that Russia could attack Latvia’. How would you describe Latvia’s relations with Russia now?
The situation in Ukraine is the main stumbling stone for Latvia and many other European countries in relations with Russia. We all know that. As long as there is no notable progress in the realization of Minsk treaty between Russia and Ukraine, economic progress in relation to Russia is not possible. It is unfortunate, because we would all like to see peace returned to Ukraine so that the country can develop, but as long as it does not happen, I find it hard to believe that the EU could lift sanctions against Russia. As long as these sanctions remain in place, our economic cooperation in industries under sanctions will remain in a state of non-function. Export of goods to Russia has been on hold since 2014. Our food production industries are looking for new markets. I am certain this situation benefits neither us, nor Russia. I have said multiple times that we cannot afford to close our eyes and look the other way while some country occupies another country’s territory. It is sad that such things happen.
Can Latvia be affected by Ukraine’s scenario?
I cannot and don’t want to imagine what Russia could have done had we not joined the European Union and NATO in 2004. Twelve years have passed since then. Membership in powerful organizations is very important because an attack on Baltic States would mean an attack on NATO. My opinion has not changed since the time I was Latvia’s prime minister. It has been proven on multiple levels that Article 5 of the NATO treaty – if one country is attacked, it is considered an attack on NATO. I am truly happy that we were so clever in 2004. Joining the EU and NATO was not a matter resolved in a single year, of course. We had started to prepare for it four years before joining those organizations. There are remaining conflicts in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine… Once such conflicts become heated – the situation in the country becomes very complicated. I have begun preparing for the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw. One of the topics that will be discussed there will cover the topic of enhancing the cooperation and security of European countries.
Is there any other international organization Latvia plans to start cooperation talks in the near future?
There is no other state-level organization we can join. The main three goals – membership in EU, NATO and OECD – have already been achieved. Latvia’s safety and development is guaranteed and is being continuously improved. We are now members of the club that unites 34 of the world’s most economically developed countries. Now we have to continue work on the inside.
Committees of OECD have recommended Latvia to continue improving two main areas: corruption combating and corporate management.
How does Latvia follow this recommendation? What has been accomplished up until now and is planned to be accomplished this year?
Legislative changes have been added at the beginning of the year to enhance measures employed by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to ensure corporate management monitoring. The most sensitive matter is tied to corporate councils in Latvia’s state companies that were dismissed because they were not fulfilling their roles – they were not professional, economic councils, but rather politically driven groups with no regard to interests of the public. It is currently very complicated to restore councils in state businesses. The decision has been made and legislative changes have been accepted – councils will be formed in 2016. Personnel selection processes have been launched in multiple industries, including Latvian State Forests, Latvian Railway and other important companies. State capital associations require large corporate councils. Those will be formed this year. I see no reason why we could fail at that or not enhance corporate management.
In regards to corruption – the law has been adopted, but we still need to improve work on the inside of KNAB – lasting personal conflicts do not contribute to corruption prevention measures. We have changed our country’s legislation and the banking sector’s money turnover control with help from the Finance and Capital Market Commission. FCMC changed its manager this year, multiple legislative acts were accepted, control over bank stability and money transactions was also improved. It was necessary not only for Latvia’s membership in OECD, but also for ourselves. I personally support Latvia’s joining of OECD.
What is OECD and how will joining this organization benefit Latvia?
OECD stands for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The mission of OECD is to promote respect and compliance with principles of democracy and market economy – this means assistance of development of national economies of member states. OECD unites 34 of the world’s most economically powerful countries. Just joining this organization is already a positive development for Latvia. OECD will increase Latvia’s recognition in the world and enhance the state governance, economy, credibility and banking system. The world is beginning to notice Latvia as an economically powerful country.
How does Latvia progress with OECD membership talks? What are the main points of emphasis?
I received a piece of good news last week – all committees have provided positive reports about Latvia’s joining of OECD. The final political decision will likely come in June. Progress has been different for different topics – improvement and development of the national economy, legislative section, corruption prevention measures and other aspects of state governance.
If the final decision is expected only in June, is there a possibility that joining OECD could be put off to a later date?
Evaluation provided by committees was positive. Reports will be followed by technical actions to approve the political decision, which will be voted on by all three 34 member states. I see no reasons why a positive decision may not be made in relation to Latvia’s joining of OECD.
What about the progress of our neighbour countries – Estonia and Lithuania – with joining OECD?
They’re doing well. Estonia was the first of Baltic States that became an OECD member state. We will be next, followed by Lithuania. Lithuania had launched membership talks last year. We did that in 2013.
How will statistical analysis be carried out to analyse the situation in Latvia? How will this data help improve the situation?
Data processing will be carried out by specialist in Latvia. They will process acquired statistical information. The central OECD central office is located in Paris. High-rank analysts, economists and specialists of other industries work there. Important information about all member states is stored in Paris. This also helps experts to compare developing tendencies within OECD.
With continuing unrest in the world, terrorism is becoming more and more of a threat, especially in Europe. How does Latvia contribute to anti-terrorism activities? What measures are employed by authorities in Latvia?
I can confirm that our security institutions closely follow all developments in the world. Personally, I trust our security institutions. At the same time, no one can guarantee anything. Latvia is not located in the middle of the main inflow of migrants. The terrorist threat level in Latvia, according to security institutions, is low.