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 Full text 
Wednesday, 17 April 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Debate with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš, on the Future of Europe (debate)

  Philippe Lamberts, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, welcome back to a parliament you know very well indeed. We’ve not always been of one mind on economic affairs, but I have always been very impressed by the strength of your commitment to our common European project, and again today was a testament to that. And actually you are quite typical of that commitment that you find in the Baltic republics. I believe that the three Baltics and the Benelux countries should cooperate much more deeply, because if they can find agreement between them, I think they could be bridge-builders and foster unity in Europe maybe better than the Franco-German duo, which seems to be a bit at odds at the moment.

I liked very much your speech. I liked you reminding us that the European Union is a peace project solving differences through dialogue rather than sheer force. This is not just a justification for the past century. It is today’s justification for the European project. I liked very much the metaphor of the bundle. Like you, I come from a small country, but even big countries in Europe, as you said, are actually small as a yardstick globally.

I liked very much also what you said about the single market. The single market is the ultimate free trade agreement. But it is very specific, because unlike all other free trade agreements, it is governed by democratic institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council. You don’t find that elsewhere in other free trade deals. I liked also very much the fact that you were upfront about money laundering, and I think that you found the right words, and we like to hear them, because I know that your commitment on that is very strong. However, I’d like also to beg to disagree, not necessarily with what you said, but with a number of positions and actions of the Latvian Government.

First, for us Greens the European project must resolutely choose to be a leader: the engine of the ecological transition of our societies. If we can’t make them fit within the boundaries that nature sets us, it’s the survival of humankind that is at stake. It’s also a matter of leadership: if we Europeans don’t lead in that transition, others will, and we will be left with buying their solutions rather than providing ours to the rest of the world. One case in point, and you mentioned it, is agriculture. The common agricultural policy is the EU’s largest budget. We should make sure every euro-cent spent on it is used and contributes to the transformation of our agricultural model so that it reduces CO2 emissions and restores biodiversity and the quality of our soil. Arguably, the CAP predominantly promotes a productivist model that goes against these goals – and your government supports it – and actually you find it already too green for your taste. I understand that your country – and I agree with that – wants its fair share of the CAP. We are convinced, though, that the best chance of achieving that target is actually to fight for a greener CAP that moves away from the productivist model and to industrial farming.

The second aspect relates to citizenship. You mentioned the European values, and actually if you read Article 2, the first value that is mentioned there is human dignity. Human dignity cannot be divided: it is for all, present and to come. Latvia’s history as an unwilling part of the Soviet Union has resulted in a significant part of your citizenship originating from former Soviet republics. While we understand that the wounds of the past cannot be ignored, we believe that, as a member of the EU, Latvia is strong enough not to keep more than 10% of its population stateless. Similarly, we believe that your country could and should do more to promote minority rights and fight discrimination, especially when it comes to age, disability or sexual orientation.

Thirdly, we have welcomed – and again, today you managed to avoid this – the fact that all three Baltic republics have avoided the toxic grandstanding that we have seen on the topic of asylum and migration. I really appreciated your words on that. However, recently your government opposed any binding relocation scheme – which is actually the only way to organise European solidarity. It has also refused to sign the UN Global Migration Compact, which, contrary to the allegations of the national populists, is simply providing guidelines as to how to handle this challenge. You and I know that it is not legally binding and that it is grounded in values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination and human rights, and it recognise that only a cooperative approach will allow us to meet this challenge. Latvia’s signature should be on that document.

With the European elections now upon us, this is the last debate on the future of Europe in this European Parliament. Count on us to relentlessly defend the first-ever attempt at building a transnational democracy. But equally, count on us to make it work for everyone, by putting human dignity rather than short-term economic profits at the front and in the centre. A more just, more sustainable, more free and democratic Europe is what our citizens want. We will ask that they trust us to deliver just that.

Last updated: 9 July 2019Legal notice