The first of January not only marked the start of a new year, it was also when Latvia took over the presidency of the EU Council for the first time. The Baltic state will lead and coordinate member states’ work for the next six months and expectations are high. Visiting Latvia in December 2014, EP President Martin Schulz said: "My experience shows that presidencies from small countries are very much involved in the success of reforms." We asked MEPs from Latvia what we can expect.
Krišjānis Kariņš (EPP)
Europe needs jobs and growth. The key to this is investment, which in turn needs investor confidence. With the Latvian presidency, the EU will have a country at the helm which not only endured a terrible economic fall during the crisis, but took the necessary steps to restore confidence, which has led to economic growth.
Andrejs Mamikins (S&D)
It is a historical step, because it is the first time that Latvia's taking over the Council presidency. Being a Latvian citizen I am very proud of it. I hope that the priorities which were declared by the Latvian government will really help all Europeans. If I am not mistaken more than 2,000 events are planned during the six months: in Latvia, across Europe and here at the European Parliament. So I am really very proud of it.
Roberts Zīle (ECR)
Latvia, which is for the first time taking over the EU Council presidency, has all it takes to be an example of how a small country can efficiently and with determination take the lead of the EU. Between the three main priorities of the Latvian presidency, which includea competitive Europe and a digital single market, I would like to particularly stress the geopolitically important one: Europe in the world. This includes work on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) and a pragmatic relationship with Eastern partnership and Central Asia countries.
Tatjana Ždanoka (Greens/EFA)
We cannot expect any radical improvements from the Latvian presidency, especially when Europe is on the brink of a deep crisis and there is an economic stagnation and a dangerous conflict with Russia. The best thing Latvia can do during this presidency is to reduce the sharpness of the rhetoric towards Russia so that we can create a basis for reconciliation in the future.
Iveta Grigule (NI)
For Latvia, a country which has recently recovered from a painful economic crisis, it is particularly important to bring attention at the EU level to issues such as economic growth, competitiveness and jobs. We also need to address the economic consequences caused by sanction to and from Russia. I hope that all EU countries will demonstrate solidarity, not only in words but also in actions. I’m sure that during the Latvian presidency we will actively work on a mutually beneficial relationship with neighbouring regions, including the ones that have been getting less attention such as Central Asia countries.