Paris, January 2015 – Latvia took over the presidency of the EU Council from Italy on 1st January for a six-month period. It is the first time that this 1.9m Baltic country takes over the rotating presidency since it joined the EU in 2004.
With a will to focus its mandate on “competitive Europe”, “digital Europe” and an “engaged Europe”, Riga will be responsible to set the priorities of the EU in particular by drafting a political agenda (https://eu2015.lv/the-presidency-and-eu/priorities-of-the-latvian-presidency).
One of the priorities will be to ensure that the objectives of the Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change, signed in June 2014, are met. This strategy will be the basis of the work carried out by the Council and by all other European institutions for the five years to come.
Regarding security and crime prevention, one of the objectives included in the Strategic Agenda is to strengthen cooperation among member states, in particular in the area of justice. In this respect, the Latvian presidency will in the coming months examine and update the internal security strategy and particularly the aspects dealing with terrorism and organised crime.
Cybersecurity and data protection
In order to strengthen existing schemes (https://efus.knowledgeplaza.net/tile/view/1680/) such as the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), the presidency of the Council advocates the creation of purpose-made schemes in order to respond to the recent phenomena of foreign fighters, such as a “centre for excellence” that could replace the RAN in the medium term. The Latvian presidency is also favourable to a European version of the passenger data-sharing system that already exists in countries such as the UK and the USA, which allows sharing personal information about airline passengers. This would require a specific legal framework in order to ensure proper balance between the needs of law enforcement agencies and the respect of freedom and fundamental rights of individuals. Indeed, the EU Council presidency considers paramount to strengthen data protection, which could be done through a general agreement among all member states.
Regarding policy on digital Europe, cyber-security is top priority and will be addressed through a specific strategy. Regarding migration, the Latvian presidency will advocate the benefits of freedom of movement within the EU but also the need to improve means to manage the different aspects of migration.
Regarding the economy, Latvia is favourable to cohesive policies aimed at reducing economic and social inequalities among member states and boosting growth and job creation. Last but not least, the redefinition of the Territorial Agenda of the EU 2020 will be the basis for territorial policies. One of the priorities will be to strengthen the role of small and medium-sized cities.