Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, visited the offices of Baltic Development Forum 19 January for a roundtable discussion on energy security and energy policy in Latvia, the Baltic Sea Region and in the EU.
The meeting was attended by Scandinavian and European energy companies based in the Baltic Sea Region, as well as international financial institutions, international organizations, business organizations and consultancy firms that are working closely with the Baltic Development Forum (BDF). The meeting was chaired by Hans Brask, Director of BDF.
From the closed meeting (under Chatham House Rules) the following general points can be made:
BDF’s Summit invited to Riga
Minister Kristovskis appreciated the opportunity to meet public and private partner that were taking active part in the development for the Baltic Sea Region. Although the Minister had not yet participated in a BDF Summit, he knew of the Summit which Latvia’s Prime Minister Dombrovskis had attended in 2009 and 2010. He hoped that the BDF Summit could return to Riga in 2013 – 10 years after the last BDF Summit in Riga.
The Minister underlined also the importance of Nordic and Baltic cooperation and reference was made during the meeting to the Gade-Birkavs report on the future development of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation. This cooperation had been internationally recognised and the meeting 19-20 January in London between the Nordic and Baltic Prime Ministers and UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron was a testimony of this fact. The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region provided a very good platform for making new progress in improving the countries competitiveness and it was regarded as a pilot project in Europe.
The economic situation
Minister Kristovskis highlighted the decisive steps which Latvia had to make in order to implement the reforms required for leading the country out of the crisis. In the third quarter of 2010, economic growth rose to almost 3%; which was presently the level expected for 2011. He ensured that Latvia would continue implementing structural reforms and financial consolidation in order to ensure sustainable and competitive environment for investments.
“The goal of the current economic policy is to improve the business and investment environment in Latvia,” Foreign Minister Kristovskis emphasised adding that one challenges in further economic recuperation of Latvia was to sustain social stability and reduce the shadow economies. He invited the business community to become actively involved in the development and investment within the country and not least in the energy sector.
Over the last 2-3 years, BDF has contributed to setting a common energy agenda for the Baltic Sea Region by publishing scenario reports documenting that all the countries could all be better off in terms of energy markets, energy security and CO2-reductions, if the regions was better integrated/interconnected. The meeting with Minister Kristovskis approached the regional situation from a Latvian perspective.
The Minister acknowledged the fact that when it comes to the energy sector, the country had to act. The Minister commented on the main development trends in the region including the Kaliningrad NPP and the Lithuanian/Baltic NPP as well as the region’s high energy dependency especially on Russian gas.
One important discussion in Riga was the perspectives on constructing LNG terminal. A concrete proposal had been submitted to the Government. Latvia was well located geographically to make use of a terminal not least since the entire infrastructure was in place. A terminal could help security in the Baltic and increase Latvia’s energy independence and further the economical development in the region.
The participating BDF members, strategic partners and cooperation partners commented on the energy situation in Latvia and presented other possible solutions and assistance in developing energy plans. Possibilities within in waste (“a local resource that ought to be used better”), wind, gas connections, energy efficient solutions and flexible use of the regional energy grid were presented.
The many different regional fora, BASREC (Baltic Sea Region Energy Cooperation), BEMIP (Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan), EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, Nordic-Baltic cooperation and the contribution of Nordic Council of Ministers gave ample opportunities to deepen regional integration in the field of energy. The platforms, policy frameworks and to a large extend the financial means were also ready to be used but the governments and the politicians had not yet made decisive decisions. There were many decision-makers who were thinking regionally but still acting very nationally. More political decisions and courage was needed, was one of the opinion that came out during the meeting. If regulators were not setting the agenda, business could not in, even though they are waiting in line.
Furthermore, the major energy generating companies needed to be more transparent enabling governments and decision-makers to make decisions on a more enlightened basis with more options at hand. Common coordination was greatly needed in the region and all stakeholders need to take a decision.
The importance of a public and private partnership underlined and a dialogue involving all stakeholders was mentioned. BDF offered to continue making use of its role as a meeting platform.
Contact people in BDF: Director Hans Brask and Project Assistant Zane Razane.
More pictures from the meeting can be found at BDF’s Flickr page