Baltic tour: Foreign minister focuses on European policy

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (right) and Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs lay wreaths at the Freedom Monument in Riga Keystone / Toms Kalnins

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has begun his trip to the Baltic States with an official visit to Latvia. European policy was at the heart of the talks with Latvian President Egils Levits and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in the capital, Riga, on Monday.

This content was published on July 6, 2021 - 12:24

In particular, Cassis presented the Swiss perspective after the government’s decision on May 26 to unilaterally walk away from talks with the EU on a framework agreement. Despite that, he said Switzerland remained a reliable and committed partner for the EU, the foreign ministry said in a statementExternal link.

The cohesion billion for certain EU member states, including Latvia, was also discussed. The government has urged parliament to release the funds for the second Swiss contribution as soon as possible.

The representatives of the two countries also emphasised the quality of bilateral relations between Switzerland and Latvia. They want to develop these further, particularly in the economic sphere, given the relatively low level of trade in goods between the two countries.

Growing polarisation

Regarding the management of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cassis emphasised the importance of European countries like Switzerland and Latvia working together and showing solidarity during such times. “Working together helps us overcome such challenges better and more easily,” he said.

The situation in two of Latvia’s neighbours, Russia and Belarus, was also raised. Cassis expressed concern over the growing polarisation between East and West and the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus.

The delegation paid a visit to the Swiss embassy in Riga, which is also responsible for neighbouring Estonia and Lithuania. As part of the official programme Cassis placed flowers at the foot of the Freedom Monument and visited the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, which commemorates the country’s occupation by Germany and the Soviet Union.

Cassis will continue his Baltic tour in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, before continuing on to Lithuania, where he will also take part in the Ukraine Reform Conference.

His trip marks a double anniversary of Switzerland’s relations with all three Baltic states: the centenary of their independence and 30 years since the resumption of diplomatic relations following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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