On 1 January 2019, Latvia marked the 5th anniversary since it joined the euro area. It has also been twenty years since European citizens can pay in euros. On this occasion, the European Commission organised a two-day-long conference with the participation of prominent speakers, such as Latvia's Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, European Central Bank Vice President Luis de Guindos, Governors of several National Banks of EU Member States, as well as many local policy makers, representatives of businesses, industry, think-tanks and academia.
Whereas VP Dombrovskis delivered the opening and closing remarks of the conference, Deputy-Secretary General of the European Commission Ms Ilze Juhansone participated in discussion panel 3 "Expectations and reality of Euro introduction".
Ms Ilze Juhansone emphasized the benefits of the euro and spoke about the future path of the Economic and Monetary Union. She stressed that the Euro cannot be taken as a guarantee of prosperity and emphasized that more than anything prosperity requires responsible fiscal and macroeconomic policies in the Member States.
With a prominent eurosceptic on this panel, Ms Juhansone was often put on the defensives and had to rebut several claims that the EMU is no longer developing. In response, Ms Juhansone explained about the various phases of EMU development and spoke too about the challenges.
She spoke also about the European Social Pillar as a success that will assist EMU deepening and noted about forward looking proposals within the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework e.g. the Reform Delivery Tool.
Ms Juhansone emphasized too how attractive the European Union has become as a trade partner internationally. "The demand for free trade agreements with the European Union has grown very rapidly and it now also takes much faster to conclude them. Instead of the average seven, eight or nine years that it used to take to negotiate a deal, we are now sometimes even talking about months in which we achieve great progress," she noted.
In the context of a discussion about the situation in Latvia's non-resident banking sector, Ms Juhansone pointed out too about typical paradoxes in Member State positions, i.e. an unwillingness to allow for more regulatory powers at the EU level, nevertheless, later calling upon the EU to help once crisis erupts, or even going to the extent of accusing the European Union for not having legislated on certain matters.
Last to note is perhaps a considerable amount of mentions of the phrase "Latvia being at the core of the European Union" at this discussion. For, Latvia, this is a top priority in the context of the Future of Europe discussions, which, with the notion of scenario 3 "those who want more do more" appears to have introduced a certain fear that Latvia could be left "at the periphery of a multi-speed Europe".
Several speakers, including Ms Juhansone, emphasized that being part of the Euro area has meant that Latvia is at the core, that it has been able to sit at all the discussion tables and is actively taking part in the decision-making on the future of the EMU.