I was in Riga in 1991. Bullets hit my hotel. To see where Latvia has arrived now makes me believe in European politics.
- Vice-President Timmermans -
A strong signal for a united Europe from Riga
On 8 January 2015 the European Commission’s First Vice-president Frans Timmermans, Vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and Commissioner Corina Creƫu met nearly 500 citizens from all parts of Latvia as well as from Estonia and Lithuania in the historically important Great Hall of the Latvian Society House. Citizens from all over Europe could follow the debate through a live webstream and comment via social media. The 1.5 hours discussion focused on the Commission’s 315 billion Euro Investment Plan, the stability of the Eurozone, energy independence and, closely related, security issues.
The EU will invest 21 bn € in projects; this will trigger a total of some 315 bn € of investments. “This is not an end in itself” Vice-president Dombrovskis. “We do this in order to support growth and the creation of jobs.” As economic research shows there is a huge investment gap in the European Union. Although interest rates are at a historical low, banks and private investors are reluctant to invest money. “Therefore we need a spark that stimulates investments” the Vice-president in charge of the Euro and social dialogue said.
Vice-president Dombrovskis highlighted the progress that most Member States and in particular Greece have made in order to get their budget deficits under control. “You cannot have growth without financial stability” he said.
An important issue which was highlighted by citizens who participated in the debate on social media was the energy independence of the Baltic States which was one aspect of their security. “We understand this” Commissioner Creƫu said “and the support for the Liquefied Natural Gas terminal in Lithuania as well as for investments in the electricity grids through cohesion policy is the right way forward.”
With regard to Ukraine First Vice-president Timmermans underlined that "we must let the people of Ukraine decide their destiny, like the people of Latvia did. It is not for Brussels or Moscow to decide."He remembered the year 1991 in Riga. “I was here. Bullets hit my hotel. To see where Latvia has arrived now makes me believe in European politics.”
Nearly 19 out of 20 citizens in the room shared the view thatthe EU membership has increased the security of the Baltic States.