Northern neighbours: Riga Conference 2017

October 3, 2017 by 1 Comment | Category Brexit, International

Last week I was in Latvia to participate in the Riga Conference 2017, an annual gathering of foreign policy and defence experts focused on the Baltic region. In and around the conference, I had the pleasure to meet with representatives from across the region to discuss the implications of Brexit and promote our updated Nordic Baltic Policy Statement.

In the current climate, the risks posed by Brexit make it ever more important for Scotland to maximise our economic, cultural and social links with Nordic and Baltic nations. This is why the Riga Conference offered an excellent opportunity for us to reinforce the existing links with our international partners and launch the Scottish Government’s refreshed Nordic-Baltic Policy Statement. Our first Statement, published in 2014, was a catalyst for greater collaboration with countries in the region: a great example was the launch of the First Minister’s Baby Box initiative, based on the experiences of Finland.

Building on these successes, the new version of the document presented in Riga identifies opportunities for strengthening connections in a diverse range of policies – such as tourism, social security, fisheries, education, energy and the environment. Specific examples presented in the policy statement include Norwegian expertise in carbon capture and storage, Sweden’s bottle return scheme, Finnish action on the attainment gap, and Estonia’s approach to digital transformation.

Moving forward, we are keen to maintain a close relationship with the rest of Europe, particularly with our northern neighbours, and I believe this new Nordic-Baltic statement can help articulate and secure many important connections in the future. There are many areas we can work together and I am looking forward to continuing to share our expertise and learn from others.

In addition, during my time in Riga I also had the time to undertake a range of important engagements, focused on furthering Scottish links with Latvia and the wider region. These included speaking on a conference panel related to Brexit and meetings with Latvia’s Undersecretary of State for European Affairs Solveiga Silkalna, Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser, Latvia’s Ambassador to the UK Baiba Braze, UK Ambassador to Latvia Keith Shannon, Finnish Foreign Affairs State Secretary Samuli Virtanen, as well as representatives from the British Chambers of Commerce and the Latvian Investment & Development Agency.

As the UK Government continues to limit Scotland’s input to the Brexit negotiations, it is all the more important that we strengthen our international relationships and protect Scottish interests. We have cooperated with Nordic and Baltic countries for over 20 years on a wide range of policies and initiatives, reflecting the shared challenges and opportunities we face. Building on these connections is of great importance to us and supports the aims and objectives of our International Framework.

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  • Ghillie says:

    Alasdair thank you for representing Scotland in the Nordic and Baltic Countries’ RIGA Conference. How amazing to be in Latvia!

    This is a very important relationship to nurture. That and our relationship with the whole wide world. Exciting times =)

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