On January 7, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Togolese Republic, Robert Dussey, who is on a working visit in Latvia, met with the Foreign Minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs. The two ministers discussed bilateral cooperation between Latvia and Togo, cooperation between the European Union and Togo, and regional issues of current importance.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs greatly appreciated the Togolese Foreign Minister’s visit and emphasised that Latvia was especially interested in building economic and business contacts with Togo. Edgars Rinkēvičs also welcomed the idea of signing an intergovernmental agreement that would promote bilateral relations between Latvia and Togo.
Robert Dussey highlighted the rapid development of Togo and the African continent and invited Latvia’s business people to make investments and develop trade contacts with the region’s countries.
Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs said that Latvia, as the country presiding over the Council of the EU, will be supporting EU-Togo development cooperation and the combat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region, while at the same time promoting bilateral economic cooperation.
In a discussion on regional topics, Edgars Rinkēvičs outlined Latvia’s position on Ukraine. The Ministers also addressed the current developments regarding the outbreak of the Ebola virus in western Africa. Edgars Rinkēvičs informed Robert Dussey about Latvia’s involvement in EU military operations in Africa.
During his visit, the Togolese Foreign Minister met with the Deputy Director General of the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, Inese Stepiņa; the Vice-President of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aigars Rostovskis; and the Chairman of the Board of AS Olainfarm, Valērijs Maligins.
Latvia and Togo established diplomatic relations in the margins of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September 2014.
Edgars Rinkēvičs, Foreign Minister of Latvia : ‘We see a good perspective for economic and business cooperation’
Republicoftogo.com : In terms of economic cooperation, how do you see the relationship between Riga and Lomé? Your country has no tradition of trade with Africa.
Edgars Rinkēvičs : Latvia has foreign trade relations with around 40 African countries, including Togo. However the total trade amount is relatively small. The share of the African continent in Latvia’s foreign trade balance is only 2%. That shows there is a great potential for further development of the economic ties for the entire continent. Riga and Lomé are both port cities, and hubs for their regions, so one of the fields of cooperation could be in transportation and logistics. While the current trade balance between Latvia and Togo is fairly small, Togo is certainly not the smallest of our trade partners in Africa. We see a good perspective for economic and business cooperation in pharmaceuticals and fertilizers as well as IT and telecommunications.
Republicoftogo.com : During your meeting with Mr. Dussey, you raised the issue of security in Africa: fight against maritime piracy and terrorism. Can you tell us more?
Edgars Rinkēvičs : The security of Africa is one of the main priorities in the EU-Africa dialogue. Latvia is already taking part in two EU military operations in Africa – the EU Training mission in Mali and the EU Naval Operation off the Coast of Somalia. Latvia has also been one of the EU member states with the largest contribution per capita in the EU military operation in the Central African Republic (CAR) – we had 38 troops posted there until 17 November 2014. Latvia supports the fight against the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. We welcome the adoption of Yaounde Code of Conduct and the EU Strategy for the Gulf of Guinea as important elements in steering the international response to the threat of piracy in the region.
Republicoftogo.com : You also talked about the Ebola virus
Edgars Rinkēvičs : Yes, we are seriously concerned about the spread of the Ebola virus in western Africa. Further spreading of the virus is serious threat to social, economic and security conditions in the region. Latvia fully supports the ongoing efforts of the EU and other international partners for fighting the Ebola virus. Regarding the nature of the disease, opportunities for Latvia to take active part in the fight against the Ebola is limited. It should be noted that the Latvian government has made a financial contribution to the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund.
Republicoftogo.com : 2015 is dedicated as the year of development by the European Union. How is Latvia planning more effective cooperation with Africa ?
Edgars Rinkēvičs : The European Year for Development 2015 is an opportunity to raise society’s interest and awareness of development around the world and the real results of development cooperation. Latvia has taken this challenge and this year we will offer many activities for the society. One of them is highly related to cooperation with Africa. In the last month there was a contest for students in all Latvian schools. The main goal was to make a plan for a real moto expedition in Africa. The plan has been developed based on students’ suggestions what to see and visit. In next 4 months, three Latvian moto bikers will put this plan into action and actually be travelling around Africa and simultaneously informing people in Latvia about their experiences. In effect, the members of the expedition will be showing how development cooperation works in practice.
2015 is a special year for the future of development cooperation. During this single year, the international community must agree on new Sustainable Development Goals. As the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2015, Latvia is ready to work closely and actively with all countries in the process of reaching an agreement on universal post-2015 agenda, thereby making our common efforts to tackle global challenges more effective.