Discussions between President of the Republic of Finland Martti Ahtisaari
and President Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia on 1.8.1998


President Martti Ahtisaari visited Latvia on the invitation of President Guntis Ulmanis on 1-2.8.1998. During the visit, the two heads of state discussed current affairs and on 1.8.1998 attended the summer festival of the Livonian Association in the village of Mazirbe.

President Ahtisaari congratulated President Ulmanis on the positive development that Latvia has achieved. Difficulties notwithstanding, Latvia has been able to continue on the path of reforms that she has chosen. He especially emphasised his appreciation for the determined and courageous work that President Ulmanis has done in the interests of his country.

Economic relations between Finland and Latvia have been developing favourably. Finnish investment in Latvia is constantly growing and Finnish companies are one of the biggest groups of investors in that country. Finns are likewise a significant category of tourists visiting Latvia. It is very important from Finland’s point of view that Latvia develops into a prosperous and balanced society. For that reason Finland strongly supports Latvian accession to membership of the European Union. The special concentration in cooperation between Finland and Latvia is on sectors that best promote Latvia’s prospects of fulfilling the requirements for EU membership, such as justice and home affairs as well as development of the Latvian frontier guard.

As a member of the UN and Council of Europe and as a candidate for EU membership, Latvia must honour the norms enshrined in the international conventions on human rights and the treatment of minorities to which she is a party. However, Latvia has been the focus of demands for which there is no justification. The position of the European Union and of Finland is that Latvia must meet the recommendations made by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel with respect to her nationality law. The Latvian parliament approved the most central of these recommendations in June and we hope that they will take effect as soon as possible. In our perception, this is important for the balanced development of Latvian society. It will also influence the process of Latvia’s accession to EU membership. Once the legislation on citizenship is in force, Latvia will have fulfilled the requirements of the international community in this respect. This fact should be respected by all parties.

It is important that all parties cooperate to solve Latvia’s minority question. In this, also Russia has a significant role. She should work constructively to promote the integration of those Russians who are not yet Latvian citizens. Successful integration of minorities presupposes activity also on the part of the minorities themselves. Economic means of exerting pressure have no place in the new Europe.