Presidents hold forth in Rome on issues of common concern

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President Andris Bērziņš met his Italian counterpart President Sergio Mattarella for the first time Wednesday on a working visit to Rome, where they discussed their cooperation on the Presidency Trio of the EU together, the President’s Chancellery’s press wire reported Wednesday.

On his part the Latvian head-of-state hailed the positive development of bilateral relations with Italy, especially economically as trade between the two countries is significant to Latvia – Italy is Latvia’s top business trading partner state in Southern Europe and third in source of investors from the same region. Bērziņš said this was “a clear indicator of stable basis for expanding further cooperation.”

The presidents in their talks also touched on the sensitive issues faced by both countries – the crisis in Ukraine, the political development of the Eastern Partnership, which Bērziņš remarked that Latvia was in a good position to understand.

However, Bērziņš heard directly from Mattarella of Italy’s brunt of the problems on the Mediterranean frontier of Europe – terrorism and migration. The Italian head-of-state warned that Libya was long already a central breeding ground for terrorists and therefore Europe should do all it can so that these centers can’t develop further. Bērziņš agreed that Europe would do well to rely on Italy’s deep knowledge of current North African-related crises.

As for relations with Russia, both leaders were of one mind that they are critical to the EU and that all must be done to resolve the Ukraine crisis and normalize them. In the striving to avoid military solutions and keep on with diplomatic and cooperation efforts, the Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi’s March visit to Moscow was cited as a “significant step”.

“Ukraine’s and the Eastern Partnership’s matters are important to Latvia not just during its Presidency of the Council of the EU but have been and will remain so,” President Bērziņš said, mentioning the coinciding of Italy’s opening of an embassy in Turkmenistan and pursuit of gas-trade interests at the same time as similar efforts on Latvia’s part there, too.

Finally, Bērziņš thanked the Italian Air Force and the people of Italy for their part in the Baltic Air Patrol over the Baltic states’ airspace over the sea and for effective cooperation within the NATO framework.

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