Straujuma faces Europe's press ahead of Presidency launch

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Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma emerged from a gruelling hour-long ordeal with the cream of Europe's press on Wednesday in credit, having done a fairly good job of coping with some convoluted questions.

With dozens of correspondents warching her every twitch and noting every word, even Straujuma herself acknowledged the pressure she was under, joking: "I've never seen so many journalists in one room before!"

While the stated purpose of the session was to introduce Latvia's EU Presidency, topics covered inevitably ranged far and wide, covering Russian sanctions, immigration, the so-called 'Juncker plan' to kickstart the EU economy and more.

On EU sanctions against Russia, Straujuma said "We do not have any moral right to repeal these sanctions," while Russia continued its destabilizing actions in eastern Ukraine.

However, she also admitted that "sanctions cannot be piled on top of sanctions because we will get nowhere" and expressed hopes that sense would prevail.

"The only way to stop the madness is via negotiation," she said, recounting how she had seen scenes of devastation in Ukraine herself and was "surprised" that more people were not thinking about what would happen when the fighting stopped.

In one of her strongest statements she said events in Ukraine had "worried" her a year ago, adding: "I categorically reject the idea that Latvia should ever return to the USSR".

Membership of the European Union and particularly NATO gave Latvia a "guarantee of security" she affirmed. 

On questions concerning terrorism and immigration she was less assured, suggesting terrorism could be tackled by "explaining our values" and placing her faith in security services who had more expertise than politicians. 

Straujuma also took the opportunity to talk up Latvia's method of overcoming economic crisis in recent years and strongly denied that ethnic issues played a large role in Latvian society.

"All of us who live here are Latvians - there is no connection with our ethnicity... there are no real conflicts based on ethnic issues in Latvia," she said.

The Juncker plan to revive the EU economy would have to prove to be more than hot air in coming months, she avowed.

"There can;t be just talks without results," she said, "I will do everything to make sure it's not just talk, talk but achieves tangible results."

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