Indra Sprance: Another attack on Ukraine and its capital ended a few hours ago. Ukraine's air defense has shot down dozens of drones. How did you feel during those six hours of air alert?
Edgars Rinkēvičs : It was not my first air raid in Kyiv. Last year, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I was here at the very moment when Russia launched its full-scale attack on the night of February 23-24. After that, when I visited in May - both last year and this year - there was also an air raid alert.
Latvia has already supported the Chernihiv region with five million euros. How and to what extent could this support continue?
Our Saeima is currently examining next year's budget. Another five million euros are also included there. In my opinion, what we are doing is correct, because as a small country we focus on one region, on one area. There you can also appreciate what has actually been done: a women's support center, modular houses, also support with building materials so that people can repair their damaged houses.
Next year, of course, the government will have to decide how to distribute the money within the framework of a specific plan, but as my colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed me, this support will continue with the improvement of schools.
We also talked a little yesterday with the head of the military administration in the Chernihiv region about their priorities - there is also a children's hospital there, there is an energy infrastructure there. At the moment when there will be a final decision from the Saeima that this money is in the budget, then it will be possible to distribute it more precisely together with Ukrainian colleagues.
Yesterday and today you continue to meet with high-level Ukrainian officials. What are the other needs that Ukraine has, what are the issues where Latvia could still get involved and help?
European level issues. Such as the EU's macro-economic assistance in the amount of 50 billion euros. As a member of the European Union, Latvia has its own voice and opportunity to speak.
I myself spoke last week both with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and with the Vice-President, Valdis Dombrovskis. Yes, it is not so simple, there are both political and certain bureaucratic problems. It must be a unanimous decision of the member states.
The second thing, of course, is to start negotiations on joining the European Union. Ukraine has the status of a candidate country, but now it is important to start the formal negotiation process. And then also technical assistance.
In the field of bilateral relations - undoubtedly reconstruction. While in Chernihiv. I received many thank yous. Likewise, military aid, specific issues affecting international support, the [international war crimes] tribunal.
The prime minister of Ukraine and I talked about the currently sanctioned, but not confiscated, transfer of Russian financial resources to Ukraine. Latvia is supportive in this matter. But the problem is that in order to do this, there must be a common decision of the European Union. I don't see much appetite for it at the moment. To be honest - I don't see it.
Does Latvia have this appetite?
Latvia has. Latvia sees this appetite in the framework of the common decision of the European Union.
Within the framework of the joint decision, but internally within the country, we have not fully implemented these measures.
I currently do not see any EU member state that has decided this individually. There has been Estonia, which says - we will do it, but... When you talk to lawyers, when you talk to colleagues from ministries - I remember it well from my previous job, then many things come up against the fact that this has not been confiscated, this has been sanctioned. And it is sanctioned by the decision of the European Union, not Latvia.
So, in fact, in order to divert these funds, the legally correct path, in order to avoid unexpected legal proceedings not in Latvian courts, but in EU courts, and the most correct, as I have heard from experts, would be to follow this common EU path. Then it is already a unified decision, which can be defended as a single decision in a very clearly foreseeable European Union legal proceeding.
Ukraine is eagerly awaiting the official invitation to start accession negotiations with the European Union. How do you see it - could Ukraine receive it in December?
I can only say one thing. I have talked about this with our Prime Minister, who represents Latvia in the European Council. I know we will do everything to make it happen. I foresee drama, but I really hope this decision comes through.
I also know that there will be quite serious discussions about the EU enlargement policy in the Balkans. Some progress is expected there as well. I would say that it is in the interests of the EU to send a clear signal about starting negotiations with Ukraine, and let's not forget Moldova.
And yet also a clear signal that there are Western Balkan countries that have long fulfilled the criteria and that they too must make some kind of progress, give some political message that this region has not been forgotten, either.
You know, I don't want to end this interview on such a pessimistic note, but if we don't want a third unpleasant surprise - as happened in Ukraine in 2022, as is happening now in the Middle East in October 2023 - then if we can't react in the Balkans, I cannot rule out that something very serious will happen in that region.
We have received 101 alerts from our EU partners in the Balkans. We have received this warning from the Balkans, we have not shown enough that we are interested as the European Union and there may be problems that will actually affect us as well. The same migration, the same instability. So we have to think about what to offer this region as well.