France's President Macron comes to Latvia

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French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Latvia September 29 for a two day visit. It is the first bilateral visit of a French President to Latvia since President Jacques Chirac's official visit in 2001.

Macron and wife Brigitte were due to be welcomed to Rīga Castle at 18:15 by President Egils Levits, after which the two heads of state were to give statements to the press at around 18:35, prior to bilateral discussions.

However, a busy schedule in Lithuania earlier in the day meant Macron and his entourage were running around half an hour late, with arrival at Rīga Castle taking place around 19:10.

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Levits welcomed his counterpart, remarking upon the support France gave to Latvia during its independence struggle and recalled the visit of President Mitterand soon after independence was restored. He thanked Macron for the soldiers France contributes to NATO's Baltic presence and said that during the visit the foreign ministers of Latvia and France will sign a document on cooperation in science and education.

Noting that France is now the only European Union member state with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, Levits noted that it was important France could "strengthen Europe's voice in the world at the United Nations" with the help of countries such as Latvia.

In response Macron good-naturedly apologised for the "lengthy absence" since the last visit of a French president and also noted the French navy's important role in supporting Latvian independence as well as the continuing cooperation of French and Latvian armed forces within NATO.

He also addressed a key topic head on, saying there was the necessity of a "strategic dialogue" with Russia.

"We are not naive but we must engage in a dialogue with our Russian neighbors," he urged while noting Latvia's difficult history in this regard.

''We are two countries that play a very important role [in the EU]," he said. "Tonight and tomorrow's discussions will allow us to move forward."

The pair did not take any questions from journalists.

Levits and Macron will discuss regional security, including relations with Russia and Belarus, the future of the European Union (EU) and European Green Deal. Other topics of the meeting will include the development of democracy and public participation in democratic processes. Presidents of both countries also plan to discuss challenges to public discourse stemming from disinformation and growing influence of social media platforms, and digital transformation, according to the Latvian presidential chancery.

"Bilateral relations between Latvia and France have traditionally been very close and friendly. France was one of the allies that supported Latvia during the War of Independence one hundred years ago, all the way to de jure recognition in 1921, and it continues to actively contribute to the security of the Baltic region in scope of NATO today. That is why it is so important to continue enhancing bilateral relations and dialogue between Latvia and France,’ said Andris Teikmanis, Head of the Chancery of the President of Latvia ahead of the visit.

On the second day of the visit, 30 September, Macron will meet with the Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, followed by joint press conference. Macron will then visit the Latvian Museum of Occupation and lay flowers at the Freedom Monument in an official ceremony followed by a walk through the Old Town to the National Library of Latvia where he will take part in a round table discussion on democracy in the digital age.

That discussion will also be available to watch here on LSM.

According to guidelines, visiting officials, Latvian officials and other staff responsible for the visit, including media reporting on the visit, will be required to wear face masks covering nose and mouth, comply with social-distancing requirements, and avoid shaking hands and sharing common-use items.


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