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President Levits: "This is not a refugee crisis"

Latvian State President Egils Levits launched the Fall session of the Saeima September 2, using his opening speech to tell deputies what they need to focus on in the final year of this Saeima's term, ahead of elections next October.

After repeatedly urging parliament and government to work together on tackling the Covid crisis, he also took the opportunity to address the situation on the Latvia-Belarus border, where the Lukashenko regime is actively involved in trafficking people from Iraq and Afghanistan to the EU's external border.

"Currently, hybrid war is being directed against the European Union's external border. This is not a refugee crisis." Levits said, pointing out that under international law refugees have the right to seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive at after leaving their own countries. 

"And that, in this case, is Belarus, where they don't ask for [asylum] but quite the opposite: submit tourist visas," he said.

While noting that humanitarian help was being provided in some cases, the President said: "In first place must be the defense of Latvia's, the European Union's and NATO's external border. That is our first task, to protect that," adding that current events had shown how unprotected the border with Belarus has been until now and that consequently border infrastructure needed to be upgraded.

While addressing the Saeima, Levits also announced that he would soon submit two bills of his own to parliament.

In one of them, the President will propose to amend the Law on the Structure of the Cabinet of Ministers. "There are many areas where our dynamic times require close and flexible cooperation between different ministries and administrations. The amendments to the law offer the necessary tools for such cross-sectoral cooperation,” said Levits.

The draft law will provide for the possibility for the next Saeima to appoint a politically responsible official “a Minister of State for the period of operation of the Cabinet or performance of specific tasks in a certain area of ​​cross-sectoral policy”.

The President explained that there must be a politically responsible person in the Saeima and the Cabinet of Ministers who would manage specific areas that are currently "not covered by politics".

The second bill, which will be proposed by the president, concerns the financing of parties from the state budget.

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