Members of the Saeima's Foreign Affairs Committee met with the defense minister to discuss matters related to Latvia's readiness to host the Canadian-led NATO battalion, which will arrive in Latvia by June.
Bergmanis said that the defense sector has been working hard to carry out all of the preparatory work, and that there is a substantial work load. He said that work on expanding the infrastructure at the Adazi base ''is so extensive, that we have to construct another Adazi''.
The defense minister confirmed that the NATO battalion will be made up of between 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers, with some of them bringing their families with them. This means that Latvia will have to offer a helping hand in finding places to live nearby, as well as educational opportunities for their children, as the capacity of the international schools is relatively small.
The allies themselves will have to cover rental costs, but Bergmanis added that Latvia already has experience in this area, taking into account that NATO troops have in the past lived here and continue to do so.
At the same time, the minister hopes that the Adazi Regional Council and local businesses will be active in creating an environment where the soldiers will be able to relax, run some errands and do recreational activities on their days off.
''They will want to go out to eat, cut their hair and so on. There are still things to do. There also must be sporting opportunities as well. This is an excellent opportunity for local businesses and the local government to earn additional revenue,'' the minister emphasized.
He mentioned the Hesburger burger restaurant in Adazi as a prime example. ''It is no secret that when allied soldiers arrive in Adazi, it becomes the most visited Hesburger restaurant in Northern Europe,'' the minister emphasized.
As previously reported, the Canadian-led NATO battalion of more than 1,000 troops will fully arrive in Latvia by June, Latvia’s new Chief of Defense Leonids Kalnins said last week.
He said that the NATO battalion will fully arrive in Latvia in June, but before that – in late winter and spring - small contingents will arrive to prepare for the arrival of the whole battalion.
The battalion will be deployed at the Adazi military base, but exercises and different events will take place across Latvia.
The precise number of soldiers from each country and their equipment will be published after the conference that will be held in Canada in late January. Also, information about the term of rotation, national responsibility of each country will be released later.
NATO leaders at the summit in Warsaw in July 2016 approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to the Baltic countries and Poland as part of measures meant to deter Russia from possible aggression. Their deployment will begin in 2017 and proceed on a rotational basis.
Canada is the lead nation for the battalion to be stationed in Latvia. Half of the battalion will be Canadian soldiers, and it will also include soldiers from Albania, Italy, Spain, Poland and Slovenia.