After a welcome ceremony at Riga Castle, President George Vella held official talks with the President of Latvia, Egils Levits, at the start of a two-day Official Visit to Latvia. Both Presidents welcomed the excellent bilateral relations and the constructive cooperation between the two countries on regional matters. President Vella said that since the official establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, remarkable progress has been made on a number of fronts, particularly Maltese investment in Latvia, tourism, education and culture.
They discussed in detail the war in Ukraine. President Vella explained to President Levits how Malta is addressing the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both bilaterally and through EU-led initiatives. “Multilaterally, we must continue to preserve unity in important frameworks and use our place in the settings to clearly outline the humanitarian effects and atrocities being committed against the people of Ukraine. Despite our neutrality being entrenched in our Constitution, Malta has been categorical in its defence of Ukraine. We have been neither silent nor complacent,” stated President Vella in a press conference following the official exchanges.
Discussions also focused on EU matters, with President Vella remarking that as a small country in a turbulent and unstable region, Malta believes that a strong and united Common Foreign and Security Policy, using all the tools at its disposal, is a necessity in order to prevent and address crises, strengthen weak institutions in our neighbourhood, and work more closely with our partners, especially the United Nations.
President Vella briefed President Levits on the worrying scenario in the Mediterranean, stating that proactive policies and initiatives are needed to protect security, stability, and prosperity in the region to avoid the eruption of a crisis within a crisis. Referring to the issue of irregular migration, President Vella stated that it is a challenge for the EU and not just a matter for a few frontline member states. “A comprehensive approach at the EU level is needed in order to face this challenge effectively,” said the President. In this regard, President Levits stated that irregular migration is a very significant problem and that countries should reinforce the external borders of the European Union.
The talks also covered Malta’s present role as a non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, which commenced in January and will end in December 2024.
Following the bilateral talks, both Presidents participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument in the Centre of Riga, commemorating those who were killed during the Latvian War of Independence.
In Riga, President Vella had separate meetings with the Prime Minister of Latvia, Krišjānis Kariņš, and with the Deputy Speaker of the Saeima (Parliament of Latvia), Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica. Discussions focused on regional challenges, Ukraine, the Mediterranean, Africa, and multilateral cooperation. During the meetings, President Vella expressed his support to the challenges faced by countries like Latvia that are close to the conflict in Ukraine.
In the afternoon, the Maltese delegation accompanying the President, which includes Minister for Public Works and Planning Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, visited the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
On a separate programme, Mrs Vella gave a keynote speech at the forum titled “The Right to a Dignified Death”, organised by the Hospiss LV Foundation.
An Official Dinner hosted by President Levits and Mrs Levite, in honour of the President of Malta and Mrs Vella, will bring to an end the first day of the Official Visit to Latvia.