tv Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis at the National Press Club CSPAN October 1, 2015 9:21pm-10:21pm EDT
experience with refugee and ask asking for help. last week they agreeing to accept 531, more than twice the number it's accepted since the country restored independence in 1991. from the national press club, this is about an hour. >> it's such an honor to speak here. you all are such a great audience. this is first time for me with such audience. i will try to do the best. what we are doing, it's independentsy has become a modern democratic and
economically developed country. we are a atlantic community. latvian united states share many goals. we have strategic partnership with corporation on security, and also we share mutual aspirations for successful development of trade relations. latvia also has strong interests and intention to deepen economic ties, in particular further attracting u.s. investments. we have excellent examples of mutually beneficial investments like the bank of citadel, jeld-wen and fiberglass in georgia, usa. it means that our economic and military cooperation is really
very strong in the u.s. is our main strategical partner. having said this, i would like to continue by expanding on a few ideas. first, security policy. nato and the u.s. engagement in europe. nato has been at the heart of our transatlantic bond since the end of the second world war. and despite the dramatic changes in our atlantic security environment, nato has served well in ensuring peace and security. nato is strongly performing its task because of its ability to continuously adapt. russia's readiness to change borders by force and increased
military plus at our borders has understood mined european security. this is a long time trend, and it will continue. one other hand, isil is willing to challenge the existing world order based on the rule of the law. these challenges are reinforced by the growing threat of hybrid warfare. the key element in nato's adaptation is deterrents. it should be credible and effect you so that no one even thinks about attempting to destabilize our region. for this we need strong military presence of nato forces in the baltic region.
we are thankful for the u.s. leading in providing military presence in the baltic states. otherwise should also step up. we are ready to do more, including by increasing defense spending to two persons of gdp by 2018. and, for example, next year the defense spending will be 1.4 person to gdp comparing with this year, 1 person. we increase by 0.4 percents. in 2017, 1.7. it means they are going very strongly forward to fulfill this -- this needs.
and in preparing the nato beyond europe and the baltic sea region, in particular we'll need strong u.s. engagement in areas, including security so that our region remains a peaceful as it was today. was in past until it is today. the second point, russia-ukraine. the russian aggression towards ukraine has forced us to rethink the european security in general and the conflict in the ukraine also underscores the importance of our transatlantic unity. it was reassuring to see the
firm position the united states took on this issue. some say the sanctions against russia are not working and should be mitigated. some would like them to be even stronger. i would add a view that the most important is the united response by the eu, the u.s., and other like-minded allies and partners towards the aggressor. violations of international law cannot be tolerated. eu will continue the two-track approach towards russia, combining both negotiations and restrictive measures.
the current ceasefire in eastern ukraine is a good sign. we would hope this marks as a beginning of an overall progress towards a peaceful settlement. i would like to emphasize that a complete and verified implementation of the minsk agreement including reinstatement by ukraine of control over its border is a precondition for reviewing the restrictive measures against russia. the illegal annexation of crimea will burden our relations with russia in the long-term and will require strategic patience. the conflict in ukraine has
brought urgency to counter russian propaganda. we hope to provide smart answer at the level of the eu and nato, and also taking into account needs to be addressed at national level. third point, eastern partnership. one of the main strategic priorities for latvia is the eastern partnership and our approach is consistent implementation of the eastern partnership policy in accordance with the declaration ensuring continuity of the eastern partnership policy. and the task of the eu, u.s., and other like-minded countries
is to strengthen partners' resilience and ability to cope with their challenges. force. i already mention it. ttip. and as an important issue on the eu. u.s. agenda. and we have ongoing negotiations on this partnership. this straight agreement will really only stimulate economies, but both sides of the atlantic, but also strengthen our geopolitical partnership and strategic partnership. oecd continuing about economics, i would like to note that latvia is a growing economy which
welcomes the u.s. businesses and we have everything what the u.s. business needs. for instance, we have one of the fastest internet in the world. an open business environment, developed tax policy, railroad infrastructure, and imports. we consider oecd membership and the succession process to the oecd is an opportunity for continuing and introducing forms and best practices, implementing social and economic policies, improving services to all our citizens. and hopefully, we will finish
our technical discussions by the end of 2015 and join oecd in 2016. i would like to mention also energy policy and energy policy is of high significance on the latvia and transatlantic agenda. and we believe it has an essential role in foreign policy, taking into account the close links between energy policy and geopolitics. the new eu energy union calls for increased cooperation and the dialogue with strategically important energy providers in transit countries. and besides energy security,
latvia would adopt the new strategy improving governance and transparency which empowers consumers, increase energy efficiency, enhances regional cooperation, and facilitates access to finance for energy projects. it is latvia's intention to further develop regional infrastructure and create fully functioning liberal transparent and competitive regional baltic gas market, giving us the opportunity for closer cooperation with the u.s. and other lng exporting countries. we have the central role in the
regional market to liberalization process due to our natural underground gas reservoir. but when we speak about energy, also climate change is very important issue. and we are looking forward to continue the construct to cooperation with the u.s. on the road to paris agreement, and hopefully in paris we will adopt the new regulation on climate change. i was absolutely brief introducing fuel important topics, but i am completely for a strategic cooperation will continue to develop and our
atlantic community will become more integrated in the years to come. we have one common region about our future, which is free, peaceful, and prosperous as well. and we can and must work together to reach this goal. okay. now i am open for questions. [ applause ] >> thank you, mr. president. can you give us a sense, you mentioned the minsk agreement. how optimistic you that that will be implemented, or how many doubts do you have? >> i am quite pessimistic. not so optimistic like others
because we see that minsk agreement must be fulfilled buy all parties who sign the disagreement. ukraine is doing the best what they can. and uhope that they will succeed and reach all this points mentioned in this agreement. but totally another situation with russia and separatists. and we see that the key problem will be to establish the border between ukraine and russia. it must be ended by end of this year. now we have only three months left, and we see that no real movements forward.
it means in the end of this year or in the beginning -- for europe countries, probably in the beginning of next year, we will return back to negotiate of economic sanctions what we will do, prolong or prolong, make more stronger sanctions, or keep on the same level. we'll see. but anyway, it will be quite hard discussions in the end of this or the beginning of next year. >> does russia pose a threat to latvian security? [ laughter ] >> we are members of the u.n., nato, and we are sure that all
our partners will follow the paragraph number 5 in treaty. and we will together help defeat the baltic region. but of course, according to our information, there is a risk of potential military invasion in the region is quite low. but anyway, we can't sleep. we must develop and strengthen our armed forces. and we are doing so. all three baltic countries we increase defense budget. okay, estonia was, but their countries they already had two
persons of gdp for defense. but anyway, no, in latvia and l lithuania also. we will work on that. at the same time we are looking for more, more reasonable nato partners' presence in the region because we saw from different military games that organized by very prominent institutions here in the u.s. that we really need to strengthen the presence of nato forces. in the region. not only by number of soldiers on our land, ground, but also by
increasing prepositions of the different equipment and ammunition in the region. because in our case, if you speak about possible aggression, the most important issue is time of response. and if we want to shorten this time, we really need higher presence of nato forces in the region and also prepositioning of equipment, technique, ammunition in the region. it will be more shorter, because if we just u.s. decides to help and we are sure you will decide. but anyway, we need many days to
transport equipment to europe. it means we need to find solutions. and also will be one of the questions what we will discuss probably during the next nato summit in warsaw, how we will continue with strengthening of nato presence in the region. >> you mentioned sanctions a little earlier. do you think the sanctions against russia definitely should be extended beyond this year? >> yes, i think so, i think so. but anyway, the economic sanctions really suffer also many countries. and i said that the discussions will be very hard because europe economy suffer from economic sanctions, and some countries
will discuss a lot on that. and russia trying also to influence different countries to finding only solutions for certain countries, cheaper gas, cheaper energy, better financial conditions. so it means they also not sleeping. they are trying to find a ways how to influence eu countries to be separate and not united. but our strengths of eu is in unity of eu countries. >> how about latvia. does latvia feel any harm from the economic sanctions against russia? does that affect your country? >> yes, of course.
it's effect. and some branches suffer from economic sanctions, mainly are related to agriculture. it's milk production, meat production, and fish production. we can say the three main, main branches who suffer a lot from that. but in the same time, any crisis is good time little bit interesting and probably change markets where you are working. and many companies during this year really change markets and know they have -- i can say better than in russian market.
because russian ruble also is so fluctuating and they are paying with rubles. and it's not so convenient for our business. due to bank rates. >> you touched on this a little bit. but this questioner wants to know how do you assess nato's and eu's ability to protect the baltic states? >> as i said, i am sure that nato is able to protect all, all nato countries. according to paragraph 5. in different high level meetings, we were supported by
leaders of nato countries. and i'm sure that it will work. >> you mentioned upcoming meetings and talking about increasing nato's presence in the baltic states. do you have ideas that you can share on how specifically nato could increase its presence in a better way in the baltic states? >> once more, the first by increasing the number of soldiers on our ground and our commanders of armed forces calculated to how much troops we need. and we are speaking about up to battalion size, unit in each of the baltic country and poland. it means about 2,000, 2,000
troops together. secondly, prepositioning of different military equipment, ammunition, et cetera. thirdly, we must work more closely together and support what we can do with information in warfare. because it's a problem not only for the baltic region, it's a problem for all europe and here again it's quite open, quite open market to ideas how we can deal with this problem. because it's this strategic communication issue becomes more and more important in our life. >> there are close banking ties, but ties in the banking sector between latvia and russia.
does this prompt any concern to have those close banking ties between the two countries? >> maybe last question. one more thing where we need to strengthen is better common chain with nato. it means that work preparation and decision taking in nato. it means some more responsibilities to nato commander to make decisions in the case of any aggression. but speaking about banks, yes, some of latvian banks belongs to russian -- russian investors. but these banks are working accordingly to european
regulations and we don't -- don't see any problems. because our bank market is divided between we can say between two parties. swedish and post-soviet russia and ukraine, and know we also have u.s. investor in one bank. it means that three, three key investors in our bank sector. but all is working accordingly eu regulations. so maybe we time to time have some problems with suspicious transfers of monies through our banks, but our appropriate
institution is really very follow that and all the time is controlling such cases. and also a lot of penalties are used to stop such activities. >> the questioner in our audience wondered is latvia interested in normalizing relations with russia? >> good question. i think -- i think each country would like to have normal relations with all countries. and also with russia. but the situation at present moment is that we can't make good relations with russia do a
>> shows weaknesses of previous european immigration policy. because the number of migrants was very low in the eu countries was very open, open for migrants. but now when the huge streams of migrants are coming to europe, it becomes a little bit like disaster because the countries who are the first in europe, they cannot deal very quickly with migrants' streams. and, of course we started discussions how we can manage the situation and here we must divide into parts firstly what we will do which already arrived
migrants in europe and we've helped hundreds and hundreds, thousands of them in different countries in greece, italy, hungary, and other countries. and, of course, it is very hot discussions in europe how we can be involved in solving this problem. these migrants, how we will divide them, how we will divide responsibility between all eu countries and we succeed last week good results on that. but anyway, a second very important issue what we will do with southern border because ba we see that this border is very
open for migrants and we really need to strengthen border control. we need to establish good return back policy of migrants to the countries where they started. certainly, we need to strengthen countries where migrant steams started. it means we need to invest in peaceful countries to stabilize the economy of these countries. we need to invest in some
security measures in these countries. and finally, we somehow must deal with military conflicts in different regions in africa or in syria, we must find solutions how to deal with this military conflicts. and we are still waiting for the u.n. security council decision to allow eu to start military mission in the mediterranean sea to avoid illegal trafficking of migrants to europe. we'll see how it will be. >> i mentioned in the introduction there were some protests in your country about plans to take in some refugees.
how would you assess latvia's ability to accommodate the refugees that you've said you've already planned to take and what about in the future? do you think you'll be able to take on any more? >> it's a question of solidarity and we, i mean, latvia is a member of eu and nato. we must be very solid with other countries because time to time we are solving different, very challenging issues. we had greece problem. we need to strengthen eastern border, suffer from economic sanctions from russia and so on. it means that only when we are
solid and can make united decisions we will be strong. and in latvia we also had very hot discussions two weeks ago on migration. issue, but we decided that we will patient in solving this problem in europe and we are ready to take 776 persons to our country. in the same time why we held some negative opinion. first of all, we haven't real experience with refugees because during a little bit more than 20 years, we had only about 45, i
think, if i clearly remember, 45 refugees. it means we haven't real experience how to deal with high number of refugees in one time. secondly, due to our inexperience, we can't answer to many important questions how we will deal, wa we will propose for refugees, jobs, residential facilities, what kind of social guarantees and so on because our system is not established for receiving migrants. it means that we need to introduce many new things, and
if society don't receive answers, they start speculations what we will do with migrants that we will pay more than for native populations. it means it's a little bit very vegtive sense to society. but it's -- it's a failure of government and parliament that we didn't yet do all these things. >> you mentioned addressing the cause of the refugee crisis and about syria, president putin stepped up activity in the syria a day or two ago. what do you think of russia's move in syria and is the united states and nato making the right response?
what do you think the response should be to putin and syria? >> i think all leaders respond to this situation that started a few days ago. but here i can say is that i think russia started this activity in syria because they want to turn away from ukraine issue. because nobody, if you open newspaper, magazines or just watch tv, what is the top or what is news? syria, russia and syria, russia and syria. nobody speaks about ukraine. i think it's quite a clever step
from russia's side, but i hope that all nato and also e.u. countries, u.s., will not forget about ukraine and we will keep ukraine issues still as a hot topic on our agenda despite russian activities in syria. but anyway, our russia involvement in syria conflict, it's of course, is additional forces for fighting with sisal is good, but in the same time, any involvement must be really coordinated with already existing coalition against isil. and here i see a problem that
this coordination doesn't happen. it means it will probably cause a lot of problems in the near future on communication, on planning military activities, bombings and so on and can arise, really, very un -- difficult situation in syria and, of course, a question about the role of assad and all countries said that we will not work together with assad's regime, and they must go away from his position. and here we see, again, this conflict between opinion of russia and coalition.
>> a question back closer to your home. a questioner in the audience asks, is pollution a major problem in the baltic sea, and is it a detriment to your famous fisheries? >> not anymore. [ laughter ] because all the baltic countries during the last 20 years did a lot to improve the environmental situation in their own countries and also it's in the bat tick sea, the quality of baltic sea is good. sometimes we just have the influence of historical pollution, what we have in the baltic sea. but it's another question that
we need 0 to solve. some things it's impossible to solve like pollution from sweden and finland from pulp and paper factories during '50s, '60s, '70s without any treatment, and we just now the time to time feel impact of this pollution and also secondly, historical military pollution. because it was -- we have few disposal places of chemical weapons in the baltic sea, and they are very deep. and we need future solutions how to manage these places because it's originally all chemical weapons are stored in metal
barrels. and it's more than, already more than 70 years. you can imagine what can happen. but, of course, here we really need not regional baltic solution but we need real global solution for this problem. and also these places influence some nesting places of our fish in the bat tick sea. >> a questioner in the audience wonders what you think of the nationalist parties that have been gaining more support in latvia and eastern europe in general. >> which one? russian or -- [ laughter ]
>> doesn't specify. >> ornate toe? >> but wonders why that's happening seemingly more so than maybe in the past or what's your view of the nationalist parties that are creeping up? >> always your opposition to coalition, you have better situation because you can say everything, you can be be very populist tick. you also know how this happens in u.s., in different elections is the same as in europe and also in our region. but here when we speak about nationalism, parties, okay, it's of real -- latvian parties, they are more or less presented in
the parliameopulation and suppo society is quite high and the party they are presented also in coalition and work and in the government. and we speak about russian-oriented parties, they -- these parties also have support in society and during the elections they are -- received high number of votes and for example, the parties which are presented in parliament had about 20-person support during the last elections. it means they are presented but they are always in opposition more than 24 years.
it means they will not change mind and be more pro-latvian oriented. >> mr. president, you're on your first visit to the united states as president of latvia and we've talked about military defense connections with nato. what about economic ties between the united states and latvia and are there any major investments from u.s. companies that you expect in latvia in the near future? >> of course, as i said that the u.s. is our main strategic military and economic partner. and we try our best to develop a cooperation on military issues but during the last years can, we tried to increase also our economic
cooperation, but here it's not so ace. it's not so easy because first of all, market is market and we must follow market rules, and for new players, it's not so easy to get a new market, and we need some support not only everyone embassy of latvia but also from our partners. secondly, we must fulfill all requirements of u.s. legislation and not so easy. it's also quite bureaucratic like in europe and it needs very long months and years to get in the market. it the means we are doing to
improve the situation, but it's going smooth but slow forward. but in reality, we ry think that here we can strengthen this cooperation because for us, the presence in u.s. market is also like u.s. presence in latvian market is very good sign for other partners that we are good friends and we work together. especially when you speak about u.s. investments in latvia or in the baltic region because sometimes investors are a little bit afraid about investments in the baltic regions that it's first of all, quite far border with russia. a little bit maybe unstable
situation, but in reality, weise are very stable and safe market. and we really need some good input from some companies which -- with international reputation. and it gives really strong signal to others that okay, this market is good. like we had problems.many years ago with tourists that nobody wanted to visit our region because crimes were different violations and so on and just afraid, but then you at least once you see why your own eyes that it's ice, beautiful, nice, beautiful country, safe country,
and of course, now we can say that we have a lot of tourists for our 2 million country, 5 million tourists per year. it's really a high number. >> do you see that growing? >> yes, yes. but in the same time we really need these bilateral agreements between latvia and the u.s. on different levels like i was amanster of defense. we started the process on reciprocal ingredient between latvia and u.s. on military procurement. it means it's the same. we start negotiations on agriculture, production. okay, it's quite difficult to compete with u.s. agriculture production, farming production, but anyway we can propose
biological production, for example, because we are really he can logically clean country and our production is technologically and biologically very clean. it means that we can find some nich niche product which we can sell in u.s. market or any other market. >> before i ask the final question i have some housekeeping. so mr. president, you can catch your breath for just a moment. the national press club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists and we fight for a free press worldwide. to learn more about the national press club, visit our web site press.org or to donate to our nonprofit journalism institute visit press.org/institute. i also want to remind you about some upcoming events.
tomorrow, october 2, utah governor gary herbert, the chairman of the national governor's association, will address a national press club luncheon. next wednesday, october 7, baltimore mayor stephanie rawlings-blake will address a club luncheon and on october 15, the national press club will hold its annual fourth estate award gala. this year we will honor gwen ifill, moderator and managing editor of washington week and co-anchor and managing editor of the pbs "newshour." i would now like to present our speaker with the honorary national press club mug. [ laughter and applause ] >> thank you. >> a warm beverage will taste very good in that back in latvia. and you can enjoy that through your presidency and beyond.
final question for you is, here in the united states we're very immersed already in our presidential election. donald trump, hillary clinton along with some others. what is the view from latvia -- [ laughter ] -- when you look at this election process in the united states, what do you make of it? >> honestly, you want to influence the election process here in the u.s.? as i mentioned, in all countries we must really follow all candidates and to choose the best ones, and for us, as i said, i don't like populistic
representatives, parties or different -- like in our country. but i can say that the market is open. the pre-election market is open. [ laughter ] and parties will choose the best representative from republicans and also from the democrats. you have a very long preelection period, and you have very deep, deep traditions on that. we haven't such traditions. we start only -- not exactly a few days before elections but a few months, a few weeks before elections. you can follow all candidates and really find the best
candidate from different parties. because anyway, all candidates are good. and they are representatives of parties. and you, like society, you will vote for your representatives and -- >> mr. president, thank you. can we give a round of applause for our speaker? [ applause ] on the next "washington journal," we'll look at the tax policy proposals of the republican presidential candidates with the tax foundation. then the findings of a pugh hispanic centering study on immigration trends. we'll talk to the author of that
report, jeffrey passel. and a discuss about americans house hold finances and health insurance coverage with washington post correspondent jim tinkersly. "washington journal" is live at 7:00 a.m. eastern time on c-span. >> student cam is c-span's annual documentary competition for students? grade 6 through 12. it's an opportunity for students national importance by creating a five to seven-minute documentary in which they can express those views. it's important for students to get involved because it gives them the opportunity and a platform to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them. so they can express those views by creating a documentary. we do get a wide range of entries. the most important aspect for
every documentary that we get is going to be the content. we have had winners in the past created by just using a cell phone and we have]nfah others t are created using more hi-tech equipment. but once again, it's really the content that matters and shines through in these documentaries. the response from students in the past has been great. we've had many different issues that they have created videos that are important to them. we have topics ranging from education, the economy and environment really showing a wide variety of issues that are important for students. >> having more water in the river would better serve the mjeju)qq it. >> just as kay car cannot run without oil, we've come to consensus that humans cannot run without food. >> prior to the individuals with disabilities education act or the e.d. several a., children with disabilities were not given the opportunity of an education. >> this year's theme is road to the white house. what's the most important issue you want the candidates to
discuss in the 2016 presidential campaign. it is a full on into the campaign season. there are many different candidates discussing several issues. one of the key requirements in creating the documentary is to include some c-span footage. this foot and should complement and further their point of view and not just dominate the video. but it's a great way for them to include more information on the video that furthers their points. >> the first bill outside today is the water resources reform and development act, also known as wrrba. >> we've heard the jokes about school meals and burnt fish and mystery meat tacos. >> there's a vital role that the government plays. it's especially vital for students with disabilities. >> students and teachers can go to our website, student camp org. on that website, they'll find more information about the rules and requirements, but they'll also find teacher tips, rubrics
to help them to incorporate into their classroom, more information about prizes incorporating c-span video and ways to contact us if they have any further questions. the deadline for this year's competition is january 20, 2016 is, which is exactly one year away from the next presidential inauguration. >> jeremy corbyn spoke at the uk labor party conference in brighten england. he was elected leader of the opposition in the british parliament earlier this month. he talks about a kinder political environment and uk foreign policy in syria and saudi arabia. this is about an hour ten minutes. hello, everybody. my name is rohi malik and this is my first time at the labor party conference.