On 23 November 2021, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, participated in a meeting of the General Affairs Council of the European Union (EU), during which the preparations for the European Council meeting on 16 and 17 December this year and EU-UK relations were discussed.
Speaking about the forthcoming European Council, E. Rinkēvičs emphasized that the situation on the Belarusian border and migration should be on the agenda of the leaders’ meeting in December. The European Council should discuss the inclusion of the instrumentalization of migrants in the new proposal for the Schengen Borders Code and the strengthening of the EU’s common external border with the East. The Minister also specifically called for work at EU level to ensure a common EU approach to the period of validity of vaccination certificates, given that many EU Member States are currently receiving active vaccines or third vaccines. Thus, there should also be uniform arrangements regarding the period of validity of the digital vaccination certificate and the possibilities for movement within the EU.
The situation in five EU Member States was also discussed during the meeting: Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania. The discussion was based on the European Commission’s second annual report on the rule of law in the EU, published on 20 July this year.
“I would like to highlight some important steps that have been taken to improve the independence and quality of the Latvian judicial system since the report was published in 2021. The understanding of the independence of the Latvian judiciary has significantly improved, as a new procedure for the selection of judges has been established and applied. The process has been transferred entirely to the judiciary, to the exclusion of the executive. In a democratic society, trust in the judiciary as a whole and for individual judges is paramount. This strengthens the authority of the judiciary. Recognizing the importance of ethical standards in the judicial system, Latvian judges have adopted a new Code of Ethics for Judges. In addition, in its 2021-2025 strategy, the Judicial Council has set itself the goal of further increasing the independence of the judiciary. For example, by involving the Judicial Council in the procedures related to the adoption of the court budget, ”E. Rinkēvičs emphasized in his address.
The Foreign Minister expressed Latvia’s support for strengthening the rule of law, including the preparation of the European Commission’s annual report on the rule of law in the EU Member States. “Latvia positively assesses the 2021 Justice Report prepared by the European Commission. We believe that the report is a good basis for a constructive and open dialogue in order to promote a common understanding of the rule of law in the European Union. The dialogue on the rule of law helps to emphasize the common and individual challenges in order to avoid an unnecessary aggravation of the situation, ”said E. Rinkēvičs.
The Minister also drew attention to the fact that the Latvian Recovery and Sustainability Plan envisages the allocation of funding for significant projects to improve the quality of the justice system. For example, a new Judicial Training Center is planned for the end of 2024. It is also planned to introduce an interdisciplinary training approach for lawyers involved in legal proceedings. The new training method involves collaboration with international actors such as the European Network for Continuing Legal Education (ENCLE), the Academy of European Law, the European Institute of Public Administration and the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Foreign Minister confirmed that the expansion of information and communication technologies in the Latvian judicial system is one of the most advanced in the EU. In particular as regards case management and the production of statistics on the administration of justice. “The resources of the Recovery and Sustainability Plan will also be invested in the continuation of the E-Case project, which provides for investigations, litigation and enforcement proceedings to take place online. This platform will provide access to information on the case from the pre-trial process to the execution of the decision. By improving the quality of litigation in economic matters, we aim to create a better business and investment environment. During these short initial months, the Economic Court has already proven itself to be able to ensure a fast and efficient litigation process, ”said the Minister.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Communication Group