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Latvia displeased as Riga mayor seeks to build special relations with NATO

Spokesman for the Latvian Foreign Minister, Gints Jegermanis, calls unclear and ambiguous Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs’ efforts to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to make an “unprecedented agreement” of cooperation, LETA reports.

Earlier, Riga-based newspaper Neatkarīgā Rīta avīze (Independent Morning Newspaper) reported that Ušakovs (leader of Harmony opposition party) tried to meet with Jens Stoltenberg via Party of European Socialists to make a cooperation agreement between the Riga city administration and NATO. “Many in Latvia suspect Ušakovs in pursuing hidden political goals,” the paper wrote.

According to Jegermanis, leaders of any local government can have bilateral meetings with international and any other organization, but to make an official agreement, it is necessary to request the foreign ministry’s supports. However, Riga mayor’s meeting was not coordinated with the foreign ministry.

Spokesperson Jegermanis said the ministry was not informed of the meeting and what Riga mayor did was an independent activity. The minister’s spokesperson recalled that self-governments are independent organizations, but cooperation with international organizations is beyond their competences. He specified that the government accredits its representative to an international organization and launched cooperation through him. “If he pursued a closer cooperation with NATO, he should have talked about it in Latvia, at the defense ministry, and not at the head office of the Alliance. It is not clear what made Riga mayor leave for Brussels,” the foreign ministry spokesperson said. “Actually, it was not clear to our partners at what level was the visit and what goals it pursued.”

Jegermanis recalled that when he was ambassador of Latvia to Sweden, Ušakovs travelled to Stockholm where he met with representatives of the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the city mayor. Jegermanis was not informed of that visit either.

“On the one hand, there is nothing extraordinary in his meeting with the city administration, but it could be logical if he informed the Embassy about it. Our partners were surprised and regards Riga city administration as an uncertain partner,” Jegermanis said.

According to the newspaper, Ušakovs was received at NATO like a representative of any other local government would be received. Although he sought a meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, he was received by a lowering-rank official. Afterwards, in accordance with the acknowledged procedures, Latvia was informed of the meeting. Referring to a well-informed source, NRA reports that Ušakovs offered an enhanced cooperation between NATO and Riga city administration. In particular, he suggested attracting NATO officers in Latvia to the program of youth integration in the Russian schools in Riga. NATO representatives rejected the offer. Jānis Urbanovičs, co-leader Harmony Party and chairman of the Party’s faction in the parliament told the newspaper he has no idea about Nils Ušakovs’ plans to cooperate with NATO. It was reported earlier that Harmony Party refused from a cooperation agreement with United Russia Party a year before elections to the Seimas.

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