Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on 26 January. Steinmeier promised Rinkēvičs his full support for the programme of Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Topics on the agenda of the two foreign ministers’ meeting included the Greek elections and the situation in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier greeted his Latvian counterpart Rinkēvičs at the start of their joint press conference at the Federal Foreign Office by saying that he hadn’t “taken the helm of the Foreign Affairs Council at an easy time”. Latvia holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2015. Steinmeier stressed that EU member states had taken “important and successful steps” in the past years in order to stabilise the European economy – now, he said, these steps needed to be further consolidated.
Greece: Adhering to what has been agreed
Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that the previous day’s elections in Greece were of particular importance in this context. He described the election results as unambiguous and “a decision by the Greek people that we respect”.
Steinmeier said that Alexis Tsipras from the left‑wing Syriza party now faced a dual responsibility: he needed to form a new government quickly and to tackle the “pressing tasks” facing Greece as soon as possible. Steinmeier added:
Our hope is that the new Greek Government will continue creating the conditions for sustained economic recovery. We are ready to work with Greece. However, we hope and assume that Greece will adhere to what has been agreed.
Rinkēvičs also underlined that Greece must remain on the “agreed path”, saying that the worst phase of the crisis had already been overcome. He pointed out that Latvia had also had to carry out difficult reforms in the past – however, these reforms had ultimately brought about economic growth from which the country was still benefiting.
Ukraine: A clear message to the separatists
The two foreign ministers also discussed the situation in Ukraine. At least 30 people were killed, and almost 100 were injured, in a rocket attack by pro‑Russian separatists in the seaport of Mariupol on Saturday (24 January). Steinmeier said he hoped that the separatists would not succeed in “undermining the ongoing and still needed endeavours to de-escalate the conflict” through an attack of this type.
At a meeting of the German, French, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Berlin last Wednesday (21 January), Moscow had promised that the separatists would adhere to the agreement reached in Berlin on the withdrawal of heavy weapons. “We assume that Moscow is also putting this message clearly to the separatists,” Steinmeier added.
Rinkēvičs underlined that the European Council would need to continue exerting pressure and, if necessary, to agree on further steps, if no tangible progress is made in resolving the crisis in Ukraine.