Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement on 1 January 2015 on the start of Latvia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the introduction of the euro in Lithuania:
I am pleased that Latvia is now taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time. During the next six months, our Latvian partners will be tasked with shaping the joint European agenda and will also have the opportunity to do so. In choosing growth, employment, a modern digital Europe and the strengthening of Europe’s role in the world as the key topics of their Presidency, they are setting the right priorities. Latvia can count on Germany’s full support.
Today we are also able to welcome Lithuania as the 19th member of the eurozone. Joining the common currency involves a difficult process, and Lithuania had to meet strict criteria. This is important, because as partners in a currency union, we also also part of a community with special responsibility and solidarity. It is an impressive achievement that Lithuania, like its Baltic neighbours before it, has mastered this challenge.
The fact that Latvia and Lithuania, two Baltic countries, are now occupying centre stage in Europe and are able to prove their remarkable commitment to Europe is not something that can be taken for granted in historical terms. During my visits to the Baltic countries, I am always very impressed by their determination to be a staunch part of the European project. Not only do the people there benefit from this determination – Europe as a whole benefits from it.