Latvia’s interests find response
Minsk hosted the Days of Latvia, under the ‘Taste Latvia’ slogan
Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Latvia’s Economics Minister:
This is my first time in Minsk. It’s symbolic that your city’s name originated from the Slavonic word ‘mena’ (to change). Since ancient times, your city has been at the crossroads of trade paths and remains an important avenue for trade.
The events lasted almost a month, including concerts, food sampling and master classes by Latvian chefs. Economic aspects are vital to co-operation so, unsurprisingly, the Days of Latvia opened with a major business forum, featuring dozens of influential entrepreneurs from our two states.
Latvia’s Economics Minister, Dana Reizniece-Ozola, remarked, “This is my first time in Minsk. It’s symbolic that your city’s name originated from the Slavonic word ‘mena’ (to change). Since ancient times, your city has been at the crossroads of trade paths and remains an important avenue for trade.” She believes that, despite all difficulties, Belarus has managed to preserve its image as a confident and reliable exporter of products and services. In 2014, our country sold 319m Euros of products to Latvia.
Putting aside EU states, Minsk is Riga’s second most important foreign economic partner: last year, our mutual turnover exceeded 56m Euros. Moreover, as Ms. Reizniece-Ozola notes, Belarus continues playing an important role on the Latvian investment market. 1,200 companies are registered in the country, established with parity, using Belarusian capital. Last year alone, Belarus injected 25m Euros into Latvian business development.
During the forum
The First Deputy Economy Minister, Alexander Zaborobsky, agrees, saying that our investors are very active on the Latvian market, while Latvians are no less active in Belarus. Over the past seven years, Latvians have injected over $1bn into Belarus, and 350 joint facilities are operational in our country. Mr. Zaborovsky believes that Latvia and Belarus enjoy mutually beneficial terms economically. In these difficult times, when trade is fought for, new sales markets must be sought and old partners courted, to enhance and expand trade.
In early 2015, Latvia joined the Eurozone and, according to the Director of the Latvian Agency for Investment and Development, Andris Ozols, this has provided the country with the opportunity to strengthen its investment activity. He emphasises, “Several years ago, we lived through a serious crisis. After brilliant annual growth of 10-12 percent, our GDP fell by 18 percent; as a result, we ‘lost’ a third of our economy. However, that situation inspired our further development and, today, Latvia enjoys foreign investments. Companies from abroad — the Czech Republic, Scandinavian states and Germany — are injecting their money eagerly. Despite popular opinion, Russian money accounts for just 7 percent of all direct foreign investments. According to prognoses, our economy will grow by 2 percent this year and, in 2016, by 3 percent.”
Belarus is interested in Latvia as a major path to the sea: a factor increasingly important now that Belarus is becoming part of the Great Silk Road. According to Ms. Reizniece-Ozola, our two states are interested in taking full advantage of this, with additional talks planned on the theme of transit. A session of the Latvian-Belarusian intergovernmental commission is scheduled for December, to be hosted by Daugavpils.
By Alexander Benkovsky