Saturday, 29th September, saw the conclusion of the 13th annual high-level security and foreign policy The Riga Conference 2018. Over 700 participants attended two days of discussions that raised topics that are current to Latvia and the European Union. Among the main speakers were the Vice President for the Euro and Social Dialogue of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, President of the Madrid Club, Vaira Vīķe Freiberga and The Rt Hon Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence in the United Kingdom.
Throughout the two days, important issues were raised by the speakers and participants alike. It was concluded that despite European economy improving, more has to be done to reform the system in order to make it resilient to the next financial crisis. This requires strong political will, and often policies that might be unpopular, mainly because of the changing demographic situation of the continent. The need for political willingness was echoed in other panels also as it was noted that the last century, which was filled with conflict and tragedy, has taught us that peace and democracy are fragile, and we won’t be able to protect it.
The second day turned attention to specific countries, namely Russia and Germany, and their role in the future of Europe. It was questioned whether Germany has what it takes to lead Europe in turbulent and changing Europe. The consensus was that Germany has to take the leading role and it should not be afraid from offering leadership. A panel made up of Russian opposition leaders looked eastward, where it was debated of what the Russians think. There was a clear understanding that Russian public favourable attitudes towards Stalin improve when there is more recklessness and unchecked power in Kremlin, and it should not be taught that Russians themselves support murdering regimes.
Finally, the last two panels looked at the situation in the Baltic Sea region and whether the West is willing to fight and protect Western values. Despite difficulties, the Baltic Sea region is adaptable to challenge and offers a fantastic example of how prosperous countries can be when there is political will. Lastly, the last panel highlighted that Western countries can indeed protect Western values, but there is a need for more civic society input.
Full length videos from the conference can be viewed on the website of the conference at www.rigaconference.lv, together with photos from all the panels
The conference is supported by:
Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Embassy of the United States of America in Latvia, European Commission Representation in Latvia, Askaneli Brothers, Amber Distribution Latvia, Wines of Georgia, Embassy of Georgia in Latvia, Embassy of Canada in Latvia, Embassy of Italy in Latvia, Saab AB, the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Latvia, Swedbank, the Riga City Council, Milrem Latvia SIA, National Library of Latvia, Riga International Airport, LMT Straume, Audi Latvija.
Latvijas Televīzija, DELFI, LETA Latvian Information Agency, Magazine IR, Hromadske International, The Lithuania Tribune, Postimees, New Eastern Europe, Spektr.Press, iPress.ge, Latvijas Radio, LSM.lv, Baltic Defence College, Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences, Riga Graduate School of Law, Vytautas Magnus University.