On 12 July 2021 in Brussels, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, took part in the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council at which EU Foreign Ministers discussed the geopolitical aspects of new technologies, the state of affairs in Ethiopia, and the development of the EU Strategic Compass.
In view of the large-scale digital transformation initiated by the EU in recent years, it is expected that this year and in a foreseeable future the EU will continue work towards the advancement of digital sovereignty. At the same time, the external dimension of the digital sector, in which the EU, including Latvia, is facing a number of challenges, is to occupy an increasingly important place in the process of implementing digital transformation. The challenges are as follows: 1) strengthening of the EU’s digital sovereignty; 2) the efforts of countries pursuing “digital authoritarianism” to shape international structures and norms in line with their values and interests; 3) authoritarian countries strengthening their capabilities and influence in the digital sector; 4) increasing threat to the opportunities for human beings to realize their fundamental rights and freedoms in the digital environment, where the formation of human rights protection mechanisms is lagging behind technological change.
At the Foreign Affairs Council, Edgars Rinkēvičs presented Latvia’s interests in the digital sector covering three main goals: making use of digital development opportunities; strengthening Latvia’s security; and promoting a free and safe digital environment in Europe and globally. It is important for Latvia that EU digital sovereignty be strengthened, thereby reducing dependence on third countries in the digital sector while seeking common points of reference in cooperation with allies or like-minded countries and being aware of different approaches on certain matters.
It is in Latvia’s interests to strengthen the legislative power of democratic countries in digital governance while forging values-based alliances. At the same time, the EU’s approach in digital matters must be based on global cooperation, avoiding unjustified confrontation, the Minister said. He underlined that transatlantic cooperation in this field should be further strengthened while finding mutually acceptable solutions.
On a global scale, the EU should seek opportunities to offer its digital policy standards and solutions to developing countries, said the Latvian Foreign Minister, adding that democratic countries should jointly protect their values and lay down norms of digital governance based on respect for international law and human rights that facilitate sustainable development and prevent threats to global peace and security. Therefore, Latvia supports a common EU level legislative framework on digital platforms in the fight against unlawful and harmful content, including disinformation, while underlining that freedom of speech must be preserved as one of the most important values in democracy, Edgars Rinkēvičs noted.
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