The Latvian National Convention on the Future of Europe aims to inform the public about the proceedings of the European Convention, and contribute to ongoing public debate about the European Union and the future of Europe after EU enlargement. The National Convention prepares non-binding guidelines for Latvia's delegates to the European Convention.
The Convention's Steering Committee comprises Latvia's representatives to the European Convention, as well as representatives of the European Movement-Latvia, the European Integration Bureau (EIB) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The EIB is responsible for co-ordinating the work of the Convention.
The Convention is chaired by Latvia's Prime Minister and the President of the European Movement-Latvia. The representatives of Latvia at the European Convention are also actively involved in the organisation and discussions of the National Convention. However, the National Convention is additionally open to participation by all interested persons. Sessions are broadcast live on Radio Latvia.
The First Session of the Latvian National Convention was held on 9 May 2002 in the context of Europe Week. It sought to address three themes: Latvia's sovereignty, identity, and role in a future Europe. More than 200 delegates participated, including people from all over Latvia and from a variety of nationalities, professions, and interest groups, such as:
- representatives of the national and regional mass media;
- academics, researchers, and lecturers;
- representatives of Latvia's ethnic minority cultural associations;
- representatives of non-governmental organisations;
- members of parliament and the government;
- local government officials;
Most of the speakers stressed that Latvia's accession to the EU involves a process of catching up and maintaining an equal pace of development with other European countries. Several delegates also made mention of Latvia's forthcoming referendum on EU accession.
The First Session decided that future sessions of the National Convention should deal with the main discussion topics stemming from the European Convention. To this end, five working groups were established, chaired by European Convention delegates from the Saeima and the government. The working group themes and their respective chairs were as follows:
- Subsidiarity, delimitation of powers (Maris Sprindzuks);
- Charter of Fundamental Rights (Inese Birzniece);
- The role of national parliaments (Rihards Piks);
- Economic governance (Roberts Zile);
- Foreign policy and defence (Guntars Krasts).
A sixth working group, chaired by Edvins Inkens, was formed to focus on preparations for the EU accession referendum.
The working groups are open to public participation. Working papers (in Latvian) for each group are available on the European Integration Bureau website (www.eib.lv).
The Second Session of the National Convention on the Future of Europe was held on 22 August 2002. It focused on the results of discussions from the working groups of the First National Convention, as well as debates on the same issues at the European Convention.
Debora Pavila, one of Latvia's representatives at the European Youth Convention, presented a report to the Session on the European Youth Convention, held in Brussels in July 2002. She also spoke about the project "Youth 2002" (carried out in Denmark, where a thousand young people from all over Europe drew up a draft Constitution of Europe).
On 19 December 2002, New Era (JL) MP Liene Liepina and Rihards Piks from the People's Party (TP) received approval from the Saeima to become the new representatives of Latvia's Parliament to the European Convention. Their alternates are Arturs Krisjanis Karins (JL) and Guntars Krasts (For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK). The government is represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete, with Minister of Transport Roberts Zile acting as her alternate.
The Third Session of the National Convention took place on 14 April, 2003. The meeting was opened by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete and the President of the European Movement - Latvia, Ainars Dimants. Latvia's representatives to the European Convention Arturs Krisjanis Karins, Liene Liepina, Rihards Piks, Roberts Zile, and Guntars Krasts presented reports.
Issues discussed at the meeting included the definition of the EU and its goals; citizenship and basic rights; the future make-up of the EU and division of competencies; EU finances; justice and home affairs; the CFSP; reform of EU institutions and the inclusion of an exit clause into the EU Constitutional Treaty.
The Fourth Session of the National Convention took place on 4 June, 2003. The meeting was convened by Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete and the President of the European Movement - Latvia, Ainars Dimants. The reports prepared by Latvia's representatives to the European Convention Rihards Piks, Roberts Zile, and Guntars Krasts were presented. Issues discussed at the meeting included the protection of Latvia-s independence, the internal and external security of the European Union, and economic interests of Latvia in the European context.
European Integration Bureau website (www.eib.lv)