All 28 European commissioners are travelling to Riga, in Latvia, today (7 January) to attend an opening ceremony for the Latvian presidency of the EU’s Council of Ministers.
The commissioners will not hold their regular Wednesday college meeting this week. Instead they will hold informal discussions with members of the Latvian government.
Latvia took over the rotating presidency from Italy on 1 January and will set the agenda for Council meetings over the coming six months. It is the first time Latvia has hosted the presidency since becoming a member of the EU in 2004.
“I have been impressed by the preparations and the level of ambition I have seen so far,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, ahead of the visit. He said discussions will focus on “boosting Europe’s competitiveness by improving the investment climate, delivering a borderless digital Europe and a strong European energy union”.
Commissioners will be welcomed today by Laimdota Straujuma, the Latvian prime minister, and Edgars Rinkevics, the Latvian foreign minister. Tomorrow at 9am the Commission will discuss the coming year with the entire Latvian Parliament and Latvian stakeholders. In the afternoon Juncker will hold talks with Straujuma. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, will also be present. The commissioners will meet their counterparts in the Latvian cabinet in ‘cluster meetings’.
The commissioners and ministers will be broken into three groups:
Jobs and growth, including the Investment Package
First Vice-President Timmermans
Minister of Finance Reirs
Minister of Transport Matīss
Minister of Agriculture Dūklavs
Minister of Justice Rasnačs
Minister of Health Belēvičs
Minister of Culture Melbārde
Energy Union and Digital Single Market
Commissioner Arias Cañete
Minister of Economics Reizniece-Ozola
Minister of Environment and Regional Cooperation Gerhards
Minister of Welfare Augulis
Minister of Education and Science Seile
Neighbourhood and beyond
High Representative Vice-President Mogherini
Minister of Foreign Affairs Rinkēvičs
Minister of Defence Vējonis
Minister of Interior Kozlovskis
Juncker’s home country of Luxembourg will take over the rotating presidency from Latvia on 1 July. This will be followed by the Netherlands in the first half of 2016, and Slovakia in the second half of 2016.
On Friday (9 January), Juncker and Straujuma will kick off the European Year for Development 2015, which will focus on setting a new course to ending poverty, promoting development and combating climate change for a sustainable post-2015 world.
“There is an ambitious and for Europe very necessary work period ahead for both – Latvia’s government and for the Juncker team,” said Straujuma. “Our presidency’s priorities – competitive Europe, digital Europe and engaged Europe – will be a guiding light for our work in the coming six months.”