Irish economic success powerful argument for EU expansion, says Latvian President


IRELAND: Ireland's economic achievements provide "an inspirational example" to smaller countries which are currently applying to join the European Union, according to the Latvian President.

Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who is on a two-day visit to Ireland, said Latvia was actively working to emulate the modern-day economic revival that Ireland experienced as a member of the European Union.

"When Ireland joined the European Community in 1973, it was one of the poorest countries in western Europe.

"Today, less than one generation later, it has become one of the most propserous.

"For Latvia, Ireland's accomplishments provide an inspirational example of the positive results that can be obtained through careful planning, hard work and determination," she said in an address to the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin yesterday.

Dr Vike-Freiberga said the Irish success story was one of the most powerful arguments for the further expansion of the EU.

Speaking after a meeting with the Latvian President, the Taoiseach promised to help ensure the accession of Latvia to the EU. "We put great store in this visit," Mr Ahern said. He complimented Latvia on the great strides it had taken in recent years.

In her address to the IEA, Dr Vike-Freiberga expressed gratitude to Ireland for refusing to recognise the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, and for being one of the first countries to acknowledge the re-establishment of Latvia's statehood.

Today, Latvia considered Ireland to be an important trading partner: in fact it is Latvia's 13th largest foreign investor.

The common future of both states lay in strengthening Europe and its institutions, and in continuing on the path of increased political, economic and social integration, Dr Vike Freiberga said.

This did not entail the creation of a monolithic, European super-state, but rather the reform of European institutions to render them more effective, less bureaucratic and closer to the people they have been designed to serve.

"Latvia sees the EU as a union of sovereign states with certain federalist features, such as the European Monetary Union and the European Parliament.

"We do not see the need at the moment to create a unified federal European state, for which Europe's inhabitants are not yet ready."

Dr Vike-Freiberga told The Irish Times on Monday that Latvia viewed Ireland's rejection of the Nice Treaty "with alarm".

The new EU candidate countries could not "just sit there and hold our breath".