Latvia - Foreign Relations
Since regaining its independence, Latvia has rapidly moved away from the political-economic structures and socio-cultural patterns which underlay the Soviet Union. Latvia has maintained and strengthened the democratic, parliamentary republic that it revived in 1990. Through a U.S. initiative, on April 30, 1994, Latvia and Russia signed a troop withdrawal agreement; Russia withdrew the bulk of its troops by August 31 of that year. Except for some large state-owned utilities, Latvia has privatized most sectors of its economy, which enjoyed years of rapid development before slowing down in 2007. By the end of 2008, the Latvian economy was facing the risk of recession.
Internationally, Latvia has accomplished a great deal. It became a member of the United Nations (UN) on September 18, 1991, and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. It is also a member of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on March 29, 2004. On May 1, 2004 Latvia joined the European Union (EU).
Since 2004, Latvia has emerged as a significant player in foreign affairs, standing out as a successful post-Soviet transition society. Strong memories of occupation and oppression motivate Latvia to reach out to countries struggling to move beyond authoritarian politics and state-controlled economies. It has worked closely with the U.S. and the EU to promote democracy in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia. Latvia also supports pro-market, pro-free-trade policies in European and international organizations. It was the European Union's fastest-growing economy in 2004 through 2006.
Latvia has developed a policy of international security cooperation through participation in crisis management and peacekeeping operations. In 2006, Latvia deployed over 10% of its active duty military to support UN, NATO, and coalition military operations. That percentage is well above the European average in terms of per capita contributions. In 2008, Latvia increased its participation in the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 155 soldiers and plans to maintain the number in 2009, despite its economic challenges. While Latvia has been active in the Balkans, budget cuts will force the end of its operations there in 2009. Latvia has supported the NATO mission in Kosovo with peacekeepers, and the European Union Force (EUFOR) mission in Bosnia with liaison officers. Latvia also contributed to the EU and OSCE missions to Georgia. In November 2006, Latvia hosted a NATO Summit in its capital, Riga.
After regaining its independence, Latvia began to work at reintegrating into the West. In 1991, Latvia joined the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and became a member of the United Nations (UN). It is party to a number of UN organizations as well as other international agreements including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Since 2004, Latvia has been an active member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).
Latvia has emerged as a significant international player, courageously supporting peace and democracy world-wide. Per capita, it is one of the largest contributors to international military operations. It has deployed troops to Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, and the Balkans. It also works closely with the U.S. and the EU to support and promote democracy in the former Soviet Union states of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia. A testament to the close relationship between the U.S. and Latvia is the fact that President George W. Bush visited the country twice, the second time to attend the NATO Summit held in Riga on November 28-29, 2006.
As of 2009 Latvia maintained embassies in the United States, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. It also operates missions to the United Nations in New York City and Geneva, the European Council, the European Union, the Chemical Weapons Nonproliferation Organization, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Trade Organization, UNESCO, and the UN Council on Food and Agriculture.
Latvia had a Consulate General in Russia; Consulates in Belarus and Russia; Honorary Consulates General in Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Lebanon, Norway, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Venezuela; and Honorary Consulates in USA, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria,, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
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