The roots of work are bitter, but its fruit is sweet
Ambassador Christoper Robinson
Riga, December 4, 2023
Latvians are rightfully proud of their many accomplishments since regaining independence in 1991. Among these successes, Latvia has created a strong financial regulatory environment more resilient to malign influences, strengthening its economic foundation. Indeed, Latvia’s long-term security depends on fostering a prosperous and open economy that grows the wealth of its citizens and attracts Western investment. True national security is more than just military preparedness. The path forward for Latvia is clear. By easing administrative burdens in banking, securing sustainable energy independence, increasing investments in education and science, and strengthening anti-corruption efforts, Latvia will not only prosper but also ensure its long-term security.
Too often during my time as U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, I have heard potential investors remark that they decided not to do business in Latvia because of the administrative burden of establishing bank accounts and the difficulties they faced securing financing. These missed opportunities cost the Latvian people tens of millions of euros in unrealized jobs, income, and revenue – euros that would boost private sector growth and resources for health care, education, security, and defense. Banks should feel more confident in responsibly lending to legitimate foreign investors. A more competitive banking sector, as well as an approach that manages risk instead of avoiding all risk will attract much needed investment. Easing these burdens is prerequisite for the economic growth and security Latvia needs.
Latvia is already an EU leader in renewable energy production, with over half its electricity generated from hydroelectric and biomass resources, but the country also has vast, untapped wind energy resources. A modern energy strategy would align policy and budgetary resources to develop needed energy capacities, such as renewables, hydrogen, small modular reactors, and energy storage. Importantly, developing a forward-looking energy strategy will attract foreign investment. Implementing it will help Latvia secure its energy independence and meet its climate goals.
Latvia has a highly educated population and multilingual labor force, and its universities have become sought-after destinations for international students. Increasing investment in education and scientific research will further improve Latvia’s standing in these fields. Cooperation in science and technology will enhance Latvia’s competitiveness, both regionally and globally. Working together, we can retain and utilize the human capital already resident in Latvia, bring in more skilled workers in crucial fields, and secure much needed investment.
Finally, the United States has long supported Latvians in their fight against corruption and money laundering. Latvia today is not the Latvia of 2018 – its institutions have become stronger. But there is still work to be done. For example, major corruption cases are not concluded in a timely manner, increasing the perception among citizens that public officials aren’t held accountable for corruption. The progress of recent years faces stiff headwinds, especially from the east. Russia’s corrupt elite would love to see Latvians fail in their fight against corruption. Moscow will not hesitate to leverage corrupt networks to destabilize a NATO ally. Continuing the progress against corruption is fundamental to your national security.
Latvia can count on the United States to remain a dependable, trusted partner. Many opportunities for greater economic growth and investment exist, opportunities to guarantee an even more secure future. “Augsim lieli, augsim stipri.” Let’s keep reaching together.