of Dr. Tlavs Jundzis, Defence Minister of Latvia
Since our last meeting the EAPC has gained strength and the implementation of the enhanced Partnership has advanced well.
One sign of EAPC's ever increasing quality is the proposal to create the PfP Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes, which will strengthen cooperation in the military education and training and contribute to better coordination between military and civilian educational and research establishments. Our National Defence Academy, Latvian Institute of International Affairs and Baltic Strategic Studies Center are interested to participate in the work of Consortium.
Latvia welcomes new NATO PARP procedures where Partnership Goals will be based on PARP Ministerial Guidance. It is important that Partnership activities become more aligned to NATO's own activities, and the PARP is a prime example in this respect. The implementation of PARP IOs prepare our armed forces for eventual membership in the Alliance, as they became better able to operate together with Allied forces. Latvia hopes that Partnership Goals will contribute in providing Partner nations with a clearer picture and guidance of where the priorities are.
I would also like to inform you that Latvia has now developed a national NATO Integration Plan. This will serve as a core instrument and basis for further governmental activities aimed at integration into the Alliance. The NATO Integration Plan will provide guidelines for Latvian officials dealing with NATO. In addition, the Latvian Government intends to create a special NATO Integration Council merging top officials and different ministries into a joint task force in order to reach the same goal.
I would also like to mention the proposals to increase Latvia's Defence budget in 1999. Governmental allocations will then reach 1% of GDP, within 5 years we expect this figure to be increased to the average level of Allies.
Another area of special concern to me is public participation in processes related to the defence capacity building. This includes a greater involvement of the local population in the performance of military tasks and a wider public awareness on defence matters etc. These issues are an essential element in Latvia's defence capability. In Latvia the public attitude to defence issues is still being developed and the Ministry of Defence has just initiated a wide programme of public education and raising the level of patriotism amongst the population.
Another visible sign of Partners being involved in the development of the new Partnership is the participation in the PSEs. Our officer has taken up his duties in the AFNORTHWEST, and we are also ready to nominate officers for involvement in other levels of command structure.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman