Greece has been a NATO member state since 1952 and an EU member state since 1981. Since 1 January 2001 Greece has been a member of the European Monetary Union. Greece is holding the EU Presidency for the first half of 2003.
The friendly relations that exist between the Republic of Latvia and the Hellenic Republic (Greece) have intensified due to the exchange of visits by high-ranking officials in recent years. Interest in developing bilateral cooperation is stimulated by the prospect of a common future and opportunities for cooperation within the EU and NATO. The year 1998 witnessed an important event for both countries: the opening of the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in Athens. State visits by the President of Latvia Mr Guntis Ulmanis to Greece in March 1999 and by the President of Greece Mr Constantinos Stephanopoulos to Latvia in October 2000 served as a significant impetus for increased cooperation.
From 27-29 March 2002, President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga made a return state visit to Greece. During the visit, a meeting took place between the Presidents of Latvia and Greece and their respective delegations, followed by meetings with the President of the Parliament Mr Apostolos Kaklamanis, the Prime Minister Mr Constantinos Simitis, the Mayor of Athens Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos and representatives of the leading political parties. The President of Latvia gave a speech at the Academy of Athens.
The President was accompanied on her visit by the Minister of Economy Mr Aigars Kalvitis, Minister of Defence Mr Girts Valdis Kristovskis and a delegation of business people.
Four intergovernmental agreements were signed during the visit:
• Agreement on Merchant Shipping
• Convention on Double Taxation
• Agreement on Protection of Classified Information
• Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministries of Defence on Cooperation in the field of armament and defence technologies
History of diplomatic relations
The Hellenic Republic recognised the State of Latvia on 23 May 1922, and never officially recognised the annexation of the Baltic States by the USSR. The independence of the Republic of Latvia was recognised on 27 August 1991. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 2 September 1991.
Following the opening of the Embassy of Latvia in Athens in 1998, H.E. Mr Martins Lacis was appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia in Greece and accredited on 24 September 1999. The interests of Greece in Latvia are represented by the Embassy of Greece in Stockholm. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece to Latvia H.E. Nicolaos Couniniotis presented his letter of accreditation to the President of Latvia on 12th March 2002.
Latvia has two Honorary Consuls in Greece: Mr Antonios Halaris (since 1992) for the consular district of Piraeus and Mr Agisilaos Kynigopoulos (since 2001) for the consular district of the Macedonia-Trace region, with residence in Thessaloniki.
Greek community in Latvia
There are approximately 400 persons of Greek origin living in Latvia, the majority of whom live in Rezekne, Daugavpils, Jelgava and Riga. In 1999 the Hellenic community of Latvia formed the organisation Patrida.
The Saeima (Parliament) of the Republic of Latvia is interested to expand ties with the Parliament of Greece. For this purpose a Latvian-Greek Parliamentary Co-operation Group, consisting of nine members, was established under the 7th Saeima on 18 March 2002. On 21 November 2002 a new co-operation group was formed consisting of 14 members, headed by Mr Alberts Krumins from the New Era Party.
Trade and economic cooperation
Considerable potential remains for expanding economic links between Latvia and Greece. For this reason attention has been focused during state visits on economic cooperation.
Latvia has a negative balance of trade with Greece. The total volume of trade between Latvia and Greece is very small (0.15% of Latvia's total trade turnover). In the year 2002 Latvian exports to Greece amounted to USD 3 519 140 (1.15% of Latvia's total export turnover) and imports from Greece amounted to USD 6 139 624 (1.15% of Latvia's total import turnover). Latvia's main export commodities to Greece are wood and articles of wood, products of plant origin, food industry products and mineral products. Latvia's main import commodities from Greece are food industry products, metals and metal articles, products of plant origin and products of chemical and allied industries. In autumn 2002, Greek investment in Latvia amounted to USD 526 530. In April 2003, 11 Latvian-Greek joint ventures were listed on Latvia's State Enterprise Register.
In March of 1999 Latvia and Greece signed a Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Economy and Technology, with the purpose of enhancing bilateral economic cooperation. The Agreement, which entered into force on 26 April 2000, foresaw the establishment of a Latvian-Greek Joint Committee. The Agreement entered into force on 26 April 2000.
The first meeting of the Joint Committee took place from 29�30 March 2001. The Latvian delegation was headed by Minister of Economy Mr Aigars Kalvitis, and the Greek delegation by Deputy Minister of National Economy Mr Yannis Zafeiropoulos. At the close of the meeting both parties signed a Protocol, mentioning the key areas in which economic relations between the two countries could be enhanced: these included science and education, tourism, construction, small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and transport. The next meeting of the Committee will be held in Riga.
Most significant Visits (since 1997):
27 � 31 August 1997
Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Dr Valdis Birkavs to Greece.
14 � 15 October 1997
Visit of the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr George A. Papandreou to Latvia.
16 � 20 March 1999
State visit of the President of Latvia Mr Guntis Ulmanis to Greece.
19 October 1999
Visit of the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr Christos Rokofyllos to Latvia.
8 � 11 October 2000
State Visit of the President of Greece Mr Constantinos Stephanopoulos to Latvia.
12 � 22 May 2001
Participation of the President of Latvia Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga in the Summit "Towards a New Economy: the Revolution of Information" in Athens.
27-29 March 2002
State visit to Greece by President of Latvia, Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
1 July 2002
Visit to Latvia by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Mr Anastasios Giannitsis.
Political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries were inaugurated in 1998. A Protocol on Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic was signed on 16 March 2002, with the aim of promoting further opportunities for dialogue and cooperation. The protocol foresees regular political consultations being held on a number of issues, including bilateral cooperation, the European Union and NATO. The most recent political consultations were held during the state visit on 28 March 2002, when State Secretary of Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Maris Riekstins met with the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Mr Anastasios Yiannitsis.
Cooperation in other fields
Latvia is interested in defence cooperation with Greece, given Greece's membership in NATO and its role in the Balkans and the Mediterranean region. To this end, an Agreement on cooperation in the field of defence was signed in March 1999 between the Ministries of Defence of both countries, which entered into force on 15 January 2002.
Latvia is also willing to develop practical cooperation in culture and education. The Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Culture, Education and Science, signed on 17th March 1999, envisages the formation of a joint Latvian-Greek committee with the task of defining priority areas for cooperation and setting tasks to be accomplished. Cooperation in culture and education was also a priority during the visit to Latvia by the President of Greece.
In 2000, a Hellenistics Centre was established within the Faculty of Philology at the University of Latvia, where Latvian academics teach Ancient and Modern Greek. Ancient Greek is also taught within the Faculty of Theology, and Modern Greek can be studied at the Latvian Academy of Culture.
Most Important Agreements
Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visa Requirements (in force since 1April 1999)
Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (in force since 9 February 1998)
Agreement on Economic and Technological Cooperation (in force since 26 April 2000)
Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Culture, Education and Science (in force since 13 July 2001)
Agreement on International Carriage of Passengers and Goods by Road (in force since 25 September 1998)
Agreement on Readmission of Persons Immigrating or Residing Illegally (in force since 21 December 2000)
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Hellenic Republic on Maritime Transport (signed on 27 March 2002; not yet in force)
Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Hellenic Republic on the Mutual Protection of Classified Information (signed on 27 March 2002; not yet in force)
Convention between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Hellenic Republic for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital (signed on 27 March 2002; not yet in force)